September 1, 2002
Arriving at the Silver Pick Trailhead at 11 p.m. the night before we woke up at 4 a.m. to see if the group wanted to do the Mt. Wilson / El Diente traverse. Matt's knee was still really hurting him from the previous day on Wetterhorn Peak so Brian and I slept in until 7 a.m. and then decided to hike Wilson Peak. The route follows a 4wd drive road up to the Silver Pick Mine at 10,960 feet where the road bears left. Getting some advice from a couple that already hiked Wilson Peak we took a trail heading left that headed up the slope and regained the road. There is a cairn marking this trail right before an S-curve in the road and the path saves maybe 5-10 minutes. Pressing onward up the road the summit of Wilson Peak comes into view shown in the photo below.
The route continues up the road and until some old mining structures at 12,140 feet. I had to take the photo below, the private property sign cracked me up, the house needs a little work.
The photo below shows the route from the mining structure up to the Rock of Ages Saddle. The route follows the road for a little while longer then turns into a trail the switchbacks up the slope to the saddle.
We reached the saddle at 13,020 feet at about 9 a.m. taking 2 hours from the trailhead. From here you get your first views of Mt. Wilson and El Diente and their northsides look imposing. The peaks still had snow on them from a storm 3 days prior to our trip. From the saddle we proceeded east along the crest of the ridge gaining a saddle between Wilson and Gladstone Peak. The photo below was taken from the Rock of Ages Saddle and shows the route over to the Gladstone / Wilson Peak saddle.
The route to the other saddle skirted some cliffs on the south side and once at the saddle the rest of the route can be seen. The photo below shows the route up Wilson's southside.
Looking east from this saddle the Lizard Head Spire looked really cool. It reminded of the Boar's Tusk back home in Wyoming.
From this saddle you can proceed upward contouring some broken cliffs(Class 3) or you can descend about 75 vertical feet and regain a broken trail(Class 2). Initially Brian and I starting traversing the cliffs and realized this was making life harder than it needed to be so we opted to descend and regain the trail. From here it is just a steady climb up to Wilson Peak's false summit.
Right before the false summit an older guy was descending and I stopped to chat with him for a minute. He didn't like what was on the other side and said he had climbed 35 14ers and finally met his match and didn't make the summit. This got me pretty nervous of what was to come since we had already been warned that the snow remaining in the gully was making the route's crux much harder. After a couple minutes of chatting he proceeded on his way downward knocking a pretty big rock loose that slid down the trail for about 30 feet. Glad I wasn't below him.
I gained the false summit and could see what had turned the old guy around. Although the scrambling looked daunting, it was definitely doable. Brian caught up and we decided to proceed across. The photo below shows the last scramble the makes up the crux to gain the summit.
The crux consisted of a small downclimb on the left side of the ridge and then crossing the gully and ascending the other side. The rock was wet and slick from the snow so we proceeded very slowly. Crossing the gully I waited for 2 guys to descend before I proceeded back up the other side. The photo below is the last bit of scrambling to gain the summit.
Proceeding carefully I made it up the slope fairly easy and took the photo below showing the downclimb and the traverse across the gully.
The climbing seemed much easier either on the spine of the ridge or on the left side. The right side of the ridge had more loose rock on it and I would avoid it altogether. We made the summit at about 11 a.m. taking about 4 hours from the trailhead. The views of the San Juans were incredible with Mt. Wilson and El Diente looking very commanding.
To the east Wetterhorn, Sneffels, and Uncompahgre could be seen and to the south the striking Lizard Head Spire was awesome.
There were clouds forming in all directions and we definitely wanted to get back across the gully before a storm moved in. We only stayed on the summit about 5 minutes, just long enough to snap some pictures and sign the register before we began our descent.
We made it back across the gully easy enough, ocassionally waiting for some parties to pass us as they ascended. I felt much better being back across as it began to snow lighly off and on. We slogged downward passing parties on the way up that didn't seem to concerned about the weather. Glad it was them and not me. One group we passed was some parents with their 7 year old son who had done 22 14ers. What a stud, almost had me beat. We continued downward making it back to the trailhead around 2 p.m. Matt and Stephanie were waiting for us so we went into Telluride to get some food and hit the road back to Gunnison. We stopped at Mario's for calzone's, highly recommend it if you're in the area. From Gunnison we headed to the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs for a well deserved soak in the river. The hot springs are pretty cool. You make a pool in the river with rocks and sand and if it's too cold, you dig a little deeper to let more hot water come up through the ground, if it's too hot, just let a little more river water in. From there we headed up the Mt. Princeton road and camped out for the night at 12,000 feet. The stars were big and bright and the sunrise the next morning over Pike's Peak was burned forever in my mind. All things considered, it was a very tiring but very worthwhile weekend.