Wilson Peak
(San Juan Mountains, Colorado)

16 Jun 2003 - by Tim Edinger

Peak Name: Wilson Peak; Rank: 49th; Height: 14,017

Date: 16 June 2003

Route: Ascent - NW Face; Descent - NW Face

Difficulty: snow climb - intermediate Class 3

Elevation: Base - 10,700; Summit - 14,017; Elevation Gain - 3,317

Distance: Base to Summit - 2.5 miles; Summit to Base - 2.0 miles; Total Distance - 4.5 miles

Time: Start - 6:30 AM; Summit - 11:30 AM; Return to Trailhead - 2:45 PM

Total Trip Time: 8 hours, 15 minutes

I started the climb @ 6:30 a.m. at the Silver Pick Trailhead with full pack and snowboard. At the Silver Pick Mill (ruins) I grounded my snowboard and switched to hard sided boots. Significant snow was still present in the basin. I got off route early and gained the northwest ridge of Wilson Peak early in the morning. The majority of the route included intermediate snow climbing. Once on the ridge, .25 mile north of the NW bowl, I noticed that I was in the wrong bowl. I tried to traverse the NW ridge but the exposure was too much for the dogs. We back-tracked to the ridge saddle that we first gained, and then down climbed to the south, into the true NW Face snowfields.

The dogs and I then did an intermediate snow climb up the center of the bowl, arriving at the top of the bowl closest to the false summit on Wilson Peak's SW ridge. I grounded my gear at a point where the dogs could not negotiate some cliff blocks. The dogs remained there and I initially climbed the blocks, but was forced back by lightning and St. Elmo's Fire. After a brief wait, I ascended the last 150 feet and gained Wilson Peak's summit amidst significant weather with electricity, snow, and very cold wind from the SW. I stayed less than five minutes on the summit and then returned to where my gear was. I geared up and then returned to the dogs.

We then down climbed the cliffs at the false summit of the SW ridge and then re-entered the NW face. We negotiated the snowfield with a combination of down climbing and glissading. Once in the Silver Pick Basin, we found the strong climber's trail just north of the un-named lake at 11,896 and then returned to the trailhead. We arrived at the trailhead at 2:45 PM.

Conditions: Sunny; Lightning; snow

Temperature: 45 Degrees @ Trailhead; 35 degrees at summit; extremely windy on ridge and on summit

Climbing Companions: Winston and Milo

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