Descent Route: North Face
Mt. Wilson Trip Report
May 4, 2006
**** Continued from the El Diente Peak page.
From the Navajo Basin, at the base of the Northeast Face of El Diente, Nick, Will, Jon, and I began a long skin up toward Mt. Wilson. We were able to keep the skins on for the first 600? or 700? vertical, but then the pitch tilted up and we were forced to dawn our crampons and began the repetitive task of front pointing up the face. There was no technical difficulty here, just recurrence of each motion, right foot, then left, and so on. The weather was a bit unstable, and as we climbed Mt. Wilson thick clouds began to roll in from the southwest. These clouds indicated a heating of the atmosphere and convective airflow over the mountains, a common phenomenon in the mountains in spring and summer. We kept a careful eye on the weather as we continued up the face.
Near the top, Nick and I found ourselves too far west on the ridge, and topped out on a serrated, dangerous knife edge. We saw the true summit several hundred yards to our left, and a hundred feet higher. I yelled down to Jon and will to head left towards the true summit. Nick chose to down climb back to them and head up easier terrain. I have really been enjoying the alpine climbing aspect of skiing the more difficult fourteeners, so I stayed on the ridge, climbing fine rock in my crampons. We met up at a narrow saddle that drops south into the Slate Creek Cirque, and north onto the North Face. Jon stayed at this saddle because it provided an excellent film angle of the steep and gnarly top hundred feet of Mt. Wilson. I led up steep snow on this pitch, setting good foot placements for Nick and Will to follow. With one last hard move over some rocks we made the summit of Mt. Wilson, our second fourteener of the day.
All the acclimatization that we have gained through our exploits on these peaks is certainly paying off now. We feel very fresh at altitude, and even with two peaks in our legs already, we were far from tired. The summit of Mt. Wilson is very narrow and tight, with just enough room for us to all put our skis on. We found the summit register up there and signed it. After a Clif Bar and Shot Bloks, we began figuring out just how we were going to make it off this summit on skis. As you can see from the photo of my skis hanging over the edge, it was very technical. I took a few steps down off the summit on my skis, and then moved out onto a boulder. Teetering with the rock under my feet, I steeped off into the air and immediately dropped five feet to a small snow patch. Fortunately I stuck to the soft snow perfectly, and then did a kick turn to get into position to ski down the steep snow towards the saddle where Jon waited. Nick and Will followed (see photo of Will), each of them taking more air and speed off this summit then I did. We all agreed that this section was among the most technically difficult skiing we had done all year. We regrouped at the saddle, and turned our attention down the North Face, a wide-open snowfield with no difficulties at all. By this time it was 2:30 p.m and the skies were darkening. It was obviously precipitating to south, near Silverton, but the weather was holding for us. Skiing one at a time, we ripped this long pitch back into the upper reaches of Navajo Basin. Near the bottom we contoured hard right, so that we might save some vertical for the skin back up towards Rock of Ages saddle and what we hoped might be our third fourteener summit of the day, Wilson Peak.
I should say that when we started out this morning I really only intended to ski El Diente and Mt. Wilson, but definitely had the ?three-banger? in the back of my mind. When we regrouped in the basin, checked the weather, ate, and relaxed, I asked everyone what the thought about going for Wilson Peak. Without hesitation, Jon, Will, and Nick all said ?definitely? and with that we began our third and final climb of the day, a long skin to 13,500?, followed by a steep climb to the summit of Wilson Peak.
*** This trip report continues on the Wilson Peak page, so please click on it.
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