Peak(s):  "South Wilson"  -  14,110 feet
Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet
Date Posted:  07/03/2013
Date Climbed:   06/26/2013
Author:  Mountain Ninja
 The Range of a Range   

The Range of a Range

Chris (ChrisinAZ), Brad (Mountain Ninja)

Day 1: South Wilson (14,110')
via the "Knob Gully"
14.6 miles
4,200' elevation gain

Like the 80's, the San Juan mountain range offers a variety of quality in rock. Chris and I enjoyed both ends of the spectrum on this trip.

On our quest to complete all the fourteener points, South Wilson was due up for a visit. I want to start by thanking Britt (globreal) for an EXCELLENT, thorough trip report on this peak! Definitely check it out if you're planning to climb this peak.

We took his route, starting at Kilpacker Basin, which uses the approach to El Diente's South Slopes:

That's not creepy or anything.

South Wilson peeks out as you enter Kilpacker Basin:

Approaching South Wilson

Talus-hoppin' to The Knob

Hiking up some mildly obnoxious loose talus, we found ourselves at the base of the "Knob Gully," as Britt calls it. Yep, his description of "dinner plates" is spot-on!

Looking up the Knob Gully

This stuff is loose, and a bit sketchy. Even the rock that appeared to be embedded in the mountainside would come out into your hand. We took turns ascending this delightfully rotten gully:

Up the Knob Gully: a waterless Slip-n-Slide.

Chris clearing a spot for a potential hold near the top of the Knob Gully.

Ah, now that THAT'S finally over, we can enjoy the remaining hike to the summit! We noticed a couple sweet rock formations along the ridge, one teasing my hungry stomach:

Cactus Blossom!

We summited at noon, and were greeted by a Party (that's the official name for a group of flies). One of them was kind enough to snap a pic of Chris and me atop our final Wilson:

Sorry about the perspective; the poor little fly couldn't lift the camera.

We took a moment of silence for the loss of the grandfather of this community, Steve Gladbach. We were honored to have met you and hiked with you, Steve!

Summit Register

Wow, what a gorgeous day up here. Even though it may require climbing that awful gully (there may be other routes), I highly recommend visiting this undefiled perch above 14,000 feet!

Kilpacker Basin

On our way back down the ridge, another sweet rock formation congratulated us:

El Diente at the tip of my finger

Here's a video of Chris making his way back down the Knob Gully, to better portray the uncertainty of each move:

(Check it out in HD, and give it a moment to buffer)

Having arrived at the trailhead too late last night to catch any views, we were thrilled to have a last peek at our peak:

South Wilson from near Kilpacker TH (El Diente on the left)


Day 2: Mt. Sneffels (14,150')
via Southwest Ridge
5.4 miles
2,400' elevation gain

Unlike a good majority of our previous day's trip, this ascent was on purely enjoyable rock!

We parked at 11,800' and hiked a short way to Blue Lakes Pass:

Sneffels Southwest Ridge

Chris approaching Blue Lakes Pass

Once on the Pass, we could now view easy passage through the first spires:

Looking up at the ridge from the saddle (Blue Lakes Pass)

Approaching the 1st gully:

Chris ready to tackle the 1st gully

Even in this gully, I was amazed how much sturdier the rocks were than on South Wilson. Instead of dislodging every possible hold like yesterday, this stuff was much more reliable!

Climbing this section all the way to the "Notch" gully was pretty straight forward and fun.

At the Notch gully, we considered throwin' on the crampons, but opted to stay on the rock to ascender's left of the snow, on pleasant rock:

Chris staying on rock in the gully

The next gully was the crux of the route, but it really only had one move that required some effort, in my opinion. Here's Chris exploring his options:

ChrisinAZ... er... ChrisintheSanJuans

We were excited to see the Kissing Camels just after the crux. Sure enough off to the left, there they were!

The Kissing Camels. Ow, ow!

However, I guess I pictured the Kissing Camels to be much bigger. But since they were roughly life-size, we decided to give them a little smooch, too:

Kissing the Camels

A few short minutes later we were presented with the best part of the route: completely solid ridge scrambling!

Bring it on.

Sneffels ridge climbin'

A little exposure:


Haha, just kiddin' on that last pic! It was turned sideways. Here's what it was really like:

More climbin' on the ridge

Soon after (a little too soon!), we arrived on the summit. THAT was SWEET!!

As we popped up on top, another guy was summiting from the standard route. He looked at me and said, "Brad?"
Whoa, who is this guy? I don't know whether to be freaked out for being stalked, or excited for being famous.

He introduced himself as the son of a Black Belt student of mine, then I recognized him. Erik! How cool to see him up on a 14er this far from home! We snapped a couple summit pics, and spent some time enjoying another beautiful day in the San Juans.

A tribute to the yuppies out there who don't know how to operate their expensive gear (yes, our headlamps are on)

We joined forces with Erik and descended the standard route.

Chris and Erik descending the upper gully

Looking down the upper gully

Dallas looking mysterious and sexy

Back at the trail, Erik's father David met up with us. This is so cool to have another Black Belt on the mountain! Let's see a bear attack us now.

On the way out, the mountain almost collapsed on us! Thank goodness I was able to jump out and hold it up. Chris helped neutralize the situation by grabbing the camera:

An awesome feature on the Yankee Boy road

Range comparison:
South Wilson route: shifty, weak, loose rock
Sneffels SW Ridge route: solid, dependable, super-fun rock
Both peaks: Exciting in their own ways, with absolutely gorgeous views!!

The El Diente - Mt. Wilson traverse. Wilson Peak and Gladstone peek up on the right. Click photo for larger view!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Comments or Questions
Brian C
07/03/2013 16:49
Now this is a fantastic report. Way to get out on some seldom-trodden terrain and have a great time.


07/03/2013 20:36
Blooming onions....

S Wilson
07/03/2013 23:12
Congrats on a rough couple of days. S Wilson looks miserable; Greg Fischer does not speak highly of it.

Bloomin Onions
07/03/2013 23:58
Nice Trip!

07/05/2013 15:03
Brad you have such creative reports! Bloomin' onion hahaha. That video is crazy! Loose!

Brian Thomas
that video
07/05/2013 22:15
Looks so not fun. Great pics and writeup!

rob runkle
Dinner Plates
09/06/2016 13:59
All I kept thinking watching the video was: "Well at least dinner plates don't hurt too bad if they hit you." Crap, that is loose!

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