Telluride Peak Ascents – The San Juan Mountains

Home to over a dozen peaks over 14,000 feet, and 300 peaks over 13,000 feet, the San Juans, directly out the back door of Mountain Trip HQ in Telluride are undoubtedly the finest range in the state for mountaineering.

Join us for a foray into the wild or allow us to help you tick off some of your list of 13ers and 14ers!

Mountain Trip is permitted by the US Forest Service to guide on the famed Wilson group (Mt. Wilson, Wilson Peak and El Diente). Additionally, we offer trips up a number of the Centennial 13ers, including Dallas, Vermillion and Gladstone Peaks. Also in our backyard is the very challenging Lizard Head Peak, which requires 5th class rock climbing to reach its 13,113′ summit.

Peak ascents require, at minimum, a full day’s effort.  During the monsoon season we will try to start before sunrise to beat the rain that often falls in the afternoon and to ensure us a good crack at the summit.  Many of these peaks can be linked together in a longer trip offering a great deal of time in the alpine above timberline with great views of the surrounding areas.

Mount Wilson 14,250 ft. (4th class)

Only 1.5 miles away from neighboring Wilson Peak as the crow flies, lies the tallest summit in the Wilson group – Mount Wilson. It is a bulky mountain with a classic ridge extending west towards El Diente. The typical approach is via the Killpacker trailhead, which allows access to both Mount Wilson and El Diente’s normal routes, as well as the classic Wilson – El Diente traverse.  An interesting approach is via the less traveled Bilk Creek Basin, climbing up and over a saddle to gain access to the peak.

Mount Wilson can be climbed in a day, and although the climbing is never too technical, the endeavor makes for a very, very long day with some loose scrambling and requires an early morning start.  This peak can also be climbed in conjunction with Wilson Peak from Navajo Lakes.  If using this approach, one can also make for the “San Juan Trilogy,” of Wilson, Mount Wilson, and El Diente in one epic trip.

 

El Diente 14,159 ft. (3rd class)

El Diente is the lowest peak of the Wilson group and only allows access to its summit via some exposed 4th class climbing.  As you climb closer towards the summit, your efforts are rewarded with expansive views of Lizard Head Peak, the Wilsons, and out into the La Sal and Abajo peaks of Utah. This climb can be done in one long day, but generally requires an early start so that we can get off the summit before afternoon weather has a chance to build.

 

Mount Wilson El Diente Traverse (5th class)

This iconic traverse rewards mountaineers with two classic summits and over a mile of ridge traversing above 13,500′!  The crux comes at a feature called the Organ Pipes just before hitting your second summit, El Diente.  We then descend El Diente and head back into the trees and hike out. This is a very long one-day effort and is often done in 2 days.  Either way, we will need to get an early start from camp as most of the day is spent above timber line we will want to beat any afternoon weather.

Wilson Peak, 14,017 ft. (4th class)

Wilson peak is the highest point in San Miguel County and offers unrivaled views of the surrounding peaks and far out into the Abajo and La Sal ranges of Utah.  At Mountain Trip our hearts lie in the remote and pristine areas of the world and we are happy to offer a less traveled approach to this iconic Colorado peak via Bilk Creek Basin.

This ascent rises just over 4,000 ft from the trailhead making for a full, but manageable, day out in the mountains. We will weave through green meadows after a creek crossing of the flowing Bilk Creek and past many scenic waterfalls.  We then follow the creek to its headwaters above timberline below Wilson Peak’s southeast flanks.  After scrambling up to just over 13,000ft to join the SW ridge, we’ll head up some exposed 3rd and 4th class terrain to the false summit and then onto the main summit and its amazing 360 degree views.  On the decent we will retrace our ascent path back into forest below.

Options – For a classic multi-day trip we can establish a high camp and also climb Mount Wilson and/ or Gladstone Peak. This option offers a remote feel and can be combined with a gorgeous trek ending on Lizard head pass.

(We can also arrange other approaches to this amazing peak, including the more regularly traveled Navajo Lake and Rock of Ages Saddle approaches.  Please inquire about any option in which you might have interest.)

 

Fun Fact: As one of the most iconic peaks in Colorado, Wilson Peak is famous not only for being visually impressive, but it is also the peak Adolf Coors chose to represent his beer in 1873 and is now present on all its labels.

 

Dallas Peak, 13,809ft. East Face 5th class

This is a Telluride gem that has a commanding presence over the Telluride valley below. It is the 100th highest peak in the Colorado centennials.  This peak ascent offers a good taste of low 5th class climbing, an exhilarating rappel off the summit block and great views of the Wilson Massif to the south and Mount Sneffels to the north.

Like any big peak ascent our day will start early and begins on a well established trail weaving through the lower meadows before reaching timberline were we will put on helmets and harness’s and head into the alpine terrain above.  The technical climbing happens high on the peak and continues to the summit block offering amazing exposure and great rock when the climbing gets steeper.  After taking in the view, we will head down via a rappel station perched atop the magnificent summit and continue back down into the meadows below.  Though this trip has some technical climbing, it is a great option for a variety of ability levels.

 

Lizard Head Peak, 13,113 ft. SW Chimney (5.8)

Lizard Head has the reputation of being one of Colorado’s hardest summits and reaching it involves 3-4 long pitches of technical climbing.  The crux is below the actual summit and is rated 5.8, although that section is fairly short.  Prospective Lizard Head summitters must have previous climbing experience.  This route is a great next step after climbing Dallas Peak or after a day or two of rock climbing on the Pipeline or Ophir walls!

 

Like our other peak ascents we will start early to get a jump on the day and head up a well established trail towards the towering summit of Lizard Head. After leaving the trail we will head up some 3rd class scrambling to the base of the SW Chimney route. After ascending the first long pitch we will do an easier traversing pitch to the base of the final pitch and technical crux of the route. After a bit of steep wide climbing the terrain eases to more moderate 5 fun climbing to the top and incredible views of surrounding peaks including Mount Wilson, El Diente and Wilson Peak to the west. After 2 rappels and some down climbing we will arrive back at the start of the route and head back down into the forest and back to Telluride.

 

Other Guided Peak Ascents with Mountain Trip:

Gladstone-       13,913ft

Vermillion-        13,894ft.

Golden Horn-    13,765ft.

Pilot Knob-        13,738ft.

US Grant Peak- 13,767ft

Mount Emma-    13,581ft

And many more… inquire for details!

The following is a general list of required gear for day climbs in Colorado with Mountain Trip.  Climbers joining us on multi-day ascents will receive a specific equipment list via email.

Many of the items on the list need to fit you well in order for you to fully enjoy your experience on the trail. Please plan ahead with clothing and footwear purchased for your hike so you can be certain that your gear fits you well.  Descending from the top of Wilson Peak is not the place to discover that your old rain coat is no longer waterproof, or that your boots give you blisters.

Recommended items reflect the opinions of our guides.  We have used and have faith in all of our recommendations, but they may not necessarily fit or work for you.

Call or email us with any gear questions. We want you to be as prepared as possible for your adventure.

Please follow this list closely and do not hesitate to call us for clarifications or to solicit an opinion about anything you are considering. There is a good selection of gear available in Telluride, but if you plan to purchase items from local shops, please plan ahead and order any items that are size specific.

Torso Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Hard Shell JacketThis jacket should be large enough to go over your light puffy jacket layer. You do not need the burliest/heaviest Gore-Tex jacket you can find, and we prefer the lightest weight versions.
“T” or Sun ShirtSynthetic or synthetic/cotton blend shirts are nice for hiding from the sun. Long sleeve "sun hoodies" are becoming increasingly popular, as they provide a high level of sun protection. Other people favor ventilated, button up shirts- either long or short-sleeved. Whatever you choose, consider it as part of your system, and try it out before your trip.
Rain Jacket for ColoradoA rain shell can be your most important layer as we often experience afternoon showers during the summer months in Colorado. It should be packable and in good working order meaning that, in addition to being waterproof, it still has a functional water repellent finish and beads water on the surface of the fabric.

Head and Hands

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
SunglassesSunglasses are essential in the mountains. Choose a pair that are comfortable and provide 100% UVA and UVB protection.

Packs and Duffels

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Small Pack Colorado Day HikesDay hikes and the Via Ferrata require a small backpack or Camelback style hydration pack. It need only be large enough for a camera, water and light additional clothing layers for the day.

Climbing Gear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Trekking Poles(Lightweight)Trekking poles can be helpful for long days on the trail and help take some strain off of aching joints going downhill! These are typically lighter weight than a ski pole, and have a smaller basket as you don't use them in deep snow.

Other

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Several Good Jokes!"A Moose walks into a bar..."
Lip BalmBring a tube of quality lip balm with sun protection (SPF).
Water BottlesThe ability to carry 2 liters of water will help you stay hydrated throughout the day.
SunscreenThe sun can be intense in Colorado, so please apply high SPF sunscreen prior to your trip and bring a small tube along to reapply during the day.

Refunds and Cancellations

Mountain Trip recognizes how difficult and disappointing it can be for guests who must cancel climbs which they have planned for a long time. Guests must also recognize that, due to the nature of planning trips and contracting guides for specific dates, Mountain Trip also accrues significant expenses in organizing our excursions. We must therefore adhere to a strict refund policy for all guests.

Trip cancellation and travel insurance is generally available for all excursions. U.S. and Canadian residents should contact us for more information regarding travel insurance. Our refund and cancellation policy is outlined below.

• We require payment in full for all of our Colorado excursions.  Submission of payment constitutes your agreement to our Refund and Cancellation Policy.

• Any cancellation 7+ days before your scheduled date to climb will receive a 50% refund of all fees paid to Mountain Trip.

• No refunds will be provided for cancellations occurring within the last 7 days prior to your scheduled trip date.

• All requests for refunds must be made in writing and received in our Colorado office.

• Mountain Trip reserves the right to cancel an excursion prior to the departure date for any reason. In such an event, all monies collected by Mountain Trip from team members for that climb shall be promptly refunded. This is the extent of our financial liability.

• Trips cancelled the day of a scheduled event due to weather and/or route conditions will be refunded in full, less $50 administration fee which is meant to help compensate the guide’s time and effort put into the preparation and execution of the outing.  Trip cancellation insurance for this portion is generally available.

Inclusions and Exclusions

Included in the Trip Fee:

• Unlimited pre-trip access to our office resources

• Guidance of our experienced Mountain Trip guides

• Snacks are provided for all full-day trekking and rock climbing trips

• Breakfast and dinners are provided for all overnight trekking trips and peak ascents, while we are in the field

• All necessary protective equipment for the trip (harness, climbing helmet, via ferrata rig, ice axe, crampons, etc)

• Assistance arranging for post-trip activities in the area

Not Included in the Trip Fee:

• Travel to and from SW Colorado

• Personal clothing and equipment per our equipment list (please, just ask us if you need anything!)

• Meals beyond those mentioned above

• Accommodation in Colorado

• Travel and/or rescue insurance (The COSAR card is an inexpensive way to reimburse local rescue groups for costs incurred during a rescue in Colorado – for more information, click HERE)

• Costs incurred due to evacuation or unplanned departure from the climbing area due to illness or other problems

• Costs incurred as a result of delays beyond the control of Mountain Trip

• Customary gratuities for guides

• Costs as a result of force majeure

General Agreement Concerning Services to be Provided And Responsibilities of Team Members

When registering for an outing with Mountain Trip we want to help make sure you understand the services we are providing and the services you are responsible for.

Transportation is incidental

The main purpose of becoming a team member is to join us on a climb in the mountains. As such any transportation we provide or that you may contract for on your own is incidental to the trip. We suggest that you make sure you have time built into your itinerary for delays.

Transportation to and from your destination

We will designate a specific Team Meeting Day for your climb. Transportation to the meeting point on your Team Meeting Day is to be provided by you, unless otherwise arranged with Mountain Trip. You must arrive in time to be ready to participate in a team meeting at the appointed time on the Team Meeting Day for your climb. This could mean you will need to arrive the day before, as it is often prudent to get an early start in the morning.  Climbing and trekking can be very dynamic and we will provide you with a recommendation as to when you should book your flights to and from your destination or how you might best arrange your travel to SW Colorado. If flying, we suggest you book a ticket that allows you to change your flight with little effort or cost.

Lodging off the mountain

Mountain Trip will provide lodging per the Inclusions and Exclusions section above. Any additional lodging is your responsibility.

Responsibilities of Team Members

You are ultimately responsible for your own well-being, including making all necessary preparations to ensure good health and physical conditioning. You are responsible for understanding the conditions that may exist on the excursion and choosing an excursion that is appropriate for your abilities and interests. You are responsible for having knowledge of all pre-departure information and for assembling the appropriate clothing and equipment for your excursion.

While on the trip, team members are responsible to maintain basic levels of hygiene and to conduct themselves respectfully with other team members and members of the local population. If a guide feels that a team member is putting other members’ health or safety at risk, the guide has the discretion to remove a team member from an excursion.

Use our office staff and your lead guide as pre-trip resources to ensure that all your questions are answered. Travel insurance may help recoup expenses if you need to leave a climb due to an illness.

Book This Trip!

  1. Enter the number of people you are registering.
  2. Select a trip start date (blue) on the calendar.
  3. Click on the blue box that appears below the calendar.

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