Gladstone Pk - 13,913 feet
Gladstone Pk - 13,913 feet
|East Face from Cross Mountain Trail|
Gladstone: up Cross Mountain Trail and the East Face, down the North Ridge to the east basin to Bilk Creek Trail back to Lizard Head Pass.
Our Memorial Day weekend plans got canceled. I thought I’d be hanging around the house until Brad asked if I was free for a trip to the San Juans.
He had Gladstone on his mind, needing a few peaks to finish off the Centennials this year. Gladstone wasn’t going to work for me. I was told I can’t be on the Rock of Ages trail until my wife and I do Wilson. I have strict instructions that I can’t be on any trail or summit without my wife for the last seven 14ers we have to finish. So Brad came up with a few other options. He was also looking at doing Vermilion. I told him, I’d do Vermilion again and do something else while he hiked Gladstone.
We hit the Telluride area on Friday afternoon and spent a couple hours looking at trailhead options and the peak conditions we could see from the roads. He said the Gladstone east face, or at least a portion of it would go. I was allowed to do the East face snow climb, as long as I didn’t look at Wilson Peak. (Don’t take this too seriously.)
We decided on the Lizard Head Pass / Cross Mountain route. The east face wasn’t full of snow, but we figured we could hit one of several couloirs to reach the ridge to climb to the summit.
We camped across the highway in a dispersed spot that gave us great views of Mt. Wilson, Gladstone, and 13ers to the east (the next day's trip). Up just after 4 a.m., we had breakfast and walked across the road and hit the TH by 5:20. The trail up to Lizard Head Pass was in great shape and we made good time. We hiked just beneath Lizard Head, about 3.8 miles. The Lizard Head Pass trail went right (north) and down to the creek and then more to the north to meet up with the trail we could see that switchbacked up into the basin between Gladstone and Wilson Peak. (The trail continues north along the creek and meets up with Wilson Mesa Trail and Morning Star Trail.)
At the Pass we made a call to drop strait down into Bilk Creek basin near the head of the creek. Down we went and hit some snow fields that were solid but not icy. We stopped here for a snack and put on crampons. This might have been a good place to leave the snowshoes we were carrying. (Actually the car would have been a better place.) Brad had other plans for the descent.
The approach up toward Gladstone was smooth and gradual. We set our path for a snow field / ramp in the center of the basin that would take us up to near 13,000 and from there we could look at a few couloirs near a prominent point in the ridge between Gladstone and Pt 13,079.
Once we got below the ridge, Brad suggested we try the east face. Though there was not continuous snow, he thought we could climb through a rock band. He said he would go scout it out, but what that really means is he is faster than I am and he would get there first and if he couldn’t climb the rock band we’d turn around before I got there.
He moved up and left, and followed a little tail of a snow field into the rocks. From the end he climbed up the rocks on some Class 3/4 for 30 feet or so to the next snow field. It went fairly easy, but had to avoid some loose rocks. I followed without any trouble. Still not a fan and rocks and crampons.
From here we had a great view of the ridge between Gladstone and Mt Wilson. Looked a bit rough.
We traversed up and to the right until the upper snow field faded into the rocks. What was left was either more Class 3/4 climbing or a narrow coulior on good vertical snow. This was a bit above my comfort level, but Brad managed to climb it smoothly, which gave me some reassurance. The supportive snow held, but there were a few steps and ax plunges that hit slippery rocks. Moving a few inches one way or another found better purchase. Before long we were just steps from the summit. We were on top at 10:30 a.m.
We had great views of the surrounding peaks. At some point in the climb, it started to become cloudy. I was so busy concentrating on climbing I hadn’t noticed. Something to think about on future hikes when weather can be more unforgiving. It was probably less than 2 miles from where we left Lizard Head Pass to the summit, but nearly 2,400 feet.
Brad’s plan for the day included a summit of Wilson Peak, even though I was under strict orders. We began our descent down the North Ridge toward Wilson Peak. More rocks and crampons. Though Roach says it’s C3, the .com says C4. It was mostly C3, but there were definitely some C4 moves to get down. It was a slow and tedious process that included a few moves where you had to trust the rocks and boulders in places where you didn’t want to have to trust them.
Knowing I wasn’t going to Wilson my thoughts turned to the basin below. Why should I continue on this rocky ridge instead of snow climbing down? I talked it over with Brad and decided enough was enough and worked by way down some rocks to where the snow began. The snow was steep but was soft enough to plunge my heels in for stability. It was steep enough I didn’t feel glissading was safe for me (and I had on my crampons). The few times I slipped I picked up speed quickly. I worked my way down several hundred feet before the steep angle gave way. I did a modified glissade, where I sat on my ass and “walked” down until I was able to walk side-hilling around the basin.
About this time I looked up to see that Brad had also given up on the rocky ridge and was side-hilling his way in the snow toward Wilson.
I moved down in a clockwise direction around the basin to where I knew the trail was (below Pt. 13,368) that would lead down to Bilk Creek and to Lizard Head Pass. The snow was very supportive with no postholing.
Instead of getting on the switch-backing trail I followed a line of snow nearly straight down to the lower trail. I got on the trail and headed south toward Lizard Head Pass. The trail was patchy snow and mud until I came to a creek crossing. I assume this was the main drainage for this basin. The snow bridges looked weak and thin. I hunted around and moved up to better snow. I worked my way down to the main Bilk Creek. This entire area was wet and muddy. Even moving back up toward LH was wet and muddy. I found a dry spot and sat down for 20 minutes for a snack. I had cell phone and texted my wife.
For the past hour I had been hit with some strong wind gusts. The clouds that had come over were being pushed east, as you can see in some of the photos a distinct line of clouds and blue sky. The gusts never blew me over, but knocked me off balance several times. I could see the wind rip dirt and dust off some of the sides of the mountain ridges. Brad said those gusts pushed him around too and ripped his sunglasses off.
Once I made it up and over Lizard Head Pass the winds died down. I made my way back to the tent to finish off a 12-hour day. I took a nap until Brad returned from a successful summit of Wilson Peak, Spring grid work. We had made plans to move camp to be closer to the Hope Lake trailhead for the next day’s trip, (Trip Report) but neither of us had the energy. We ate dinner and were in our tents by 8 p.m.
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