El Diente and Mount Wilson Combo

Durango

A technical combo of two San Juan 14ers.

Hiking Extreme

Distance
20 km
Ascent
1.4 km
Descent
1.4 km
Duration
1 day +
Low Point
3.1 km
High Point
4.3 km
Gradient
27˚
VIEW ON MAP
El Diente and Mount Wilson Combo Map

Description

Note: this route warrants a "Moderate" Mountaineering difficulty rating.

Check off two San Juan 14ers in one day with this technical combination of El Diente Peak and Mount Wilson. This route is one of the few class 4-rated 14er hikes in Colorado. While the standard route up El Diente only gets a class 3 rating, Mount Wilson’s standard route is rated class 4, and the traverse mapped here also scores a class 4 rating. If you attempt this route, you should be prepared for high consequence technical mountaineering. On top of the technical aspect, comboing the two peaks makes for a long day in the mountains: over 12 miles and 4,700 feet of elevation gain.

The route mapped here approaches via the Kilpacker Trail, before breaking out of the trees in Kilpacker Basin. Once in the alpine basin, the trail slowly ascends across a scree field before the main ascent toward the summit of El Diente. "In short, you must zig zag up the slopes to reach some cliffs, traverse left and then climb (Class 3) to reach terrain just under the 'Organ Pipes’ along the El Diente-Mt. Wilson connecting ridge,” according to 14ers.com. Once you’ve gained the ridge, scramble the ridgeline to the left to reach the lofty summit of El Diente Peak.

To reach Mount Wilson in the shortest way possible, you’ll traverse the ridgeline between the two peaks. The traverse is solid class 4 terrain, so if you’ve had any difficulty up to this point on class 3 terrain, it’s best if you turn around and return the way you came, skipping Wilson. This technical traverse requires confident rock scrambling abilities, route finding abilities, and completing both of these tasks while at extremely high elevation and while avoiding serious fall danger.

As you approach the summit of Mount Wilson, you’ll have to complete another fourth-class move to finish the climb. According to Kiefer on SummitPost.org, "the final moves to reach Mt. Wilson’s apogee are ‘airy’ with a decent amount of exposure but fortunately, the rock, right where one needs it, is of good quality. Mt. Wilson has a genuinely exciting finish to a small but great summit with what I believe, to be some of the best views in all the San Juans.”

The trail from Mount Wilson descends the southwest slopes in an obvious-looking valley. Since this is the standard ascent up the mountain, the trail is relatively well-defined and easy to navigate. And after descending the upper fourth-class moves, the rest of the descent is third class or easier. Finally, once back on the Kilpacker Trail, follow the same route out of the mountains and back to the trailhead.

Sources: https://www.14ers.com/routelist.php?peak=Mt.+Wilson%2C+Wilson+Peak%2C+and+El+Diente+Peak https://www.summitpost.org/mount-wilson/150340

Difficulty

Extreme

Scrambling up mountains and along technical trails with moderate fall exposure. Handholds are necessary to navigate the trail in its entirety, although they are not necessary at all times. Some obstacles can be very large and difficult to navigate, and the grades can often be near-vertical. The challenge of the trail and the steepness of the grade results in very strenuous hiking. Hikes of this difficulty blur the lines between "hiking" and "climbing".

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.

Remoteness

4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

July, August, September

Features

  • Alpine
  • Summit Hike

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