Mount Wilson and El Diente

This was the second trip to Navajo Basin for Jason Friesema and I. We had been here 2 years earlier on an attempt at the three Fourteeners here. We only reached Wilson Peak on that trip and were turned back within 150 feet of the summit of Mount Wilson by an ice storm. (Read that trip report here.) This trip though, we had perfect weather and thoroughly enjoyed the trip.


Click the map for a full size version.

Elevation Profile:

We began our hike at 8:00 on a Friday evening. This trailhead is so far away I had to leave work early to get there by then.

As the daylight faded we got a glimpse of our goal for the next day. We reached Navajo Lake at about 10. There were a couple of large groups up there and the log that used to be a bridge across the stream had washed out so it was tough to find an available and accessible campsite. We prepped for the next day and set the alarm for 4:15.

The route we chose was the North Couloir up to El Diente then we'd do the traverse from there. We broke off from the Navajo Basin trail after getting above the headwalls and did an ascending traverse across these grassy ledges to the base of the North Couloir.
Photo taken later in the day

The North Couloir turned out to be much more solid of a route than we'd been led to believe. The far left side is pretty solid with only a little loose rock on it. We also found decent trails crossing the couloir just below the headwall. This was a much more solid couloir than the gulley on Mount Sneffels.
Photo taken later in the day

The sun started to hit the ridge just before we reached the headwall.

I saw this animal near the summit of El Diente. I believe it is an American Marten.

After getting beyond the headwall and crossing to the far side of the ridge we found the rest of the route over to El Diente extremely well marked with Cairns, getting us around the Organ Pipes easily.

Jason Friesema on El Diente's summit.

My summit shot. We had made it in about 3 hours from Navajo Lake.

We stayed for nearly an hour on the summit of El Diente enjoying the perfect weather we were having, then we headed off back down the ridge. Mount Wilson is only 3/4 of a mile away, but there are several challenges. After getting back around the Organ Pipes we neared the spot we had come up from the North Couloir, we could see the "towers" (just right of center in the photo). We chose to drop below these and regain the ridge. This cost us a good 200 feet of elevation. We also found that the Cairns became much less frequent on this part of the route.

After regaining the ridge on the East side of the "towers" we followed the ridge for a while. At times it's a narrow catwalk with big exposure, but fairly easy along this stretch.

Soon Mount Wilson and the last major obstacle comes into view. The Coxcomb is on the left in the photo and Mount Wilson in the Center.

When you reach the saddle below the Coxcomb you can choose to drop below the Coxcomb to the right and loose hundreds of feet of elevation or to climb it.

We chose to climb it. Rumor has it there is a class 3 way to ascend the Coxcomb, we didn't find it. We did a lot of 4th class climbing, and a little low 5th class.

Once on the top of the Coxcomb we stayed on the ridge the rest of the way. This is very airy in places. A couple short sections are knife edges, but with some loose wobbly rocks.

After getting beyond the Coxcomb the last couple hundred feet to the "Notch" is pretty easy. You can see climbers in the photo above ascending the last class 4 section from the Notch to the summit.

We chose to stick with the ridge proper to reach the summit rather than taking the East face. It's airy, but solid hand holds and foot holds abound.

Jason and I on the summit. It had taken us a little over 2 hours to complete the traverse.

The views on this great day were amazing.

Click Here for a Summit Panorama (Very large file).

Click Here for a detailed ridge photo (large file).

Jason took a little time on the summit to keep up with his book club reading.

After downclimbing the ridge we descended Mount Wilson's North Slope route. We made pretty good time down since we'd been on this part of the route before.

The wildflowers were still doing great in the Basin.

From the valley below the ridge doesn't look like the challenge that it is.

Back at Navajo Lake I gave fishing a try. No luck. We saw a couple swim by, but never saw much activity on this lake.

But, who really cares if the fishings bad with views like this.

The next morning was fantastic.

We took some time to enjoy the lake a little more and then began the hike out.

The hike out begins a little steep, but for the most part is just a gentle walk out.

We again stopped at the water falls where Kilpacker Creek and Navajo Creek meet.

I love natural air conditioning.

I'm amazed that it seems so few people take the time to do this short detour. I recommend it to all who visit here.

One last look at El Diente as we neared the trailhead.

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