Descent Route: Northeast Face
Wilson Peak Trip Report
May 4, 2006
**** This report continues from the Mt. Wilson and El Diente pages.
With slowly tiring legs but hyper-motivated spirits, we ascended our third fourteener of the day, Wilson Peak. Wilson Peak is quite a famous mountain. It has the honor of adorning the front of the Coors Beer label, and has long been THE local test piece for Telluride ski mountaineers. The mountain rises abruptly above the Wilson Mesa, and views of it abound from just outside the town of Telluride. Telluride is one of my favorite mountain towns in the American West. It is quintessential in so many ways, and the surrounding San Juan Mountains are a skier?s paradise. Wilson Peak looms above it all like a sentinel, beckoning to all would be ski mountaineers with its? apparently sheer Northeast Face. This face was our objective, and would cap off a massive day in the mountains if we could pull it off.
Approaching this peak from the backside is like walking to the edge of a massive canyon. You cannot see the face, and unless you knew it was there, you would be totally taken by surprise as you stepped onto the summit, only to see the Northeast Face fall away below you. We, of course, knew what we were in for, so as we topped out, we were greeted with the satisfying feeling of knowing that the line we wanted to ski would go. I had scoped the line with binoculars the day before to be sure, but until you stand on the summit and look down it, especially on a low snow year, you cannot be sure it is skiable. It was now 5:30 p.m. The weather had been on our side all day, threatening rain and snow a few times, but then holding off. By this time we were all quite tired, but anxious and excited that all we now needed to do to complete our great ?enchainment? was to descent this face. The Northeast face of Wilson Peak, as you can see from the photos, is intricate and dangerous. You must know your line, because many lines that apparently go through, actually cliff out lower down. A fall down this face would send you quickly to the bottom, 2000? below. Because the face lacked snow, the skiing was technical and we made each turn carefully and deliberately. Check out the photo of Jon Hagman traversing from the summit ridge into the couloir, dicey conditions for sure!
Nick DeVore, who has been beyond strong during the last ten days, went first and made his way down to a large snowfield half way down the face. Will, followed, then Jon. I relaxed on the ridge, and went last. As I stood up there by myself, staring out at the mountains above Telluride, Mt. Sneffels, Wetterhorn, and Uncompahgre in the distance, I reflected once again at what an amazing day, amazing project, and amazing life this has been. The intensity and passion we as skiers can take from one descent is not that unlike life itself. For me, this project has been blessed. I am more stoked on skiing than I have ever been, and every time I stand on a summit, I see a hundred other lines and peaks I want to ski. Sure, I have a commercial aspect to my project, what with the film and book project, and the sponsors contributing to my success. But at the end of each day in the mountains, I remind myself of how lucky I am to spend every day out in the wilderness, skiing the peaks of my dreams.
At 7:00 p.m. we were back at the truck, 15:20 after starting out in the dark. We were all spent, and shook our heads in disbelief at what we did. Back at the RV, we were barely able to get dinner going, and as soon as we ate, we were all fast asleep.
This morning we drove to the Telluride airport and dropped Nicky off. My friend Bruce Gordon flew down from Aspen to pick him up. Nick is going to Denali in a few days on a ski expedition. He has skied twelve fourteeners in the last two weeks. I would say that is pretty good conditioning for Denali. Nick has been nothing short of amazing on this trip, strong as an ox, confident, and jovial at all times. Thanks Nick, good luck in AK! We are on our way to Durango to hop on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Guage Railroad for a trip into the Needles, and group of three fourteeners called Windom, Sunlight, and Eoulus. i'll update the site again after this trip.
Thanks for reading,
**** For a chronological list of my skis descents and the routes I skied, please click on ?Route List? on the navigation bar at the top of the page.
View a chronological Route List