Mt. Wilson Peak Trip Report

As of the summer of 2008 I had 2 14ers left to finish the list of 59, San Luis and Mt. Wilson.  Now I have a few people interested in coming along on San Luis and plan on taking a casual stroll up the class 1 trail to the summit but I still needed to get up Mt. Wilson.  As bad as it sounds I really had very little interest in climbing Mt. Wilson.  I've gotten tired of long car rides and crumby rock ridges and especially tired of backpacking.  While finding someone to do Mt. Wilson wouldn't be hard, finding someone willing to drive down Friday, do it in one day Saturday then come home, would be.

I badgered Tim Hallinan for a few weeks with the idea and agreeing to do Lizard Head as well as having Jen make him peanut butter cookies finally broke him down.  We left Boulder around 5 in the afternoon on Friday the 21st of June, 2008.  The drive was long and boring and we arrived at the Kilpacker Trailhead around midnight.  We quickly threw our sleeping stuff down on the ground and went to sleep.  At 4:30 we woke up, had a quick bite to eat, drank a bit of vitamin water, then headed out.  The approach went quickly and we waded through some snow but not enough to be annoying.  As we were breaking treeline we noticed another couple heading up towards the talus and were then greeted by the sound of their barking dog for the next mile.  There is just about nothing more obnoxious than listening to someones dog barking its head off for 30 minutes out in the middle of nowhere.  The couple would later turn around on the route and I'm happy to see that karma  worked out for them.

Tim and I made quick work of the route and ascended snow slopes to a saddle and then took the ridge head on to the summit.  Staying right on the ridge proper  was time consuming as it was low fifth class and quite loose.  It was actually pretty nerve wracking following the ridge to the summit because it was a no fall traverse and I haven't been on sketchy 4th/5th class stuff without a rope in some time.  We made the summit, took a couple pictures then reversed the  ridge.  The trek back to the car went quickly and we were treated to a fast descent to treeline on snow and more of the incessantly barking dog.  Car to car our time was a bit over 8 hours.  I'm guessing it would take about 7 hours if we went right up the South West Slopes Couloir and skipped the ridge but the ridge made the hike into more of a climb.  I know some people like to backpack but if I can do a route in a day I'm going that way.

Once back at the car we pulled out the captain's chairs, drank some Dale's Pale Ale then headed to Telluride to restock on food and beer.  The Telluride Blues festival was going on and the town was a mob scene so getting a parking space took some doing but we finally did, grabbed our stuff, then headed out.  I get fiddled and banjoed out pretty easily.

We found a huge area across from Lizard Head Pass where you could pull in to any available spot and camp for free.  It was really fantastic and some of the best, easiest camping I've done.  We found a secluded spot that required 4wd to get to and set up camp.  We had dinner, drank more Dales, then went to bed.  

We woke up pretty tired around 5 in the morning on Sunday, ate, packed up, then headed to the Cross Mountain Trailhead.  On the way we saw two Elk or Mule Deer chasing a coyote for quite a distance, it was a Wild Kingdom type image and I wished I had a picture of it.  We headed out on the trail around 6:30 and made it to the base of Lizard Head in about two hours.  The trail to Lizard Head was one of the prettiest ones I have ever been on in this state and was very smooth up until the final bit.  We made the mistake of aiming straight up as opposed to finding the climbers trail and it turned out to be one of the most miserable scree sliding, rock avalanching experiences I've had.  When we got to Lizard Head Tim got up about 20 feet and said 'Screw This'. and came down.  I know plenty of people climb this thing but life is way too short to mess with dying on a crumbling pile of choss.  Lizard Head's reputation for falling apart under your hands is understated.  The thing is a chossy, rotten mess.  If peak bagging is that important then by all means go do it but otherwise, unless you just want the views of the approach trail, skip it.  There are thousands of better, safer routes and I think climbing Lizard Head is like running under crumbling seracs, two thing I won't do.

We headed back to the car (on the much easier climbers trail) then back for the long ride home.  One peak left, thanks for coming along Tim.

Day 1

Mt. Wilson

Trail: Southwest Slopes + Ridge, Class Easy 5th, 12 miles,   4200 ft elevation gain 

Starting Out

El Diente

Snow Slopes

The Ridge To Mt. Wilson

Nearing The Summit

Lizard Head From The Summit

Wilson Peak and Gladstone Peak

Heading Back To The Saddle

Our Decent 

Aspen Groves

Day 2

No Lizard Head

Trail: Cross Mountain, Class 2, 7 miles,   ~2400 ft elevation gain

Starting Out For Lizard Head

Lizard Head

San Juan Views

Easy Trails

Terrible Choss

Near The Base Of Lizard Head

Checking It Out


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