Climbing Wilson Peak | An Exposed Class 3 Climb
Climbing Wilson Peak, like its neighbors El Diente Peak and Mt. Wilson, is a dangerous endeavor. While more manageable than its class 4 sister peaks, it’s an exposed climb with significant risk of rockfall. The climb up the Southwest Ridge is a long day, better for more experienced peak baggers. However the view of the southern San Juans from this perch on the range’s edge is glorious to say the least. Before climbing Wilson Peak, plan your trip with my route guide below.
Climbing Wilson Peak: Fast Facts
Climbing Wilson Peak - Southwest Ridge Route
This Wilson Peak route guide takes the Rock of Ages approach, but you can also use the Navajo Basin Approach to reach the Rock of Ages saddle and carry on with this route guide from there. Your adventure climbing Wilson Peak begins at the Rock of Ages trailhead. Leave your car and begin to hike south. Stay left at the first junction you come to.
Turn left a bit over a mile into your hike and begin gaining elevation. You’ll eventually climb over the ridge to your right to enter the Silver Pick Basin.
Follow the trail along the basin, avoiding turn-off’s that lead to private property along the way. Near 12,100 feet leave the main mining road you’ve followed to the right along a trail.
Hike along to the center of the basin past an old, crumbling rock house. Continue to the end of the basin and and turn right, following the trail up a steep slope. Around 12,600 turn left to traverse more steep slopes before you reach the Rock of Ages Saddle. This is a good spot to stop for a rest and snack, and to check the weather conditions before continuing onward.
Head east from the saddle along a good trail, and then traverse along a steep slope to reach a small saddle between Wilson Peak and Gladstone Peak. From here the route features significant class 3 climbing and exposure.
From here you have two options for climbing Wilson Peak. You can either: 1) scramble up rock ledges north until you reach gentler terrain, or 2) descend 100 feet down a dirt slope and pass the ledges from below. The first option has tougher climbing, but the second includes more elevation loss.
Once past this ledge section, find a trail that heads northwest back to the ridge. While this is rugged, loose terrain, the trail leads nearly to the summit, disappearing around 13,930 feet. Gain a false summit around 13,900 feet – from here it’s class 3 climbing to the summit.
The biggest challenge now includes a 50 foot down-climb from the false summit, a traverse across exposed rock, and a crux climb back to the summit ridge. From there, it’s a short walk up to the summit.
At the summit, enjoy your accomplishment and the view! Make sure you head back down with plenty of time to reach treeline by the noon when thunderstorms move in. I hope you enjoyed my Wilson Peak Route Guide. Good luck climbing Wilson Peak, and safe travels on the trail!
If you’re climbing Wilson Peak, you should have have a good map with you to navigate.You can download this map on your phone or print out a copy to bring with you on your climb. Always bring some hardcopy map in case your digital version fails or breaks.
If you plan on climbing Wilson Peak, use these two sources to check the weather conditions before your trip. Consider the temperature high and low, wind speed, precipitation, and whether there are any storm systems on the horizon to be aware of. No Wilson Peak Route Guide is complete without weather forecasts.
Climbing Wilson Peak is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
Climbing Wilson Peak is an inherently high-risk, dangerous activity. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own rosk.