Peak(s):  El Diente Peak  -  14,175 feet
Mt. Wilson  -  14,256 feet
Date Posted:  07/13/2010
Date Climbed:   07/11/2010
Author:  doggler
 Traverse Trip Day 2 - El Diente and Mt. Wilson   

El Diente Peak - 14,159 South Slopes
Mt. Wilson - 14,246 traverse from El Diente, descend via scree on north face
Date Climbed - 7/11/2010
Climbers - doggler, Patrick, Scott(sdizzle), and Chris


Patrick and I set out on our 220 mile trek to the Kilpacker Basin TH in high spirits from ringing both of the Bells. We were mostly looking forward to having a full night's sleep after Saturday's 1:00AM wake-up call. What a beautiful drive - I had never been on Co. Hwy 133 before! On the way, we used our secret weapon in this silly little mission: Patrick's parent's house in Ridgeway.

Viewing Sneffels from Patrick's parent's place in Ridgeway

After a quick shower and meal, we set back off and arrived at the Kilpacker Basin TH before sunset. It was here that we met up with my friend Scott(sdizzle) and one of his climbing partners, Chris. We had the same objectives: we were going to do the traverse from Kilpacker. If all went well, we would then continue on to Wilson Peak. Our descent would be through Navajo Lake regardless. "Two valleys for the price of one" for those of you who have the 14er bible memorized. Neither Scott and Chris had ever been to the Wilsons, and were hoping to cross off their last couple of fourteeners. We agreed to a 3:00AM wake-up call. By 9:00, we were lights out in the dogglermobile - a 1996 Nissan Maxima.

Kilpacker TH



Prior to leaving, we had a debate over whether to bring axes or not. We knew that both El Diente's south slopes and Wilson Peak would be snow-free. I put forward the idea of bringing axes for the north side of Mt. Wilson, but we then all agreed to save the weight, knowing that there would be snow-free ways down Mt. Wilson as well.

The four of us hit the trail at 3:45AM. The Kilpacker trail was WET! Very remote and green trail until treeline. From there until nearly the ridge, it was a talus heap. The faint trail did improve things a bit, but it still was pretty rocky.

Image #5 (not yet uploaded)

Lots of talus all over these parts.

I always dig that.

Approaching the ridge. El Diente is on the far left.

As we neared the ridge, the angle increased and things got a little more enjoyable.

Grunting up the last part of the south face.


We gained the El Diente-Mt. Wilson saddle, then popped over to the north face, did a couple of class 3 moves, and found us on top of EL TOOTH at 7:30.

Wilson Peak(L) and centennial Gladstone Peak.

On El Diente's summit - Patrick, doggler, Chris, sdizzle

After spending fifteen minutes on top, we began the traverse to Mt. Wilson

beginning the class 3 traverse


One of the spots that had us wondering how on earth we were gonna get up this thing!

Summit of Mt. Wilson

Lizard Head

Upon approaching Mt. Wilson's summit pitch, we ran into the two guys from photo #17. They had just begun setting up rope to downclimb it. We used the fifteen minutes to refuel, snack, change, etc.

the last few feet to the summit have some of the more exposed scrambling


We each took a turn on that pitch, summitting Mt. Wilson at 9:20, 1h50min after leaving El Diente. Although it was fun, I have to disagree with the assessment that it bears similarity to the finishing move on Sunlight. Although it is a series of moves, they aren't nearly as exposed.

The accident
OK. Let's just say this next part still gives me the chills.

To this point, I felt that Patrick and I had made correct decisions throughout. I realized after the fact that we were about to commit a mistake. As we descended Mt. Wilson, we began following the two guys that had used the rope off the summit. None of us had enough sense to say, "hmmm, there's no trail through this?" Kind of a rookie mistake. I felt quite sharp and alert at the time, so I don't think it was caused by lack of sleep. Anyway, it was quite doable, just not very fun.

Up until this point, our group had done great! Chris seemed very comfortable scrambling and was found out front leading a lot, and Scott had no problem handling the most difficult parts of the route either. Enter mistake #2.

Chris witnessed one of the roped guys swiftly glissade down a couple-hundred foot long snowfield. He decided to follow suit, using a ski pole instead of an ice axe.

You know where this is going, right?

He offered me his other pole, but I declined as I thought of TalusMonkey and all the others who have met their end this way. While I didn't outright tell him he was a nut job, I told him I wasn't comfortable using a ski pole.

Within twenty feet, his pole flipped back and Chris began shooting uncontrollably down the snowfield. It happened in slow motion, as I had already been picturing it unfolding exactly like this. He squirmed a bit, but couldn't get into self-arrest. When he hit the rocks, he popped up in the air at almost a ninety degree angle and landed almost standing. "Oh man, he just snapped a femur," I thought as I began scrambling down to where he had landed.

The guy who had just gone before Chris was feet away and was by Chris's side within seconds. As the rest of us fell dead silent, Chris stood up, took a few extremely tentative steps, and announced that he was "fine", meaning he didn't end up dead or worse. I'm still trying to figure out how that didn't happen myself. By the time I got to Chris, it had been determined that he had lacerations on his hand and upper thigh. He was still able to walk out, though. One of the first things he said after the fact was, "I win the stupid award for the day. I was sooooo lucky." I believe Chris will never ever ever use a ski pole to brake on a snowfield again.

After the accident, some wind had definitely been taken out of our sails. Although we felt strong enough to go for Wilson Peak, I suddenly had lost the appetite to push on with the hour getting later and clouds starting to form. I had achieved my main objective and Wilson Peak surely wasn't going anywhere.

underneath the El Diente-Mt. Wilson ridge, one can find boatloads of lovely talus

Navajo Lake.

We continued to hike down to upper Navajo Lake basin. By now, it seemed clear that Chris was going to be fine. Patrick and I parted ways with the others. As soon as we got around the mosquito-infested Navajo Lake and off of talus, Patrick and I began jogging back to the TH.


Robo-knee and something about Holland

The upper basin isn't fun with all the loose rock, but the lower trails are absolutely stunning

We got back to the car at 1:40 PM. It had grown dark, and occasional drops of rain turned into sheets as we re-packed the car and began our journey to the Sierra Blanca!

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

Comments or Questions
Close call ...
07/13/2010 22:23
Glad that all turned out okay ... thanks for posting. Happy trails!

07/14/2010 05:12
Thanks for posting the pics.....good summit photo of the four of you! As for mistake #2, you described it well. After seeing the injuries myself when the guys got back into town, I also can‘t figure out how he walked out of there without any broken bones. So happy you all got home safely!!

07/15/2010 00:45
When we were up there over the 4th I didn‘t like the look (and feel) of those snow fields at all - and we had axes! One of my friends got banged up on a Mt Wilson couloir (back to Siver Pick) several years ago. We had our own near death experience last year on El Diente in the loose crap just above a frozen spot. As much fun as glissading can be, there are some times it can reaaly bite you. Glad things turned out okay.

Traverse Tip
07/15/2010 14:37
Hey doggler--
My buddy and I met you on the route. We were not the two climbers with the rope, but the two that you four passed on your way to Diente‘s summit. We wanted to let you know that we did get a second wind, and followed you across on the traverse. Sorry about your buddy‘s accident. From the ridge and the Mt. Wilson summit we could hear you below us, but didn‘t see you. Glad no one was seriously hurt. We left the Wilson summit before noon, and the clouds started dropping graupel on us which melted and made the rock slick. We had to be careful, but made it back down to our camp in Kilpacker basin OK.

Here is a tip for anyone doing the traverse. If you look at doggler‘s photo #15 ”One of the spots that had us wondering...”, the route goes up the obvious deep cleft, which I thought was tough Class 4 climbing. We moved maybe 15-20 feet to climber‘s right (south or southeast, toward the righthand border of the photo) and found a cairn that marked stairstep blocks of granite that were a lot easier to climb, maybe Class 2+ or 3.

Good luck to everyone who tries this route! It is tough but doable. And like BillM and GerryR say, watch the weather!

Great report
07/15/2010 21:45
That is a great report. I appreciate the humility to be so candid about one‘s mistakes. It is up to the rest of us to learn from your experience.

Thanks for sharing that.


Good call!
07/16/2010 04:47
Agree with Nelson, above. If we ever thought a ski pole might work in a pinch, you‘ve just given us yet another solid reminder. This is part of the reason for owning a 9 oz axe - it‘s the one you take when you don‘t think you‘ll need an axe. I guess there‘s logic in having one along for all 12 months of the year.

Good report. Keep up the good work!

Great stuff
07/26/2010 15:11
Congrats, Doggler and team! I'm reading thru your traverse escapades beyond The Bells now as Jenn and I have completed that one and have the Wilson Group in our sights for next weekend. We'll see if the traverse is in the cards...
Then the Crestones...we'll see...

Thankfully Chris did not get seriously injured on the glissade. It's a strong reminder that this is serious business and even if you think you can work a pole adequately to control your descent, there's not guarantee it's not going to break on you. That piece of equipment is just not designed for the stresses of that type of application.

On to read your other stuff now.

   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.