Mt Wilson Route Guide – A 14er With A Fierce Reputation
Mt Wilson and its neighbor El Diente Peak and Wilson Peak are some of the most dangerous peaks in the San Juan range. Many people have been injured or killed due to the significant exposure and rockfall hazards. Wait to conquer the Mt Wilson route until you’ve tackled some easier 14ers and gained some experience. The reward for the risk is an adventurous climb that often involves a mix of snow and rock climbing late into the summer. Take your time on this mountain, and be ready for the risk. Start planning your visit with my Mt Wilson Route Guide.
Mt Wilson Route Guide Fast Facts
Mt Wilson Route Guide - North Slopes
This Mt Wilson 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 Mt Wilson 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, and take a left onto the path in Navajo Basin. Near 12,300 feet, leave the trail and descend to the bottom of a shoulder that leads to Mt Wilson’s summit. Head across the creek and begin to climb the shoulder.
Follow trail segments and look for cairns as you ascend this shoulder. Around 13,400 feet you’ll come to a large buttress, which is covered in lichen. Head straight up the face of this buttress. There is easier terrain on top.
Rather then continuing from there to the ridge, begin to traverse the slopes to your right while ascending gradually, guided by small cairms. If you climb too high too quickly you will run into class 3 and 4 terrain unnecessarily. There may be snow fields to cross in early and mid summer. I recommend studying this area in depth before you climb using sources like 14ers.com and summitpost.com. Near 14,100 feet, get to the last gully and climb the upper portion to reach the northeast ridge.
This final section has serious class 3 and 4 climbing – do not proceed if the weather looks questionable. Head right to find a notch. Take a left and take the quite narrow ridge toward the summit. The crux of the Mt Wilson route is just below the summit. This class 4 section of rocks blocks easy passage to the summit, with significant exposure on either side. It’s easier to head left to climb over and through them, as the right side has the most exposure. Once through, scramble the remaining distance to the summit.
Enjoy the top and your accomplishment, and be sure you head back with time to make it to tree line before afternoon thunderstorms. I hope you found this Mt Wilson route guide helpful and informative.
A topographical map should be part of any trip along this Mt Wilson route. 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.
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 Mt Wilson 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.