Peak(s):  Mt. Sneffels  -  14,150 feet
El Diente Peak  -  14,159 feet
Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
Wilson Peak  -  14,017 feet
San Luis Peak  -  14,014 feet
Date Posted:  09/07/2021
Date Climbed:   09/05/2021
Author:  trkl9
 The Wilson Trifecta featuring Sneffels and San Luis   

The Wilson Trifecta featuring Sneffels and San Luis (Sept 3-6 2021)

For the last couple of years around the beginning of September I try my best to get to far away places with the sole purpose of peak bagging in the high country. Still have some 14er summits that I need to grab in the San Juans so off I went for a little fresh mountain air.

This year's itinerary would bring tougher challenges and included summits of Mt. Sneffels, El Diente Peak, Mt. Wilson, Wilson Peak and San Luis Peak with one of the 4 great 14er traverses.

Overview: Day 1 - Mount Sneffels; Day 2 - El Diente, Mount Wilson, Wilson Peak; Day 3 - San Luis.

Day 1: Mount Sneffels (#38)

Route: Blue lakes approach --> Blue lakes pass --> Southwest Ridge ascent --> South Slopes descent --> Blue lakes pass -> Trailhead

Distance: 13.39 miles

Vert: 5,045 feet

Time: 8 hours 4 minutes

Camp spot near the blue lakes trailhead

Arrived at the Blue Lakes trailhead around 5pm the night before and found a primo camping spot nearby. Only a short walk to the trail. This approach on the south and west side of Sneffels provides some awesome mountain scenery and the bluest lakes I've ever seen. I would highly recommend this route if you're okay with a little more distance and elevation gain.

Started early for this one at around 4:45am. It had been super rainy the past two days so the trail was wet and running with water in some spots. Walked through the dark about 4.5 miles to upper blue lake before the sun started to show the beautiful scenery. From the base of upper blue lake, it is approx 1,200' feet to gain blue lakes pass. Steep but there is an awesome trail that switchbacks the whole way. Made it up to Blue Lakes Pass around 7:30am.

Upper and Middle Blue Lakes, ascending up to Blue Lakes Pass ~12,300'
Blue Lakes Pass, ~13,000'. Look up at the SW ridge route.

Took a left at Blue Lakes Pass to the SW ridge. Followed the route description and had no issues. Rock wasn't too wet and made for a nice little scramble to the top. About 1,100 feet to the top over some class 3 terrain. Passed two others on the ridge but other than that, not a soul on my route so far. Clouds and minimal wind made for a scenic and serene experience on the ridge.

Working up the Ridge, looking down out of the first gully to Blue Lakes pass.
Through the first notch descended from here and then ascended up through the gully to the top left. Approx 8am.
After climbing the gully and through the second notch looking back down.
Working through the rock, gaining the ridge for the summit push ~13,800'
Looking back down the ridge taken at the picture above. Blue Lakes Pass on the saddle, Blue lakes is right, Yankee Boy Basin is left.
Sneffels summit in view, clouds began to thicken as I approached the top ~14,100'

Summited Mount Sneffels at 830am. Clouds would come and go and made for amazing scenery at the top. I had the summit to myself for 25 minutes before another group made it up. Soaked in the solitude. Learning to appreciate and live in these moments while I have them.

Sneffels summit looking toward the SW ridge.
Looking towards Blue Lakes.
Another look down to Blue Lakes.

After 25 minutes of solitude, my descent route took me down the standard route and then ascended the 400' back up the Blue Lakes Pass.

Looking up, descending the Lavender Col to the saddle.
Looking down the Lavender Col. Descended and took a right down the steep south slopes.

Passed a ton of people making the ascent up the standard route. The south slopes was a steep scree fest and not enjoyable, I much prefer the ridge and stable rock. Ran into an old friend of mine down the slope which was awesome. Small world. Descended down to ~12,700 and cut across back to the trail up to Blue Lakes pass.

Blue Lakes Pass looking towards Blue Lakes and my route back down.
Upper Blue Lake descending into a cloud filled valley.

Followed the trail all the way back to the trailhead. An amazing first day. Packed up and drove the next trailhead for an eventful and spectacular day 2.

Day 2: The Wilson Trifecta (#39,40,41)

Route: Kilpacker TH --> El Diente S. slopes --> El Diente-Wilson Traverse --> Mt Wilson North Slopes --> Wilson Peak SW Ridge --> Navajo Basin --> Kilpacker TH

Distance: 18.68 miles

Vert: 6,500 feet

Time: 13 hours 47 minutes

THE MAIN EVENT. This was the route that I had really come down to the San Juans for. I originally planned to just do the traverse and hit Wilson peak the following day via Rock of Ages but I ended up running into another solo climber who was doing all three so, naturally, I agreed to make it an epic day. I will put my GPX on this report for those who like to physically beat down their bodies.

Camp at the Kilpacker TH. El Diente and Mt Wilson in the background.

A busy trailhead on Labor Day weekend. A lot of hustle and bustle around 3 AM. I rolled out of my tent at 4am and was on the trail be 430am. Was gonna be a long day but the weather forecast was excellent. Easy, flat trail until about 3-4 miles in. From miles 3-9 on this route, I essential gained 6,000 vertical feet.. Yikes.

The trail takes you to the Kilpacker basin. Followed the route description exactly. Turned off for El Diente at ~12,600'. Route finding to the "grey gully" was relatively straight forward. I did have to double check to make sure I was in the right spot in the gully. There were people going every which way. I think I found the right one but just study the route and use your best judgement.

A little blurry. Base of the south slopes up to El Diente. 7am and the sun just beginning to rise.
Found the "grey rock gully". Sorry for the blurry pictures..
Under the "organ pipes" below El Diente's summit ridge. Followed the small gully to meet up the with ridge

Summited El Diente at 815am, around 4 hours from the TH. Clear skies and a handful of people at the top. Enjoyed the view for only about 10 minutes, then back down a ways to the organ pipes and off to the traverse to Mt. Wilson.

Summit of El Diente looking east to the traverse, Mt Wilson, Gladstone Pk, Wilson Pk.

Off the summit by 830am. Descended the same route to the organ pipes and then across on the route to the traverse. To be honest, I was a little worried about the traverse and route finding. I ended up loving it and it was pretty well marked. Study up on the route if you go and save the route descriptions. Finding another person to stick with was a TON of help as we helped each other route find along the way.

Working our way across the traverse on top of the ridge. About the halfway point before the steep down climb. Looking east to Mt Wilson.
Steep section back up to the ridge.
My traverse buddy making some moves across the rock. Good perspective of the exposure route there.
More climbing, more exposure, more pure fun. Almost there.
Meeting up with the north slopes route to Mt Wilson. Looking to Gladstone peak and Wilson peak in the distance

One last class 4 pitch to the top. Made the Summit of Mt Wilson at 1015am and a little over 7 miles in. Took about 1.5 hours to cross the traverse, pretty good if you ask me. Really small summit with 7 people on it. Stayed for a short while and took in the views before the next objective.

Mt Wilson summit looking north and east. Gladstone Pk in across the ridge, Wilson Pk on the far left.
The complete traverse with El Diente Pk.

Left the Mt Wilson summit by 1030am. Descended the standard North slopes route into the Navajo basin.

Descending the north slopes, before going below the ridge.
Descending the slopes. Steep, loose, careful route finding required. Would much prefer the traverse to this BS.
Further down, looking back up to Mt Wilson.

We descended down to ~13,000' and instead of going down to the valley and losing another 800 feet, we skirted below the summit of Gladstone and its connecting ridge to a point where it connects back with the trail to the pass to Rock of Ages.

Turned right here, skirted the slope over to the saddle in the distance. Wilson Pk is the prominent peak dead center.
Made it almost all the way across the slope, Looking back to Mt Wilson's North slopes and the traverse to El Diente.

Continued to skirt the slope, made it to the Rock of Ages Saddle at ~13,000 feet around 1230pm. Weather still great.

Turn off on the saddle to Wilson Peaks SW Ridge.
Small saddle ~13,200' before the technical section to Wilson Peak. Looking back to Navajo Basin.
Working up the SW Ridge. Getting into some Class 3 after this point.
Spicy little section of down climbing then up climbing here. Can see some climbers in the center.

Summited Wilson Peak at 150pm. What a view, what a traverse over to this point. 9 miles and 9 hours into it over some fairly technical terrain. Enjoyed the views and took time to refuel for the LONG journey back to the Kilpacker TH.

Wilson Peak summit looking to Navajo basin, El Diente, Mt Wilson.
Me descending the SW Ridge back to the basin. Thanks for the photo Katie!
Descending back to Navajo Lake in the distance.

Another 8 miles after the last photo, we finally made it back to the trailhead just after 6 pm. WHAT A DAY. The most epic day I've had out here. Truly blessed that I can experience the mountains like this. Thanks for the awesome adventure to my hiking buddy, Katie!

Day 3: Rest and Travel Day

I had originally planned to do Wilson Peak the following day but since I knocked it out, I stayed the night at the Kilpacker TH. The next day I used as a travel day back towards San Luis Peak. Over 5 hours from Kilpacker to the Stewart Creek TH but it was on my way home back to Fort Collins anyway. Saved the easiest peak for last.

Set up camp near the Stewart Creek Trailhead.

Day 4: San Luis Peak (#42)

Distance 13.31 miles

Vert: 3,500 feet

Time: 5 hrs 30 minutes

Rolled out of my tent at 600am, on the trail by 6:30am with the sun starting to rise. Legs were sore but just this one last objective before heading home.

Stewart creek basin just after the trailhead.
Near timberline. Can barely see San Luis peaking out behind the ridge.

You can feel how remote this peak is. Literally the middle of nowhere with 50+ miles to the nearest town. Had two moose sightings on my way up, one bull, one cow just hanging out in the willows along the trail.

Gained the ridge, followed up to the top.
Wrapping around the west side of the ridge ~13,800

Summited San Luis peak at 915am, just over 2.5 hours to the top over easy class 1 terrain. Cold at the top that morning.

Looking southwest from the summit
Looking directly west.
Looking east back into the Stewart creek valley.

Spent 30 minutes up top. Soaking in the views on the last peak for this trip before heading down. Back to the trailhead before 12pm. Packed up and returned home for a long drive back to Fort Collins.

Trip Details

3 day total hiking/climbing

Distance: 45.38 miles

Vert: 15,045 feet

Time: 27 hrs, 22 min on trail

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. Another fantastic trip to the San Juan range. Words cannot describe how great this experience was for me. I have built a lot of experience and confidence in the mountains over the last 3.5 years that has led me to this point. Hoping to finish all 58 in the next year or two if I can. Until next time, I'll be shifting my focus to completing the Elk range 14ers, Little bear and the Crestones.

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Amazing Trip
09/09/2021 17:00
Looks like an awesome experience indeed! I hiked part of Sneffels a few years ago, really want to return and summit! Love the Blue Lakes area. I would love to do the SW ridge to summit Sneffels. Great report. Great views! Thanks for sharing your experience.

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