Wilson Peak, Colorado 14,017'

October 13, 2003

Dave Svilar


Fall colors with Wilson Peak in the background.

On my first attempt on Wilson Peak last winter I spent the morning finding the trailhead.  My next attempt with Jared, I spent the first three hours postholing with my $30 snowshoes.  Finding myself back in Telluride the following fall I decided to take a day to settle an old score.  Driving down the dark Silver Pick Road I found that I could recognize individual trees, which served as a testament to how miserable the snow-covered approach had been the previous March.

Parking at the gate in the road I jumped out of the Toyota as the first light of the new day seeped through the naked aspens.  After the light, the next thing I noticed was the wind howling off the top of the peak.  My entire approach to this outing was casual.  Shorts, a t-shirt, and a windshirt - my only clothes - suggested I was better outfitted for a stroll through the park than an ascent of a 14er.  Even with the casual approach I still planned to climb three 14ers in one day including El Diente and Mt Wilson.  I don't know the history of how these peaks were named, but I imagine it didn't involve much creativity seeing how two adjacent peaks have the same name.

As David set off up the trail to slay three Goliaths just before 7 a.m. it became immediately apparent that no matter how fast I hiked I wasn't going to warm up.  In addition to being cold at 10,000' another problem emerged: the call of nature and no toilet paper.  Not wanting a rerun of previous experiences I searched my pack in search of a suitable substitute to the preferred 2-ply.  A hard decision was made which resulted in the sacrifice of my route description which I had so meticulously wrote down on a piece of paper the previous night.

I continued over the dry but familiar ground of the Silver Pick Basin and up to the Rock of Ages Saddle tromping through shin deep sugar snow.  On the ascent I had hoped that the rising sun hurry up and warm the morning air, but upon reaching the saddle I was met by howling winds that made me wish for pants and a jacket.  I didn't stop long and continued up a talus slope, scrambled on rock around a corner and continued on a longer talus slope.

Lizard Head Pk as seen from the SW slopes of Wilson Pk.

The path finally gave way to full-time snow just before the crux of the climb - a short narrow section of 3rd class exposed loose rock that was partially covered in ice and snow.  Although this section got my attention I was so cold I didn't hesitate for fear of losing all feeling in my hands.  Shortly after I was on the summit just as the clock turned 10:00 a.m. I huddled behind a rock out of the wind and in the sun while I gobbled a quick lunch and stared at the expansive views towards Telluride to the east, Utah's desert to the west and the towns of Montrose and Delta to the north.

Narrow ridge step (crux) looking down from the summit.


On the summit with the Telluride area to the right in the valley below.


The Mt Wilson - El Diente (14,000' +) ridgeline as seen from the summit of Wilson Pk.

As I descended Wilson Pk's SW ridge I decided I could either go do Wilson and El Diente or go to WalMart.  I must have really been cold because the decision was easy - I bombed back down to the Toyota and made a bee-line to the warm confines of WalMart in Montrose.  When I returned to Telluride that evening I noticed that the waterfalls had begun to freeze - the temperature had dropped almost 20F that day.  The temperature with wind chill factored in had been below zero when I was on the mountain.  Not a good day for shorts, but a good day to settle an old score with my nemesis, Wilson Peak.

-written October 2003

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