San Miguel County Highpoint Trip Report

Date: October 23, 2005
Author: anonymous

For the Wilsons, I basically used Adam Helman's fine report, taking 2 1/2 days to do the peaks. I drove in to Woods Lake, getting there about noon, and backpacked up to the pass, down into Navajo Basin and up to Navajo Lake. I found a nice campsite near the lake outlet for the next two nights.

Early in the morning found me on the trail moving upstream till I was due north of Mount Wilson (about 11,950 ft), then headed South and up following grassy use trails and keeping right of a large snowfield, toward the notch East of the peak.

Just below this point the climbing turned to Class 3, and once on the ridge I encountered a few Class 4 moves climbing over and around the blocky pinnacles and finally topping out on the airy summit around 11:00.

A look across the connecting ridge to El Diente was scary looking, nevertheless I decided to give it a try. I backtracked to below the notch and began traversing below the north face of Mount Wilson, eventually gaining the ridge about 1,000 feet beyond. Then began a continuous lesson in route-finding, climbing down, around and over the many obstacles along the Class 3-4 route.

The ridge involved thin ridges, airy traverses, a few large towers and lots of exposed cliffs, and loose scree on everything. Not nice. Three hours later, with my nerves and most of the afternoon shot, I joined three other climbers on the summit of El Diente. As they had come directly up from Navajo Lake and knew the route back, I followed them down a fun scree chute. A wild, satisfying day.

Next morning I was on the trail early again, working my way slowly up past a mine claim to the Rock of Ages saddle at about 13,000 ft. I met two couples here who had come up from the Silver Pick mine. I asked them about the trespassing problems from that area and their reply was that they had started from a new parking area for the new trailhead. Noone was around so they just walked up the road past the mine.

As we sat there, I noticed two other groups working their way up to the pass from that direction. The trail had noticeably deteriorated approaching the pass from the south but now it was in great shape and well-worn as I followed the others across to the Gladstone saddle.

I dropped down a bit and started up the Class 2-3 scree slope to the false summit, dropped about 40 feet and climbed talus and ledges to the Class 4 top of Wilson Peak.

I took the obligatory pictures, and grabbed a bite to eat while admiring the Wilson-El Diente ridge across the way and headed down as the summit got crowded. 7 hours after I left I was packing up for the down, up and down trip out.

Needless to say, I was impressed with this area of the San Juan Range. The peaks are spectacular and imposing. If only they would sweep away the loose scree that's covering everything. I doubt whether this report will aid anyone in climbing these peaks but it was fun reminiscing as I related my experiences.

Although I was climbing alone most of the time, I don't recommend it. The terrain is too unpredictable. I found myself using parachute cord to lower myself from cul-de-sacs a couple of times and slings to manipulate airy traverses occasionally.