Thursday, July 24, 2008

July 18-21st 2008, Wilsons, El Diente, Gladstone, Pt. 13,123 A

Allison and I have been coordinating with Dave and Emily for several months for a camp trip to Navajo Lake to climb the Wilsons and El Diente this July. The three 14ers would be new for Allison and Emily and I was secretly hoping to fit in Gladstone if weather and time permitted. Dave’s sister Sharon and nephew Matt were to meet us as well, along with Dave’s brother Mike who was to meet us at the lake after driving in from Texas.

Overall we had a very safe and successful trip, most goals were accomplished, but most importantly we had a great time and avoided bad weather.Allison got all 3 14ers, Emily got both of the Wilsons. Dave and I both got to add these three peaks to our 2nd go around for the 14ers, Matt got Mt. Wilson and El Diente (he had already climbed Wilson Peak 3 years prior), Mike made an impressive climb (3rd or 4th 14er ever) of Mt. Wilson and made a valiant attempt of El Diente. Shep added both of the Wilsons to his list, getting him to 50 14ers, and Sharon had a great time relaxing and camping.

As a bonus, I was able to sneak in 13,123 A on Friday before dinner after the afternoon storms cleared and on Saturday, we were blessed with a perfect day, so I joined Kiefer Thomas (who we expected to see and bumped into on Mt. Wilson) for Gladstone.I will not hash into route details as they have been well documented in guidebooks and past trip reports, but just focus on a few highlights from the trip and post some photos.

Friday 7/18/08 Day 1: The hike in and UN Pt. 13,123 A

After a night in Montrose at the No Tell Motel, Allison and I hit the trail from the Navajo Lake TH at 9:15am with majorly overloaded packs. Always thinking about Pikes Peak, I promised myself that I would take it SUPER easy and not risk straining any tendons, joints or ligaments by shocking them with a hard effort and all the added weight of a multi-day pack. We covered the ~5 miles/~1,800 vertical to the lake in a very casual 2.5 hours as I lagged behind Allison on the super steep switchbacks to the lake. I was dreading this section, but it seemed much more manageable this year.

Dave and Matt greeted us on the far side of the lake and accompanied us to our favorite camp spot we used 3 years ago at the far end of the upper most trees. The skies were threatening, so we quickly established camp and spent the remainder of the afternoon ducking in/out of the tent and mostly napping. Around 4:30pm, the sun came out and the clouds completely disappeared. I was getting a bit antsy after being cooped up all afternoon and just had to go climb something. I put out offers, but unfortunately had no takers. I decided on Pt. 13,123 A since it was quite close and presumably easy (according to Forrest’s TR). I set off from camp a bit before 5 and soon bumped into Allison and Emily chatting with Jim and Karen Ohl. I stopped and talked for a bit, but was anxious to climb my peak and be back in time for some gourmet Backpackers Pantry.

I followed the Navajo Lake trail back down/up to the Woods Lake junction, then up the Woods Lake trail for a few minutes to where I cut a hard right and headed straight up the steep grassy hillside. Before long the grassy slopes gave way to soft dirt/mixed rock then transitioned to miserable fine steep scree. For each step up, I slid back the same amount. Luckily I came prepared with some tough work gloves and employed the full use of all fours and was able to make some upward progress.

Before long, the crappy scree almost instantly turned into nice stable blocky slabs on an easy ridge. The views quickly opened up and the views of El Diente and the surrounding peaks were astonishing. Buoyed by the views and grumbling stomach, I picked up the pace a bit and arrived at the top 50 minutes after leaving the luxurious Eastern shores of Navajo Lake. I spent 10 minutes taking pictures, soaking in the scenery and trying to ring up the group on the two-way radio.

Reluctantly I decided that I must go down. The descent was amazing fun. I took it slow and cautious on the upper slabby section, then enjoyed carefree plunge stepping and boot skiing through the loose stuff that had been cause for a few choice words on the ascent. Descending the steep grassy section was quick, but great care was necessary to not twist an ankle. Once on the trail, I picked up the pace a bit and made it back to camp 30 minutes after leaving the summit, just in time for dinner! What a fun little side trip.


Saturday 7/19/08 Day 2: Mt. Wilson and Gladstone Peak

Allison, Emily, Mike and Shep left camp about 10 minutes before Dave, Matt and I departed at 5:00am. We plugged along over the clanky talus enjoying the help of the nearly full moon to illuminate our way. It took us a while to catch them and it would have been much later had it not been for them stopping for a break. Unbeknownst to us, Kiefer was sleeping in his tent only feet away from our first pit stop.

We made the grind up the ever steepening slopes of Mt. Wilson, getting slightly off course (a bit too far right) and were in some terrain that was a bit steeper/looser than we would have preferred with our group of 6 and we eventually popped out right at the notch beneath the crux. Since I got there a bit ahead of the group, I used that time to follow the ridge and cairns down for a few hundred feet and get a better descent route dialed.

Dave and I had been there before, but it had been snow covered and things were a bit different this time without the snow cover.After a short break, we engaged the final class 4 section to the summit on the East facing aspect. I went first, followed by Allison, Emily, Matt, Shep, Mike and Dave. We spent a short amount of time on the summit and began the slow task of getting down the summit pitch as safely as possible. Lots of great teamwork and spotting saw us past the crux without incident. Back at the notch, we bumped into Kiefer who was on his way up. After a short period of introductions and conversation, we parted ways with the plan being that he would catch us on the way down.The revised route down (sticking to the cairned “standard” route we deviated from on the way up) was slow and deliberate, but much more solid and safe than the way we went up.

Kiefer quickly caught up to us, where he, Matt, Dave and I boogied off toward Gladstone. Getting to the saddle/ridge for Gladstone took a bit of time due to the snow crossings and sidehilling in loose junk, but we eventually made it and were a bit surprised by the sight. The summit looked surprisingly distant and the ridge appeared to be somewhat involved.We started along the ridge and came to a very interesting narrow section of ridge, maybe a foot wide. I started across walking, but chickened out half way across as it seemed to get increasingly precarious.

At this point Dave and Matt bowed out, as they were not really all that committed. I was very thirsty and getting a little hungry and at first considered bailing as well as the summit was looking pretty far away. After a brief internal argument with myself, I decided that now is my opportunity. The weather looked great and I had a solid partner in Kiefer. I never looked at my watch, but I think Kiefer said we made it up in 35 minutes or so.

Going up was a blast and any sections of climbing that looked questionable, we stayed low and on climbers left. After a brief stay on the summit, we started down the ridge and for kicks we opted to stay on top for the most part. Only once or twice did we bail to the East side to circumnavigate a difficult spot.The descent back down the rotten slopes into upper Navajo Basin went fast, but was a bit tedious and we were ready to be finished. After treating some water at Kiefer’s camp, we said our goodbyes and I ran back to camp, arriving there shortly before 4:30pm.


Sunday 7/20/08 Day 3: Wilson Peak

Again, on the trail a few minutes before 5am, today it is just Dave, Emily, Allison, Shep and I as Matt has climbed this one and Mike needs a rest day. We make good time up the trail, but several stops along the way allow a group of 11 to slowly creep up on us. I am torn between being patient and enjoying the day and hurrying up as I do not want a group of 11 strangers above us on a loose class 3 mountain.

We carefully make our way across the short class 3 cliff traverse and then up the loose slopes to the ridge. The class 3 section I forgot about and came as a bit of a surprise to myself, Allison and Emily, yet the loose slopes leading to the ridge that I was not fond of last trip pass in no time and seem much shorter and easier.

Just below the false summit, another unexpected break allows the lead two climbers of the group of 11 to catch us, but they are quite courteous and hang back while we approach the summit crux pitch.On this trip, the short down climb from the false summit was dry which made things seem much easier. 3 years ago, it was a bit icy and snowy which was cause for a bit of puckering.

The crux was cake and we made it through no problem, but still had the other group putting pressure on us. Oh well, first come first serve . On the summit, we examined the wreckage of the plane that crashed on the summit in Sept. 2006 during a blizzard. All 4 people on board died and have never been found, yet many of their personal belongings still litter the summit, a brush, pilot headphones, swim goggles, a calculator, underwear etc….. quite sobering.We took our time on the summit as the group of 11 made quite the racket.

As it turned out, they were all members of “that other website”, 3 of which were celebrating their completion of the 14ers. We asked when they planned on leaving the summit so we could decide whether or not to wait for them to go, or get a head start as we did not want them above us. They replied that they would be a while as they were pulling out beers and looked to be in no hurry. Minutes later, they are all queuing en masse above us as we are working our way through the upper part of the crux descent . Allison politely asks for them to wait and we safely make it over to the false summit.

Once there, we meet up with fellow 14erworld member Todd Holmes and exchange pleasantries. We are able to boogey ahead of the large group and make it past the difficulties and stop for a break before the Rock of Ages saddle. Wouldn’t you know it, the boisterous group of 11 decide to plunk down right next to us and have another party. Sweet! We try to outlast them so they would not be following us all day, but as soon as we pack up, they all follow and we are destined to be together until the bitter end.After we packed up camp, we contemplated inviting them to backpack out with us, but decided we would leave them alone .


Monday 7/21/08 Day 4: El Diente via Kilpacker Basin

After moving camp to a spot near the creek crossing a half mile up Kilpacker Basin the previous day, we were well positioned to tackle El Diente’s South Slopes route. For a long time we fretted over how we wanted to approach this one. Allison and Emily are not entirely comfortable on steep snow and the N. Slopes route looks to be a dangerous combination of snow and loose rock (probably not that bad, but was no place we wanted to be). We decided that Kilpacker would be the best option and allow both Dave and I to try out a new route on this rugged peak.The trail up through the valley and across the talus was well defined and we were in awe of the scenery.

The route up the S. Slopes was very intuitive, and easy to find cairns for the most part. There were a few gulleys to choose from, each seemed about equal in difficulty. The uppermost few hundred feet to the ridge was class 3 with a lot of loose rock and required great care as to not bombard one another. Although a bit dangerous due to the rock fall potential, I found the route to be pretty easy and efficient.

Once on the ridge, we cut left toward the summit and the crossover couloir. We came to a difficult section that I did not remember and Matt, Dave and I made it through, but it was enough to halt Mike, Allison and Emily. Mike and Emily were starting to feel the effects of several hard days of climbing and wisely decided that they had had enough. Allison was about to call it as well, but I knew she had it in her and I coaxed and spotted her through the section. From there on it was no problem making it to the summit, the only real remaining difficulty being a bit of lingering snow in the gulley just below the summit.

Our summit stay was brief as we were worried about some slowly building clouds and the time it would take to get the group down safely. I sent Dave ahead to get the other half of the group moving down, while I hung back to guide Allison and Matt. Matt, who at only 17 turns out to need little to no guiding and is quite adept beyond his years. He was a great help in assisting Allison through several sections and I was glad to be in his company. The descent was slow and exacting, but we made it down without incident and cruised back to camp, then backpacked out.

We arrived at the car and threw our packs in just as it started to pour. What timing. We all met up in Ouray where we stayed at the same hotel and we all went to Buen Tiempo for a well deserved dinner.


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