Peak(s):  San Luis Peak  -  14,023 feet
Wilson Peak  -  14,021 feet
Date Posted:  02/09/2017
Modified:  02/10/2017
Date Climbed:   02/05/2017
Author:  SnowAlien
Additional Members:   mountain_stoke, JtheChemE, Yikes
 Superbowl Weekend in the San Juans   

San Luis peak

Date: February 3, 2017
Distance: 14 miles
Time: 13 hours 40 min
Elevation gain: 5,700 ft (use previous estimates since my Delorme didn't give an accurate reading this time)
TH: West Willow creek/Equity Mine winter closure
Avy rating: green below and near treeline, yellow above treeline
Participants: Will Seeber and Natalie Moran

Originally, I was hoping to ski San Louis via Yawner gullies in late winter/early March, similarly to Benners report here, allowing for both winter and summit ski descent, but things didn't align in the last couple of years for that to happen. It might still though. Will Seeber and I were looking to hike something on Friday, have Saturday as a rest day, and be ready for Wilson Peak on Sunday with a bigger group. I've been really apprehensive of San Luis peak via the standard summer route because of the avalanche danger. Very moderate avy forecast should help us in that regard. While browsing the old trip reports, I was really intrigued by the Jim/Jeff/Greg's report and decided to make a route decision once we get on the pass and have an opportunity to preview the conditions. Essentially, our trip turned out to be a carbon copy of the trip that they did last year.

I left after work and arrived at the winter TH around 11 pm, catching 4-5 hours of sleep before our 5.20 am start. Will joined me in the morning. Winter closure adds roughly 8 miles round trip to the outing, so we spent 3 hours skinning up the road. Will stashed his skis just before the pass and was on snowshoes the rest of the way. The summer standard route from the pass still didn't look very appealing (and we couldn't see the 2nd bowl), while the west face of San Louis looked windblown and bare. Even if that meant more elevation gain (and loss), we both were more comfortable with that option.

Will with our objective from the pass

I took off skins, clicked into skis and had an enjoyable drop into the valley floor. But winter 14ers are not about skiing, so this section will come to haunt me on the way out. Will trudged behind me on his snowshoes, trenching downhill, and he would have the last laugh.

We crossed the creek, ascended the shallow gully until the dry rock started. Although Yawner gullies looked filled, the snow was hard pack, and I didn't think the snow quality would justify hauling the skis 3,000 feet up. Besides, Will was moving faster than me and I didn't want to slow him down even more.

Ascending to the dry rib

We stashed all the gear at the bottom of the dry rib, decorating a nice Christmas tree. With 2 sets of avy gear, skis and snowshoes, this was probably one of the most expensively decorated Xmas trees, at least in that part of the state. From there, it was a rather unpleasant, but safe 3k ft scree grunt to the summit.

The gear stash

Dry rib ascent

Will arrived there quite a bit before me and was trying to lounge. I think it took us roughly 8 hours to reach the summit. The descent to our gear stash went a little faster.

Will lounging with Organ behind him

Don't know about Will, but I was ecstatic.

Will is heading down fast

and not so fast

I skied from our stash near 11.6k down to the creek and switched back to skinning. I was not looking forward to the reclimb. Even on the established skin/snowshoe trench I lost Will pretty fast, but it was about to get much worse. Once I got to the steep section, I was not able to use his snowshoe trench for uphill skinning and had to reestablish the skin track in deep powder, which took a while.

Deep in the creek

Reclimbing back to the pass would require a pole assist from Will

I think maybe on this trip, snowshoes had an advantage, although skiing down 4 miles of the road went pretty fast and I was back at the car by 7pm, with Will minutes behind. Glad to put this one to rest, but the ups and downs and 3k scree field of suck made this route less than enjoyable.

Sunset shadows on San Luis as we reclimb back to the pass

On Saturday morning, I left for Telluride, arriving there mid-day, and putting to use my Mountain Collective pass. Skiing wasn't that great, but I could enjoy the views of the surrounding peaks, including our next day objective, Wilson Peak.

Wilson Peak

Date: February 5, 2017
Distance: 12 miles
Time: 12 to 13 hours
Elevation gain: 5,200 ft (use previous estimates since my Delorme didn't give an accurate reading this time)
TH: Cross mountain near Lizard Head pass
Avy rating: green below and near treeline, yellow above treeline
Participants: Jim Yikes, Will Seeber, Justin Becker, Natalie Moran

I was really looking forward to this peak. After couple trips to the Bilk Basin for Gladstone, I came to appreciate the beauty of the area. We left the parking lot at 4.25 am and for once, I didn't mind an early start, as I thought we would be able to catch a sunrise on Lizard Head pass, always a treat. Will was heaving some gear issues, but he would be able to catch up to us later.

Sunrise at the pass - photo by Justin

Sunrise at the pass - photo by Justin

Photo by Jim

We quickly discovered that snow was very stable. I did warn people that I make a terrible avalanche poodle, but we had no trouble (aside from sidehilling) traversing the terrain that would be a no-go under more dangerous avy conditions.

In the basin - photo by Justin

Jim and Justin in the basin. Notice plenty of the exposed rock on Wilson's south face

At some point I took a more direct route through the basin, as I had more trouble skinning up than snowshoers.

We all met at the base of the South slopes and stashed the gear. Initially we took the rock rib, but quickly switched to snow, which was supportive and spring-like. Justin soon took over the lead and established a nice staircase to the false summit. It was such a treat to climb steep stable snow in early February!

Testing the snow

Sweet staircase

Jim's coming up

Justin and Will topping on the ridge

Gladstone and the other Wilson

We stopped at the mini-saddle to regroup and put on layers as it got immediately cold and windy once we were out of the south face and the sun. Jim confidently took the lead down the crux off the false summit.

Jim leads the downclimb

Natalie (photo by Justin)

Justin on the downclimb

There's just something about scrambling on frozen rock in winter at 14,000 ft

Chilling. Jim is getting really close! I think we got to the summit around 1pm or so. Photo by Will

Justin - photo by Will

Will continues his quest for all the 14ers in a single winter - photo by Justin

Justin starting the downclimb

The upclimb went without the hitch

and soon we were regrouping again at the saddle. I was getting really excited about the descent! I somewhat regretted not bringing my skis above 13k, but one just never knows with winter 14ers if snow will be skiable above the treeline or not.

Starting the downclimb.

Faced in in one short section

Will finishes the downclimb

Skiing through the basin, Jim's ahead. Photo by Justin

Tracks, jet stream and Wilson peak on the ski out

The descent for me went very fast and was very enjoyable. The snow was more wind-buffed and denser than I was hoping for, so instead of milking turns down to the valley floor I stayed fairly high and dropped a couple hundred feet only after I turned the corner.

Remaining route to the pass

Once at the low point in the basin @11,500 ft, I delayered (it was hot), put skins on, ate some snacks and gu and started a slow slog back up to the pass, waiting for the slowshoers to catch up.

Unlike the reclimb out of San Luis drainage, this was a very easy skin on consolidated snow.

The slowshoers did catch up eventually (they are not that slow), but then I took the skins off for the last time and was back at the car 25 minutes later, for a 12 hour roundtrip time. What an amazing trip with incredible scenery and so glad to have such strong partners. Thanks for reading. Until next time.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Comments or Questions
02/09/2017 13:37
All the pics are really, really good but a few are fantastic - especially the upclimb/downclimb ones.

02/10/2017 06:43
Solid report Natalie. I agree with Jay, and I especially like the first and fifth pics for your Wilson trip.

Great TR
02/10/2017 07:37
Thanks for the great write up. It was nice playin in the mtns with ya.

Great Day
02/11/2017 22:23
Could not have asked for better weather, snow conditions or crew. Thanks for writing this one up Natalie!

Quite the Superbowl weekend, Natalie
02/13/2017 10:52
Then again, the Superbowl ended up being quite the game and highly entertaining. Congratulations on two awesome, hard-earned summits! Way to get after it as always. The Wilson Peak day looks especially amazing. I would been on skis with ya. That entire approach/deproach looks very nice with skis. Well done and awesome pics.

   Not registered?

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

Please respect private property: supports the rights of private landowners to determine how and by whom their land will be used. In Colorado, it is your responsibility to determine if land is private and to obtain the appropriate permission before entering the property.

© 2022®, 14ers Inc.