Peak(s):  Gladstone Pk  -  13,913 feet
Date Posted:  10/20/2019
Modified:  10/23/2019
Date Climbed:   09/10/2019
Author:  wineguy
Additional Members:   JChitwood
 Gladstone's East Face in Summmer   

HikerGuy posted an excellent trip report of a snow climb of Gladstone’s east face in July 2019. He commented: “I have a suspicion that even in dry conditions this would be a good route.” In September I confirmed HikerGuy’s suspicion and climbed Gladstone’s east face after the snow had melted. This route is a reasonable alternative for those who want to avoid the narrow, loose, and dangerous north ridge.

After reading HikerGuy’s report, JChitwood contacted me to suggest we try Gladstone from the east. We camped out near the Cross Mountain trailhead on September 9. JChitwood is an astronomer-extraordinaire and identified numerous stars and constellations in the night sky, which is exceptionally brilliant at 10,000 ft. far from city lights. Unfortunately, he was not feeling well on September 10, so didn’t reach the summit until a month later. But he went far enough to help me scout a route.

Gladstone comes into view after turning left onto the Lizard Head trail from the Cross Mountain Trail.

October view of Lizard Head trail and Gladstone by JChitwood, blessed by the weather gods, as is customary

From the Lizard Head trail, the best route up the mountain is not obvious.

The east face as seen from the saddle on the Lizard Head trail

As the crow flies, Gladstone is less than 1.5 miles from here, but my GPS hiking distance was closer to 2.5 miles. There is a faint trail partway down into the basin, but there is no established trail across the basin or up the mountain. Lots of easy options for crossing the basin. The main issues are how much elevation you are willing to lose and how much you want to be on grass vs. rock glaciers (more time on rock glacier if you stay high). The descent into the basin is about 400 vertical feet.

Approximate route up the mountain

I took a route similar to HikerGuy across the basin (per his GPS track). But my route from the basin to Gladstone’s southeast ridge was east (left) of his. After the snow melts, there is a well-defined gully with stable rock and some grassy steps that provides a comfortable route up to the southeast ridge. After reaching the ridge I followed it toward the summit to about 13,700 ft., then traversed over to the northeast ridge on a clearly defined ledge, as shown in my route photo above and in HikerGuy’s final photo. Once on the northeast ridge, two hundred feet or so of boulder hopping takes you to the summit. This ridge is relatively stable, unlike the famous north ridge.

Summit view toward the northeast ridge approach
Summit view east toward approach basin, that's Lizard Head in the shadows
Summit view west of Mt. Wilson, those clouds were shooting thunderbolts an hour later
Summit view of hazardous north ridge, Wilson Peak in background

As a cautionary note, there is some disagreement about my description of the gully as a comfortable route to the ridge. When JChitwood climbed Gladstone in October, his climbing buddy christened the gully: “Golob’s Gully of Doom” (that’s Golob, not Gollum). However, both returned safe and sound, so were not literally doomed. Take his description with a grain of salt.

To sum up, even though this route has more mileage (13 miles on my GPS), more vertical (4700 ft), and more off-trail boulder hopping than the standard route, I recommend it as a reasonable alternative. Both routes share the disadvantage of extended lightning exposure. Even though the east face route drops off the mountain more rapidly, it rises back to a saddle near Lizard Head and stays high on a ridgeline for about a mile as it drops from 12,000 to 11,600 ft. A thunderstorm was moving in from the west during my return, so I had to race my geezer ass as fast as possible until below treeline. When I finally hit the trees, I took a long break to bask in the satisfaction of Centennial #98.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Comments or Questions

Great update!
10/20/2019 12:52
Congrats on #98, Wineguy! It's great to have additional beta on this route and to hear that it's also a good alternative in summer/dry conditions. Unless adding on this summit to a Wilson Peak outing, I don't see any reason not to use this approach/route.


Great job
10/20/2019 12:56
I climbed this route as well just after hiker
Guy with tons of snow in the beg of aug. A lot of crampon
Climbing until like 700 ft from the top.
It was super fun and did not see a soul
All day. Great route and great peak
Without having to do that horrible ridge.


Great report!
10/22/2019 19:04
Looks like a decent route.
Congrats on #98!


Almost Done
11/09/2019 00:28
Another great climb by the fearless wineguy. You have to be the wittiest economist ever and it has been my pleasure to attempt these big peaks with you. Sorry I didnât make it to the top on the day of this report but glad you were bold and made it solo. My partner in October was just joking about your gully and he would have climbed it but as is so often the case he got ahead of me speeding upward with his head down and flat out missed the left turn to access the gully. Going behind the rock protrusion in the middle of the face then cutting left below the cliff band gets you to the same spot on the far left by the dramatic drop off between Gladstone and Mt Wilson. I moved some rocks on the descent probably because I outweigh you by 75 lbs and things tend to slid around putting that much downward force on them, but it was nothing like the Maroon Bells or the reports Iâve read about the north ridge route. I have a lot of good things to say about this route and recommend it for sure. The trailhead is on pavement, the approach is not grungy just a nice trail to the top of the pass, it goes right by the base of Lizard Head so you can scout that for future climbs, and the rock was relatively stable. I have no plans to do the north ridge for comparison purposes.

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