From Navajo Lake
Saturday September 10, 2010
Friday the 9th my friend Kevin and I had packed-in from the Navajo Lake TH. We got our camp pitched and I then hiked to the summit of Wilson Peak (see Wilson Peak TR)and back to close-out the afternoon. We turned-in about 7:45PM and experienced a rather cool night as temps dipped below freezing. Although it was pretty cold I had a restful night as I’d taken a 3mg Lunesta and felt pretty good when we got up and out of the tent about 7:10AM.
Breakfast was prepared on Kevin’s propane stove and although I had a cold breakfast I did have a couple of hot cups of instant coffee to get things flowing. Our water had a frozen top layer and the filter/pump was totally iced-up and would not function; we then boiled some water and Kevin cleared the tubes and got things working again as we needed to refill all of our water bladders and Nalgene bottles for our venture up to Mt Wilson and our pack-out afterwards.
Base Camp on West Dolores River
We readied our light packs with the bare essentials and headed up the trail left of Navajo Lake right at 8:15AM with calm, clear weather and lots of sun. Gaining the upper reaches of Navajo Basin went by pretty quickly and beyond the two large cairns we parted right directly across a short meadow then on up further right onto the shoulder while following some cairns as we went. Kevin was falling behind and we parted here as he wasn’t sure if he could make the summit. The trail here climbs gradually through some rock and turf before reaching much higher via a zig-zag ascent pretty much straight up the mountain until talus makes up the trail and scrambling over the large stones went fairly well. Climbing much steeper here and somewhat blind as you can only see the sky until reaching the top of the rise where the long traverse now appears with gullies and what looks to be the summit ridge high on the left.
Temps remained a bit cool as I took a good rest here, some food & drink, donned my helmet and continued the traverse on the shady side of the mountain as following the cairns became more of a challenge; I just kept climbing as I went to gain as much elevation as I could before reaching the proper approach gully. I had spotted some people on the summit earlier and I made reference to a “V”-shape notch and a square notch to the left of that on the ridge/ledges just left of the summit. I aimed for that landmark the entire way while climbing higher across the traverse and two gullies.
When we parted camp this morning I had spoken to two gents I had seen the day before and I knew they had climbed Mt Wilson. They each stated that I had to reach the third gully before ascending to the summit ridge; I was now at the third gully and found it to be a steep, loose, scree/rock filled slide with lots of rock ready to “cut loose” at the slightest disturbance. I proceeded cautiously along the left of the gully and did my best to grab as much solid hand & footholds as I went and didn’t really stop until I reached the top of the gully. Here I now had to cut directly across the very top of the gully and “tip-toed” across without causing any rock fall and into the bright sun for the first time since earlier on the shoulder. I could now see the abrupt/blocky summit ridge proper and could see a couple guys who had just reached the summit.
I climbed right onto the top of summit ridge and found exposure on both sides offering fatal consequences to a bad move here; ahead was more exposure and some large vertical blocks to be negotiated over and then a bit left and after some more class 4 moves finally a short few steps and onto the summit at 12:15PM. There were 4 other people there that had gotten there shortly before I had via the El Diente ridge/traverse and along this treacherous summit ridge; I now knew this to be the crux of this climb.
The summit reception was rather chilly as though I’d interrupted something and these four barely spoke to me at all.……….Oh well. I found a space on this small summit to remove my pack, rest and keep to myself. My camera had been acting-up earlier and it now wouldn’t function at all………..Suck! So much for summit photos but the views were awesome and the day perfect for climbing and seeing as far as one can see in all directions from way up here. The summit registry had been vandalized, the pen broken and the paper registry soaking wet. I took in some food & drink and was soon ready to leave as everyone else was leaving; I didn’t want to negotiate over the summit ridge solo this time and followed them out and back to the top of the gully.
The four guys started asking me about which way to go down as they saw I’d come up that way. I told them to cross the top and go down the right side on the far more solid rock. The first guy went straight down the ball-bearing gully and dislodged several good sized rocks a few of which flew all the way down and out of sight; glad I wasn’t below this guy. We all waited our turns to go and the next two guys duplicated the first guy and only the forth guy (David) heeded my advice and we each went down the solid rock right side.
Top of Summit Gully
Following the cairns down was much easier for me and before long I caught-up and passed each of these four guys as they weren’t as fresh having climbed El Diente first. Along the way I used my cell phone for photos as the day was cloudless and the views very rewarding.
I moved quickly back down and didn’t stop until I got all the way back to the large cairns at the top of the basin.
It turns-out that Kevin had climbed up to the top of the shoulder then started back down and took some photos but stayed up in the top portion of Navajo Basin; we reunited here at the large cairns where I stopped to get into short sleeves, take a celebrex, apply a good layer of sunscreen and take in some more food & drink. Hiking back down went quickly and we saw only four other people all along the way.
Navajo Lake with Gladstone Peak in background
Back to camp at 2:35PM; again we paused for some food & drink before breaking camp and starting the 5 miles plus back to the TH. All went well and we started back down at around 3:12PM
Fatigue was becoming a factor as I descended back down the solid trail and into the shade of the forest and back to the juncture with Woods Lake trail. The day was getting much warmer and the sun shining hot above as I stayed hydrated as best I could and only paused briefly a couple of times as things went by uneventfully during this grind all the way back to the TH where I signed-out the trail registry at 5:10; thank God!, I was way beat. We got into more comfortable clothes for the long ride back, took in some more food & drink and relaxed for a short time. My 54th 14er on the gorgeous day……………sweet!
Got waylaid by a flat tire on the way home and made a pit spot in Montrose for repairs. Otherwise a fairly smooth trip home………….