Ascent of Mount Wilson-West Peak on 2020-07-11

Climber: Bo Saunders

Others in Party:John Maguire
Robert Woodrow Bushnell
Date:Saturday, July 11, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Mount Wilson-West Peak
    Elevation:14100 ft / 4297 m

Ascent Trip Report

We made the drive down on Friday 7/10. Got to the Kilpacker Basin TH and started the hike at 6:37pm. Only took an hour to hike in 3 miles and we were camped by the creek crossing at 7:36pm. Saw a couple of deer shoot across the field near our camp site; great views of El Diente as the sun set and gave it a reddish glow. We started the next morning at 5:26am. There were a couple of groups ahead of us. We made good time and passed most of them. We missed the gully that takes you to the base of the organ pipes - we ended up too far west and took another gully up. It wasn't too difficult, but the climbing there was a bit harder than advertised in the standard route gully. There are several red rock ribs and gray gullies, so I thought it was easy to miss the right path. Reached the summit by about 8:40am. There were other groups kind of bottlenecking the path up to the summit - some of them making the scramble way harder than it should've been. Spent maybe 10 mins on the summit and headed for the traverse. This was my first big traverse and it ended up being harder than I anticipated. We backtracked down and found the right path that took us to the base of the organ pipes. Then we had to skirt around a bunch of gendarmes. This was harder than I thought it would be. It was steep and had some exposed moves. Nothing as bad as what lay ahead, but it was challenging. In hindsight, we wait too long to regain the ridge and made it harder on ourselves. We should've ascended to ridge proper as soon as we were past the gendarmes. Regardless, as the descriptions says, it was a relatively easy stretch along the ridge after we made it up. While on this easier section, an absolutely massive rock slide happened. John was trailing and said he saw a massive cloud of dust. The rumbling went on for quite a while - 10-15 seconds at least, maybe longer. And we heard a lot of shouting and even some screaming that was kind of alarming. We assume it was the group of guys behind us - they didn't strike me as the most knowledgeable or in-shape party on the mountain. We heard later that a "car-sized" boulder came loose. We were never able to confirm. And we never heard anything about anyone getting hurt or how the rock slide was triggered. We probably could have asked around as other groups caught up to us on the Wilson summit, but I honestly just forgot after all the other challenges we had tackled en route.

Anyway, we finally hit the big ridge wall and it looks pretty intimidating, but once you get to the base of it, it's not as steep as it looks at first glance. John led up the wall. Basically, you just follow the path of least resistance - it looks a shade dark than the other rock - kind of like where you'd expect water to drain/trickle down it. I experimented with staying right, but quickly realized I was facing more challenging climbing and stay to the left. Then about 3/4 of the way up, you get to a ledge with some loose rock and you go further left to climb over a large boulder (that had some green lichens on it). It is exposed on the left side, but pretty easy to go up and over it. The narrow ridge that follows was very exposed and very narrow. If you don't like exposure, it will make you sweat. There wasn't anything too crazy, but there are several points where you need to drop slightly off the ridge to avoid a tricky down climb. I did this at least twice on this part of the route - luckily there was always some sort of ledge to work with. So while there are tricky parts on the narrow ridge, there are work-arounds when you need them. We then down climbed from the narrow section of ridge. I led this and faced out and eased myself down certain parts but John and Woody chose to face in. Either way worked, but their choice was probably better. We then ended up strapping on our spikes to traverse across a steep patch of snow. Another guy behind us just climbed a narrow section of ridge above it, which looked way easier. But hey, we brought those tools up there for a reason. We then climbed up a pretty easy, but steep, gully and got onto the final section of ridge. The description makes it sound like this final ridge is pretty easy except for one move around a boulder. However, I found several part of this final ridge section to be somewhat challenging and very exposed. There was a lady coming off the ridge and going back down the easy, steep gully we had just ascended. I tried asking her about the move around the boulder, which I was anticipating, but she admitted she had not gained the summit. I think she was intimidated by the climbing and exposure but it seemed like a long way to go to not summit. I would say there were several tricky moves along this final ridge but I pushed through my nerves one last time and we made the summit at 11:08am. So the traverse took us about 2.5 hours. I almost lost my gopro. The clip came off my pack and it bounded down to a ledge just off the summit. Luckily it caught at the base of a boulder and got lodged there so I was able to climb down and grab it. That was literally the last stop before it would've tumbled down hundreds of feet.

We weren't 100% clear on the route down, since it wasn't the way we came up, but I confirmed that we needed to head off the other side of the summit block into the steep, loose gullies below. Side note: it appears that if you retrace your route up and get back to the gully where that lady had come up, you could down climb there as well. You just keep going down that gully and it sort of merges with the down climb we did. Just as the description says, we had to cross the rock rib. We had to pay close attention to the pictures and make sure we found the rib to cross - it wasn't just a small bump, but you actually have to climb over the rib. This dropped us into another gully that sort of merged with the one the lady came down. We saw her (and her two friends) above us. Although I didn't get the sense they were stuck, it's possible that down climb was harder than the route we took. Our route was the one described on so that's what I'd stick to every single time.

We officially left the Wilson summit at 11:26am and it was a long and shitty hike out of the basin. We hiked down steep snow with our spikes on - thinking it would be quicker than rocks but the snow was slick and we all feel several times. It was also too bumpy to really glacade - although we did manage to glacade one small part. We finally got out of the rocks around 1:35pm and got back to camp at 2:03pm. We broke down our tents and departed camp at 2:30pm, back at the car around 3:25pm.
Friday July 10, 2020
Start: 6:37pm
Creek: 7:34pm
Camp: 7:36pm

Saturday July 11, 2020
Start: 5:26am
Summit El Diente: 8:40am
Summit Mt. Wilson: 11:08am
Depart Mt. Wilson summit: 11:26am
Finish rocks: 1:35pm
Back in trees: 1:41pm
Back to camp: 2:03pm
Depart camp: 2:30pm
Finish: 3:25pm
Summary Total Data
    Trailhead:Kilpacker Basin Trailhead  
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Headlamp, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Clear
Perfect weather, really hot in the basin
Ascent Part of Trip: El Diente-Mt. Wilson Traverse (1 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1El Diente2020-07-114429 ft / 1350 m
2Mount Wilson-West Peak2020-07-11 
3Mount Wilson2020-07-11 
Total Trip Gain: 4429 ft / 1350 m    Total Trip Loss: 4429 ft / 1350 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Bo Saunders
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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