Wilson Peak was supposed to be 14er number 45 for me, and 44 for Dasani. Easy peasy.
After banging out the El Diente Traverse yesterday, we drove into Telluride and absolutely crushed a massive pizza (we’re permanently uninvited from that restaurant), then headed up the long bumpy slog to the Rock of Ages trailhead.
No great spots to pitch a tent, but doable enough since we were just going to throw everything in Dasani’s Jeep in the morning before we headed up.

Alpine starts are a serious love/hate relationship.

You love the mountain air, the complete solitude in the pitch black, and that feeling of doing something just a little extra. But you also hate that cold mountain air, getting out of your toasty warm sleeping bag when it’s frigid out, and trying to get the JetBoil fired up for coffee and oatmeal when you’re cold and shivery.
But we keep doing it.
We tell ourselves how bad it is and how dumb we are and how much better life is elsewhere – then the minute we get home we start dreaming about the next trip, the next hike, the next climb. I think that the mountains may create a clinical sickness inside of those of us who spend time there.
The long route up from the Rock of Ages trailhead to the Wilson Peak saddle is, well, long. Less long in the pitch black because you just focus on the small pool of light that your headlamp casts, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Way more long on the return trip because you’re tired and you just want to be done. Even more long when you know that you have to come back here someday and repeat this nonsense.
Maybe someday Dasani and I will have time to train so much that we run up and down these little hills and we’re not completely wasted by these excursions – someday.
Once you hit the saddle that breaks the ridgeline from the north side to the basin, the wind coming up from the Navajo Basin hits you in the face and all the layers you dropped because you were sweating like crazy pounding out the uphill go right back on to block the wind blast. It’s an amazing thing to move 20 feet and feel a 40 degree temperature change.
The upside is that this is where it turns from a hike to a climb, with some amazing routefinding and scrambling from here on out. Put the hiking poles away, pull out the climbing gloves, and finally we get to the fun stuff.
Just short of the peak is a scramble on the north face which gets no sun at this time of the year. With the recent snowfall and no sunlight to melt the snowpack, the decent into the gully and the climb back is up a bit sketchy. There’s a 2,000 foot drop below you, 6" of foot space, and a precarious path up and down.
I downclimbed the gully to assess the route and thought it was probably time to call it a day. Despite being 15 minutes away from the summit, our mortality wins out and the mountains will be here in the future for another attempt.
While it sucks being sooooo close, it’s just like my bailout on Castle and Condundrum last year – we’re not out here getting sponsorship dollars for doing epic things, we’re just a couple of old geezers playing in the mountains. This is supposed to be (mostly) fun, let’s keep it fun and not get dead. Wilson Peak – we’ll be back!

San Juan Sunrise

San Juan Sunrise
Alpine starts mean mountain sunrises!


El Diente Peak

El Diente Peak
Yesterday’s mountain – El Diente Peak and the traverse to the left.


Jagged Edges

Jagged Edges
That really is a beautiful chunk of rock!


Wilson Peak

Wilson Peak
Where we’re headed today


Saddle Shot

Saddle Shot below
Stopping as we hit the saddle and cross around the south side of Wilson Peak.


Relentless Uphill

Relentless Uphill to Wilson Peak
If we followed the route better, we would have done less of this brutal uphill!


Sketchy Spots

Sketchy Spots below Wilson Peak
This is where we decided to call it quits and come back next year.


No Stopping

No Stopping
If you slide down this gully, there’s no way to self-arrest.


Ridge Ridge Ridge

Ridge Ridge Ridge
So many jagged ridges in this shot.



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