Mount Wilson

Date to Climb: June 30, 2009

Date Climbed: July 01, 2009

Elevation: 14,246

Range: San Juans

Latitude: 37.83910, Longitude: -107.99150

Route: North Slopes ll, Class 4

Round-Trip Mileage: Adds more mileage to the Peak, but ???

Pre-Climb Comments

Jake will not climb with us but will do some acclimating hikes with Jon and Laura. The class 4 summit block on Mt Wilson looks straightforward. We need good weather for doing the Peak and the Mountain on the same day. We will start early and try to summit Wilson Peak in the early morning, traverse, and be back in camp by late morning.

Post-Climb Comments

After completing Wilson Peak we eyed Mount Wilson as we walked down the trail off the Peak. The day before we spoke with someone who had just done the route and they insisted that there was little snow.

Mount Wilson

To us there seemed no way to avoid the snow. We were in for another snow climb. Wasting no time we finished the descent of the Peak and moved to the Mount. The clouds continued to thicken. We discussed our options, should we even try for the summit. Our decision was that we did not want to quit our quest. We would go for it.

A lot of scrambling took us high on a shoulder. We began our long traverse to the right as the clouds continued to build. The snow kept us on our toes as it varied in consistency from concrete to sugar. Closer, we eased on towards the summit. We were over 14,000 foot when the storm hit us.

Acting quickly we piled our ice axes, crampons, and trekking poles away from us, put on all of our clothes, and sat on our packs. We hunkered down for the fury and it came. The wind blew. It rained. It hailed. It snowed. It was cold. We had a few inches of accumulation. Lightning struck. Thunder boomed. We cringed with every new blast. It was a bad storm and we were not in the best place.

As the storm eased, we decided to run over and try to summit. It was just over there (very close.) However, in the mountains ’just over there’ is often very far away. We followed the directions from and crossed the ridge heading for the summit. The storm reassumed its intensity. The final vertical section was a steep, 4th class corner with good holds and almost solid rock.

I scampered up the short cliff to the top while Amy waited below to join me, her head just five or six feet below. As I stood I heard the familiar buzz of charged rock. Quickly, I laid flat in the hail accumulation. Sitting up again, the noise returned and a similar noise around my helmet and head. Laying back down I shot a short video - I was afraid I was going to be the star of a Hollywood shocker - and climbed back down to my wife. We were happy to still be alive.

The down climb to our gear was tricky. The snow and hail had filled every crack and crevice and the wet rock was considerably more slick than normal. Reunited with our gear we started our descent. It was painfully slow going. Everything was slick and felt loose. Finally the storm passed and then we only had to figure out how to get off the mountain. We could have waited a few hours for things to melt, but instead we found a good chute to glissade. In a few minutes we dropped as far as it would have taken us hours to down climb.

Wilson descent

Mount Wilson descent as storm passes.

After traversing back to the ridge we climbed, we were safely on a climber’s trail. It wasn't long until we began our slog back to the trailhead. Though it was only six miles away, it took us three hours to descend the path. By the time we reached the car, every muscle and joint in our bodies hurt.

Jon, Laura, and Jake were waiting for our arrival. It was great seeing them all. They knew we were smacked by the storms and seemed relieved when we arrived at the trailhead.

After a short team meeting we decided to go to Montrose and spend the night at the Western Motel again. A long drive was ahead, but then sleep and a shower.

Jon and Laura ordered pizza from DeAngelo’s, a worthy choice.

The San Juans were finished. We decided to return to the Sawatch Range and work on the remaining peaks, while hoping the snow would melt soon.

Mount Wilson - July 01, 2009 summit check