El Diente Peak Route Guide – A Class 3 San Juan 14er
El Diente Peak isn’t technically a ranked fourteener, as it doesn’t rise at least 300 feet above its saddle with its taller neighbor, Mount Wilson. However the peak is officially named for historical reasons, and it’s a tough but exciting class 3 climb to reach the summit. For these reasons, many people include the El Diente Peak route on their fourteener to-do list. The standard route using the Rock of Ages approach is best used in early summer when the north face gully is still filled with snow. A crampons and ice axe are a good idea for this ascent, along with the skills to use them both.
El Diente Peak Route Guide Fast Facts
El Diente Peak Route Guide - North Slopes
WARNING: This route is best climbed when there is still snow in the north face gully used to reach the summit. When the gully has melted, there is a high risk of rockfall in the gully. Consider a different El Diente Peak route during these times.
This El Diente 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. From the Rock of Ages trailhead, head south along the trail.
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. This is also the first time along the El Diente Peak route you can see the namesake peak to the south.
Head off of the saddle, heading in the direction of Mt Wilson which rises above you to the south. Follow the trail down to the creek to around 12,100 feet from where you can see the route clearly to the left.
This route follow a large gully that tops out just below the summit – beware of high rockfall risk when snow in the gully has melted out. Approach the large rock apron at the bottom of the gully, scrambling to reach it. As you climb up the couloir above becomes clearer along the El Diente Peak Route.
Above 13,000 feet enter the gully as it begins to steepen. Above 13,200 feet you’ll face your maximum slope. Climb towards a headwall towards the top of the gully. Just below the top, look for a ramp to your right leading up and out of the gully. Scramble up it and turn left to reach a small saddle.
From here, stick to the south, far side of the ridge for the easiest path to the summit. Pass the tall rocks known as the “Organ Pipes” to your right, following cairns and trail segments. Pass through a small chimney formed by two parallel rocks. Continue to a small gully which brings you back to the summit ridge with a notch at the top.
Pass through the notch to the north side of the ridge and turn left. Scramble below steep rock to your left as the path becomes more obvious ahead of you. Traverse across the slope and aim for a notch at the top. Climb through and scramble up a final small gully to reach the summit.
Enjoy your accomplishment at the top, and make sure you head down with plenty of time to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. I hope you enjoyed this El Diente Peak route guide.
This topographical map of the El Diente Peak route is a handy resource for your climb. I recommend downloading a digital copy on your phone and printing out a spare paper copy in case anything happens to your electronics along the way.
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 El Diente Route Guide is complete without weather forecasts.
Hiking & climbing 14ers 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.
Hiking, scrambling and climbing up Colorado’s high peaks are inherently high-risk, dangerous activities. 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.
About the Author: Alex Derr
Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.