Mount Wilson

  • Mount Wilson
  • 4342 m.
  • Primary factor 1227 m
  • 16th in Colorado
  • Location: North 37:50.350, West 107:59.450
  • Climbed August 17, 2001.


How to get there: We used the trailhead serving Navajo Lake in Navajo Basin. We drove from Denver via US 285 to Poncha Springs, then US 50 to Gunnison and Monterose. From here follow the road towards Telluride, but turn right up to Lizard Head Pass a few miles before the town (Colorado Hwy 145). Drive 8.6 km down from Lizard Head Pass, then go right on a small dirt road, US Forest Service 535. This road is called Dunton Road, there is a sign. Follow this road up the side of the valley, then across an open flat area and finally descending down into a valley to the trailhead. There is a short, dead end road to the trailhead going sharply right near the bottom of the hill, this is 11.5 km from the beginning of Dunton Road. The trailhead has a good parking area. It took us 7.5 hours to drive from Denver including a quick lunch, gas, a few delays due to highway construction and a quick stop to buy some supplies in Monterose.
Route description: The route is well marked by cairns as it leaves the main trail (which crosses over the pass to Silver Pick Basin) and heads up the broad ridge to the right of the large, permanent snow field called Navajo Glacier. There are no difficulties and the hiking is class 2, perhaps with a couple of 2+ spots in a slightly steeper section. However, higher up as the route angles right (instead of climbing all the way to the ridge), the cairns became more difficult to follow. We crossed a distinct, but small gully that just had melted out, rounded a small rib next to this gully and climbed along it to a point immediately below the top ridge. From this point, we could see a small, but distinct notch in the summit ridge slightly to our left, a much larger gully that still held significant snow came up to another notch in the top ridge further to the right. Just above us there seemed to be a local, higher point on the main ridge. From here the correct way is to contour right, there is a clear passage inside of a small pinnacle rock (that even has a small cairn on top of it!) and further into the main notch that forms the top of the larger snow filled couloir mentioned earlier. From this notch you have a good view to the other side of the main Mount Wilson ridge. (I must admit that the normally very accurate description by Gerry Roach was a bit different from my reading of the terrain, I arrived at what seems like a very distinct notch, expecting to see the final summit ridge there, however, it started from a point that I did not even notice when doing the ascending traverse.) From this notch, one can continue (right) more or less along the top of the main ridge, the terrain here is not difficult. Fairly soon after climbing out of the notch one will see the small, but distinct summit ridge of Mount Wilson. The access to the final summit ridge is easy, a distinct gully leads down towards El Diente, the main ridge is a bit higher and blocks the view back into Navajo Basin. The first part of the final ridge is also an easy scramble, but then the ridge becomes more narrow and a bit more exposed (see the picture below). From here we used my rope for extra safety. It turned out that the very first rock I considered for a sling was loose (see the picture below), so some care is indeed needed. The climbing was easier than it initially looked. There is more or less only two moves on the route I picked. First, move around the first narrow section on the left side, this gets you onto easier terrain after only a few meters. The next spot is just before the summit, also this slightly to the left of the highest ridgeline. Altogether, the climbing was less than 25 meters. The summit is nice and offers a very good view, in particular, of the ridge across to El Diente, our next goal. We continued from the summit of Mount Wilson to El Diente along the famous Wilson-Diente ridge. See the description under El Diente for this part of our route.
Comments: I did this climb with Jan-Frode Myklebust, age 26. We started at 0545 from our base camp in upper Navajo Basin. We arrived at the final summit ridge at 0900, we spent one hour on the summit (including the quick climb there and back). We started the traverse towards El Diente at 1000. See the description under El Diente for this part.