Wednesday morning, we hit the road at 3:45 am to climb El Diente and Mount Wilson. We arrived at the Navajo Lake trail and began the first few miles of our hike in the dark. As we reached the meadows below the lake, the sky began to lighten and we got our first glimpse of El Diente (and South Wilson).
Finally we climbed the trail over the headwall of Navajo Basin and got to see the slopes of El Diente. We enjoyed a snack on the shores of the lake before starting the long scramble up to the West Ridge.
Our chosen route was steep. The going up the scree was slow but our views got better and better as we moved up in elevation. Mostly it was just a lot of two steps up, one step back but there were a few places we got to do some scrambling.
Finally, we popped out on the ridge and we saw El Diente for the first time since leaving the meadows. Wow.
Our views out to the west weren’t too bad either:
Traversing the west ridge was a lot of fun. We weren’t making awesome time because there were plenty of places where we had to cross some sketchy areas like this: (Yes, it’s a long ways down)
Just as we started to feel within reach of the summit, the infamous Colorado summer thunderstorms began to develop. We watched as the clouds began to get more and more ominous. As we watched the clouds began to move to our south so we began moving again.
Within minutes, things went from sketchy to very bad. As my hair stood straight up and we got a fuzzy sensation, F sternly instructed me to get down and the two of us hit the rocks and rolled down the ridge 20ft. BOOM, lightning struck over head. Luckily it was cloud to cloud that time.
As we regrouped, we realized 1) that we needed to GET OFF THE RIDGE, 2) that we’d put holes in several hundred dollars worth of clothing, that F had 3) bent his thumbnail back ripping some flesh and 4) sliced 3″ of his hand open on the rocks. We bandaged his hand with my t-shirt and hair tie (my free tshirt from S2V met a bloody death and I doubt my coworker wants her hair tie back…).
Two miles of ridge top traversing did not sound like a good idea but we weren’t sure we had much of a choice. The alternate routes on El Diente were on the other side of the summit and the sides of the ridge were full of cliffs. As we scrambled our way along the ridge F spotted a chute that appeared be decendable to Kilpacker basin and we both agreed it was worth a shot to get ourselves out of a sketchy situation. So we “skied” down 1000ft of scree while trying to avoid going over the cliff.
When we arrived in the basin the imminent threat of severe weather seemed to have been replaced with a slight summer drizzle and we were treated to a side view of How Close We Were.
Instead of following our tracks out to the Navajo trail, we decided to hike out Kilpacker trail to see if trying the South Slopes approach would be a better idea next time. Just shy of the trail head we met a father and son who had made it to the top of El Diente before the storm but had to abandon the traverse to Mount Wilson. They kindly agreed to drive us back to the Navajo trailhead to pick up the Jeep.
Bummed about not making it to the summit, we took Last Dollar Road from Telluride back to Dallas Divide. Along the way, we saw elk herds, some Aspen and pine groves, and lots of trails to explore.
The Jeep even got to have some muddy fun:
Back in Ridgway over pizza and beer, we began to make plans to give the climb another shot. We’re on a mission now!
Hike by the numbers:
Miles hiked: 11.8
Feet of elevation gain: 3800′
High point: 13,600′
Stitches needed: 9
Summits reached: 0
Dollars worth of clothing torn: a lot 😥