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Mount Wilson
Elevation: 14,246 feet
Climbed: Aug 20, 2008
Mountain Range: San Juan Range
Colorado Rank: 16th
Class Rating: 4
Latitude: 37.839200
Longitude: -107.991000

Trip Report

Aug 20, 2008
The key to this route is finding the correct ridge notch west of Mount Wilson's summit. I went one notch too far west, which increased the difficulty. The ascending traverse across this section of the north face was steep and very loose. After crossing an extra rib or two, I headed up a steep gully to the notch.

Upon gaining the (incorrect) notch, I had to descend on the south side of the ridge, traverse a short distance, and then ascend a south-facing gully to the correct notch.

Once at the correct notch, the exposed summit ridge climb was at my feet. My initial reaction was that I had reached the limit of my ability and fortitude. It was a crushing realization and one that took only a few seconds to reach.

I knew that by downclimbing a bit, a harder but less exposed wall might be climbed to reach the summit. That could possibly include some low 5th-Class climbing. My only other option was staring me in the face.

Since most of the ridge was rated Class 3, I knew that I could climb those sections. The key was ignoring the steep rock faces falling sharply away on both sides, but especially to the south. When I reached the exposed Class 4 move, I would assess it and make a decision.

I moved onto the ridge, feeling the solid rock in my hands. After the loose, rotten rock of the steep north face, this was a pleasant change. The exposure became part of the background, part of the landscape. It was there, but I didn't focus on it. I tested and trusted the solid rock, moving fairly quickly over the Class 3 sections.

Sooner than I expected, I reached the crux move. I huddled in a nook under the ridge, stashing my camera and GPS unit into my pack. I didn't need anything that could catch on the rock or interfere with my next move.

Reaching around the rock, I found a decent hand hold with my left hand. Everything felt solid, so I committed to the move. In a couple of seconds, I was around and over the crux.

A few Class 3 moves later, I was abruptly on the summit of Mount Wilson.

I don't think I've ever been as pumped about reaching a single summit before, especially after almost writing this one off. I took a few photos from the summit, had a snack, and then headed down.

The Class 4 crux move seemed quite a bit more difficult for me on the descent. I tried several starting positions, but none felt comfortable. The rock-solid grip I seemed to have found on the way up just wasn't there. After a few minutes, I found what felt like my best position, hugged the rock, and moved past the crux. After a short crack downclimb, I was back on the solid Class 3 ridge. The length of the downclimb seemed longer than it had on the way up, but I was soon back to the base of the ridge.

On the descent, I was able to follow the standard route. Though fairly long and complicated, it was much easier than the route I followed on the ascent. I carefully picked my way down the mountain, occasionally finding cairns that confirmed I was on-route.


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