Mount Wilson/El Diente Peak
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  • Statistics:
    • Date Hiked:  August 20, 2005
    • Miles Hiked:  16.0
    • Elevation Gain:  5,800'
    • Hiking Partner(s):  Tony & Maggie Niemann
  • Description:
    • I backpacked in to Navajo Lake from the Navajo Lake Trailhead and was gently rained on for much of the hike.  By the time I reached the lake, the precipitation increased in intensity and I ended up sitting under a tree for over an hour before it let up enough for me to find an adequate camp spot.  The rain gear and pack cover came in handy once again.  I ended up on the northeast side of the lake in a small grove of trees right next to the trail.  I read a little, cooked dinner, and was sleeping very early in the evening.
    • I had prepared my summit pack the night before, so I was hiking shortly after I awoke the following morning.  I hiked east into Navajo Basin and wasn't feeling in top form.  As I started up Mount Wilson's north slopes, I finally noticed at least two other parties ahead of me.  The climbing is straightforward, although I feel as though I started to traverse to the southwest a bit early.  I gained the notch that allowed me to look into Kilpacker Basin and knew the crux was right above me.  I stayed directly on the ridge to the summit where four others were already enjoying their morning.  (While down climbing, I dropped slightly off the  ridge to the east right below the summit to avoid the couple of awkward moves I made on the way up.)
    • I'm not sure if I'm loosing my nerve, or just becoming a bit wiser, but I have really limited my solo hiking (especially on more difficult trips).  I had posted for a partner for this trip to no avail, so I basically decided one peak would be enough.  Two ladies on the summit came from Silver Pick Trailhead.  The other two climbers (Tony & Maggie) were a married couple from Salida, Colorado who were also camped at Navajo Lake.  I nonchalantly asked what was on everyone's agenda for the day.  The females said they were going to climb Wilson Peak on their way back to Silver Pick, and Tony indicated that he and Maggie were entertaining the idea of the traverse to El Diente, but weren't certain.
    • Before Tony finished his sentence, I quickly responded with "I'm in."  They had not yet committed to the traverse, but after a brief conference they decided to go for it.  I think the fact that El Diente was one of three remaining 14ers for the couple made the decision slightly easier.  So after quick introductions we were off.  We quickly made it back to the notch where my second of four "great fourteener traverses" would begin.
    • Oddly enough, our greatest route finding difficultly of the entire traverse occurred within 10 minutes of beginning.  As I began climbing to the coxcomb described in Roach's guide book, we questioned whether we had dropped far enough.  I decided to climb up and scout the route before we all continued.  I felt comfortable and then noticed a cairn.  I indicated that I was certain we were on the right track.  I feel as though Roach's details are extremely accurate and route finding was not difficult.  The exposure on certain areas of the ridge is extremely fun and enjoyable.  The two major areas where you descend off the ridge to the south are well cairned.  Tony and I evenly shared the lead for the entire traverse.
    • We worked around the Organ Pipes, crossed over to the north side of the ridge, and made the summit.  A truly pleasing climb with some great people.  I especially liked the complement from Maggie who thought I was 17 years old.  I guess glacier glasses conceal a lot.  We didn't stay long and debated our descent route.  I was pretty much set on El Diente's north slopes.  Tony and Maggie agreed that it was obviously the most direct way back to camp; however, our only concern was that the north couloir was still full of snow.
    • We traversed back under the Organ Pipes on the south side and gained the ridge at 13,900'.  We crossed over to the north side and descended to the headwall of the couloir.  The rock above the couloir was extremely loose, and the snow was much harder and steeper than anticipated.  I ventured out on the snow, but didn't feel comfortable.  As I re-climbed back to Tony and Maggie's position, I asked Tony to survey the rib to the west of the couloir.  After a quick analysis, Tony thought it would go, and I concurred.  Tony made short work of the small ridge with great route finding to get us to a smaller snow field to the west of the main couloir.  At this point, we caught a short glissade of 300' to 400' and were back in Navajo Basin.  I said farewell to Tony and Maggie as I quickly hiked back to camp, packed up, and essentially ended up backpacking out in the rain just as I had approached.
    • If I were to do it over again, I would absolutely do the route in reverse order.  Not because I think the traverse would go easier (I feel it would be the same either way), but because you could get an awesome snow climb in with the traverse and descend an easier class 2 route on Mount Wilson's north slopes.  I felt as though the couloir was still in good climbing condition and it was near the end of August.  In terms of difficulty, I thought the Wilson/El Diente traverse was less technical and shorter than the Maroon Bells traverse.
    • It took me 2 hours and 45 minutes to backpack into Navajo Lake from the Navajo Lake Trailhead.  It was 2 hours and 50 minutes from Navajo Lake to Mount Wilson.  The traverse took 1 hour and 40 minutes.  I forgot to measure the time it took from El Diente back to Navajo Lake, but I am certain that it took longer to descend El Diente than the traverse.  Gravity didn't help much on the severely muddy trail as I slopped back to trailhead in 2 hours and 30 minutes.  I'm not sure if my statistics are accurate for this combination either.  I tried to piece it together from Roach's various route descriptions.  He unfortunately doesn't include a combination hike of just Mount Wilson and El Diente.  I basically took the mileage and elevation gain from 31.2 (16.0 miles/5,200') and then added 600' for the traverse based on descriptions.  I feel as though they are reasonable and conservative.
Leg Description (of only the traverse to validate my statistics) Start End G (L)
1. Mount Wilson - High Saddle/Notch 14,246' 14,096' (150')
2. High Saddle/Notch - Saddle 14060 14,096' 14,060' (36')
3. Saddle 14060 - Coxcomb Highpoint (Estimated) 14,060' 14,100 40'
4. Coxcomb Highpoint - Low Point Below Saddle 13980 (Estimated) 14,100' 13,900' (200')
5. Low Point Below Saddle 13980 - Point 14100 13,900' 14,100' 200'
6. Point 14100 - Low Point Below Towers (Estimated) 14,100' 13,850' (250')
7. Low Point Below Towers - Saddle 13900 13,850' 13,900' 50'
8. Saddle 13900 - Low Point Below Organ Pipes (Estimated) 13,900' 13,850' (50')
9. Low Point Below Organ Pipes - El Diente Peak 13,850' 14,159' 309'
  Cumulative Elevation Gain/Grade/Miles   599'
 

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