Friday, August 23, 2013

Mr. Wilson's House, Part 2

Day 2- Sunday 8/18

El Diente North Buttress
El Diente - Mt. Wilson Traverse
Mt. Wilson descent to Navaho Lake
The 'large boulder' is a good landmark to help you get started on the North Buttress

Overview of the North Buttress route from Navaho Lake. The 'large boulder' is circled.
We got up at 4 AM, and were on the trail around 4:50 AM, well before the sun had risen. It took about 45 minutes to reach the turnoff at 11,800'. We passed within feet of the large boulder, and went up from there.

Looking up at the route ahead

Looking back at Navaho Lake from above

Sunrise over Wilson Peak and Gladstone Peak

Looking up at the Alpenglow (SZL)


Looking up about 1/2 way. The rock is steeper but more solid ahead (SZL)

Near the top, there is a short section of great rock
Me climbing the same section (SZL)

The exposure to the side near the top

Nearing the top of the butress

Mostly solid and stable rock ahead

Almost reaching the crux area

Nearing the top, I dislodged a large flat rock, which briefly pinned my lower leg to the rocks before it slid off, scraping my skin. I yowled in pain and surprise, but realized quickly that it was not an injury that would disable me.

The scrape on my calf

Negotiating this area is the crux of this route.

We traversed across a narrow ledge

A look down from the short chimney I took to the summit ridge

From here it was about 100 feet to the summit

Panorama looking Southeast

Panorama looking Southwest

Early into the traverse, about to pass under the Organ Pipes
Looking back (SZL)

After bypassing the Organ Pipes, the Gendarmes come into view

Looking back on the same obstacle
Looking back on El Diente Summit

The easy section (SZL)

The crux of the high traverse. This was most definitely class 4 to ascend (SZL)

Nearing the top of the crux (SZL)

The Narrows (SZL)

Looking at the Mt. Wilson summit from the narrows (SZL)
We were doing pretty well on the traverse until the crux pitch. When we first saw it, I was in disbelief. We are really supposed to climb that? We slowly worked our way up, perhaps there was an easier way but it was class 4 and there was a couple of difficult moves to be had.

After we climbed the crux pitch I figured the difficulty would relax, but we found ourselves precariously perched on an airy and narrow ridge.  The exposure was immediate and threatening. Scott took a ledgy traverse around the narrowest section, but I scrambled up on top. I found myself on a 2 foot wide section of slanted rock slabs. Looking to the left and right, I realized it was a risky position. Immediately I was gripped by a strong feeling, a wave of fear manifested itself in me. I cursed up a storm. I was panicking.  I awkwardly retreated about 5 feet and then hugged the rock, hyperventillating. After about 30 seconds, Scott helped guide me around the narrow ledge bypass, and we continued. 

Traversing down and around the narrowest section (SZL)

Facing the final pitch on Mt. Wilson (SZL)
The final pitch to the Mt. Wilson summit is not to be taken lightly (SZL)
When we arrived at the final pitch on Mt. Wilson, I was taken aback. Surely, this wasn't the way to go. It was so exposed and steep.  I surveyed the area for bypass options, finding none in short order. There were some steep dirt-covered steps on the side, no good.  Finally we worked our way up and around to the left. There was a thin rocks edge left of the crux, and we gingerly skirted around the blocky boulder.

El Diente from the summit (SZL)

Immediately upon setting foot on the summit, we heard a thunderous BOOM that echoed off the surrounding ridges. We looked at each other nervously. We had been mostly unaware that storm clouds had been building all around us. The steep and exposed summit of Mt. Wilson is no place to be in a thunderstorm. We were briefly joined by another. He looked around and decided to leave. He quickly passed over the crux and was gone. The wonderous views surrounding us took on a menacing quality, darkened by clouds that threatened rain and lightning.

Up and over the crux

Gladstone Peak
Wilson Peak
Lizard Head (SZL)
We spent a grand total of 3 minutes on the summit. Such a shame, because the view from the summit of Mt. Wilson is breathtaking in every direction. Surprisingly, the difficult pitch up was actually quicker and easier coming down. The crux was quickly dispatched and we were back on the high saddle.  Not knowing the way down, we just started climbing down wherever we could. Interspersed raindrops dotted the rocks as we quickly put the summit behind us. Thunder continued to boom, rumble, and rattle through the valley, reminding us to make haste.

The descent of Mt. Wilson, not finding the trail down, was long and torturous. It had me wishing for the slopes of Columbia Peak, or perhaps Challenger Point. It took us 90 minutes to reach the valley floor; 90 minutes of frustration and torment.

Coming back down to the lake

Leg, after I cleaned off some of the blood
The lake, part 2

We ate (2) mountain house meals and got a 2 hour afternoon nap. I was too tired to even think about attempting Wilson Peak that same day. We went to bed early after resetting our packs and hanging our food, alarms set for 4:00 AM. Since we don't actually sleep much at altitude, I lay there wondering if it even truly mattered.

Part 3- Wilson Peak and exit