THE MERRELL BLOG: WHAT'S NOW. WHAT'S NEXT. LET'S GET OUTSIDE.
PRICEY CONDITIONS MAY EXIST – Week 3
14ers This Summer: 17
Miles This Summer: 127
Elevation Gained This Summer: 54,000 ft
This week definitely had its ups and downs. On the upside, we successfully climbed 5 peaks, moved on from the Sangre de Christo range to the San Juan range, and we were able to meet our friend Chris in the Navajo Basin to witness his finishing Colorado 14er climb! On the downside, we lost our digital camera and we lost a bit of confidence when we witnessed a helicopter rescue of some people who were climbing towards the Mt Wilson summit at the same time we were.
The week started with three easier climbs: Culebra Peak, located on a private ranch which allows climbs for $100/person, Humboldt Peak, a rounded peak that looks out of place next to — and offers great views of — the craggy Crestones, and San Luis Peak, probably the most remote 14er in the state. These three were all simple walk-ups, and we climbed them in three successive days of 5 miles, 9 miles, and 12 miles (our longest yet of the summer).
After climbing San Luis a day early, we took advantage of a rest day in Telluride before meeting up with our friend Chris (and his wife Sara, daughter Lucia, and two of Chris’ long-time friends, John and Ben). They were all going to meet us at Navajo Lake for Chris’ final 14er, Mt Wilson (and its infamous ridge to its sub-peak El Diente). Telluride is a beautiful mountain town, but it is a fairly expensive place to eat and hang out — however, we can’t say we weren’t warned: on the way into town a yellow highway sign that normally reads “ICY CONDITIONS MAY EXIST” had been creatively modified via a “PR” prefix…we can confirm that pricey conditions did exist.
After a restful day off, we hiked the 5 miles into the Navajo Basin to Navajo Lake with our full packs on in a quick 2 hours. Upon arrival at a nice camping spot, we realized we were witnessing a rarity: a clear afternoon in the Colorado high country. 95% of the time, our days start out without a cloud in the sky, then by around noon, clouds have started to build, which can turn into deadly (to exposed hikers anyway) thunderstorms. However, this day was different: at 2 pm there were only a few harmless clouds rolling by. We took advantage of this and dropped our camping gear and headed out for a rare afternoon summit. The summit in our sights was Wilson Peak, a dramatic 14er that dominates the views south and west of Telluride. The last mile along the south ridge of the peak was a dramatic change from the walk-up hikes from earlier in the week. Once on top of the 13,900 foot false summit, the remaining few hundred feet are quite daunting to look at.
However, the final summit pitch looks worse than it is and doesn’t exceed Class 3 scrambling.
We were also keeping our eyes peeled for wreckage from any of the small-plane crashes on Wilson Peak’s flanks, but we didn’t spot any. We summited Wilson Pk by around 5 pm, and were back to our camp by around 7 pm, just in time for a quick dinner and bed, not knowing what the next day had in store for us…
Stay tuned for tales of 1,000 foot falls, massive rock falls, and helicopter rescues…