Peak Ascents

Home to more than a dozen peaks over 14,000 feet and 300 over 13,000 feet, the rugged and beautiful San Juan Mountains are undoubtedly the finest range in the state for mountaineering and bagging peaks. Our location, nestled in the heart of Colorado mountain adventure, grants us unparalleled access to many of these famed—and no doubt, fun—Telluride peak ascents.

Join us for a foray into the wild or allow us to help you achieve your goals of climbing technical 13ers and 14ers. If you have been eyeing a particular Telluride peak ascent or summit on our skyline, we can help you get there. Those who choose to join us on larger expeditions to the seven summits often pay us a visit in Telluride for a boost of elevation training and to practice their mountaineering skills. Our local guides lead trips for us all around the world, and you or your group will be in very experienced hands.

Mountain Trip is permitted by the U.S. Forest Service to guide on the Wilson Massif (Wilson Peak, Mount Wilson, and El Diente). Additionally, we offer trips up a number of the Centennial 13ers (the 100 highest peaks in Colorado), including Dallas, Vermillion and Gladstone Peaks. Also in our backyard is Lizard Head Peak, known as Colorado’s hardest peak, which requires 5th class rock climbing to reach its 13,113-foot summit.

If you are unfamiliar with the route you’d like to book or have any questions, please contact the Mountain Trip office at [email protected] or (970) 369-1153. To make a reservation, please click below.

One-Day Peak Ascent Multi-Day Peak Ascent
Mount Wilson-El Diente Traverse

 


Summiting Wilson Peak via the Rock of Ages Route

Peak ascents require, at minimum, a full day’s effort. During the summer season, we start before sunrise to beat the thunderstorms that often roll through the mountains in the afternoon. This ensures us a better chance at making the summit. Many of these peaks can be linked together in a longer trip, offering a great deal of time in the alpine above treeline with expansive views of the surrounding areas. Ask about our options for overnight backpacking trips to create a longer adventure out of your peak ascent trip.

Wilson Peak – 14,017′

Wilson Peak, perhaps the commanding point on the skyline when viewed from Mountain Village or Telluride Ski Resort, stands as the highest point in San Miguel County. The aesthetic summit pyramid offers unrivaled views of the surrounding peaks and far out into the Abajo and La Sal ranges of Utah, and down toward Telluride far below. Typically, we offer ascents of Wilson Peak via the Rock of Ages route, an approximately 10-mile out-and-back with 3,800 feet of elevation gain. The route begins on a single track trail below treeline and winds its way, gradually gaining elevation, until a final push up to the Rock of Ages saddle. From here you will continue up through a col joining to nearby Gladstone Peak, managing loose rock to reach the airy 3rd class (and sections of what feel like 4th class) climbing that lead to the summit ridge.

At Mountain Trip, our hearts lie in the remote and pristine areas of the world, and we are happy to also offer a less-traveled approach to this iconic Colorado peak via Bilk Creek basin for those looking for a challenge with almost guaranteed solitude. This ascent rises just over 4,000 feet from the trailhead, making for a full, but manageable, day out in the mountains. On this route, we will weave through green meadows, cross the flowing Bilk Creek, and pass many scenic waterfalls. We then follow the creek to its headwaters above timberline and below Wilson Peak’s southeast flanks. After scrambling up to just over 13,000 feet to gain the southwest ridge, we will join the Rock of Ages route mentioned above.

Feel free to ask us about options to link with other peaks in the Wilson Group and about our two-day ascent options. For a classic multi-day trip we can establish a high camp and also climb Mount Wilson 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 – 13,809′ (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, and 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 treeline, where we will put on helmets and harnesses and head into the alpine terrain above. 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’s a great option for a variety of ability levels.

 

Lizard Head Peak – 13,113′ (Southwest Chimney, 5.8)

Lizard Head has the reputation of being Colorado’s hardest summit, and reaching it involves three to four 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’ll start early to get a jump on the day and head up a well-established trail toward the towering summit of Lizard Head. Upon leaving the trail we’ll do some 3rd class scrambling up to the base of the Southwest Chimney route. After ascending the first long pitch we’ll do an easier traversing pitch to the base of the final pitch and technical crux of the route. Following a bit of steep, wide climbing the terrain eases to more moderate 5-fun! climbing to the top with incredible views of surrounding peaks, including Mount Wilson, El Diente, and Wilson Peak to the west. Next up are two rappels and some down climbing before arriving back at the start of the route, where we’ll head down into the forest and back to Telluride.

 

Mount Wilson El Diente Traverse (5th Class)

Our longest and most difficult one-day ascent, this iconic traverse rewards mountaineers with two classic summits and more than a mile of ridge traversing above 13,500 feet! 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 occasionally done in two days. Either way, we’ll need to get an early start from camp as most of the day is spent above treeline and we’ll want to beat any afternoon weather. Please note that we pay our guides significantly more for a one-day traverse, and the experience is priced commensurately.

 

Other Guided Peak Ascents with Mountain Trip

Gladstone – 13,913′

Vermillion – 13,894′

Golden Horn – 13,765′

Pilot Knob – 13,738′

U.S. Grant – 13,767′

Mount Emma – 13,581′

And many more! Inquire with the Mountain Trip office for details. 

Mount Wilson – 14,250′ (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’s a bulky mountain with a classic ridge extending west toward El Diente. The typical approach is via the Kilpacker Trailhead, which allows access to both Mount Wilson and El Diente’s normal routes, as well as the classic Mount Wilson-El Diente traverse. An interesting approach is via the less traveled Bilk Creek Basin, which climbs up and over a saddle to gain access to the peak.

Mount Wilson can be climbed in a single 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 Lake Basin. If using this approach, one can also make for the “Grand Slam” of Wilson Peak, Mount Wilson, and El Diente in one epic trip.

 

El Diente – 14,159′ (3rd Class)

El Diente is the lowest peak of the Wilson group and only allows access to its summit via some exposed climbing with tricky route-finding. As you climb closer toward 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)

One of our longest and most difficult ascents, this iconic traverse rewards mountaineers with two classic summits and more than a mile of ridge traversing above 13,500 feet! 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 two days. Either way, we will need to get an early start from camp as most of the day is spent above treeline and we’ll want to beat any afternoon weather. Please note that we pay our guides significantly more for a one-day traverse, and the experience is priced commensurately.

The following is a list of guide-recommended gear for Telluride peak ascents 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. 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 hiking boots give you blisters.

In addition to what we provide and have available to rent, there is also a good selection of gear available in Telluride and Ouray. If you have any specific questions about what you might need, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Mountain Trip office.

Print Equipment

Footwear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Trekking SocksMost trekkers prefer a light to medium weight, wool or wool/synthetic blend sock for use with trekking shoes. For longer treks bring a pair to change into every 2-3 days.
Trekking Shoes or Boots for ColoradoComfortable, well broken in trekking shoes or lightweight boots will work for approaching climbs, the Telluride Via Ferrata or climbing 14ers. Good traction is important for all of the above. Contact our office for more detailed advice!

Torso Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Light Fleece HoodyLight/mid weight fleece (or wool) top with a hood. You will wear this over your light weight base layer.
“Puffy” Light Insulated JacketSize this layer to fit over your light fleece hoody and wind shell, and it is often layered underneath your expedition parka. Synthetic is easier to deal with and not worry about getting wet than a similar down filled layer. A hood on this layer in mandatory! *** Guides Tip! Use two lightweight puffy layers in the early season or if you are worried about being cold. A Micro or Nano Puff jacket with a Ultra Light Down Jacket or Vest allows versatile layering options.
“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.
Sun HoodyA Sun Hoody is a great lightweight layer to help protect you from the intense UV at high altitude. It's a go-to layer for our guides, as it both keeps the sun off your skin and helps keeps you cool. Highly recommended, but not required.

Leg Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Lightweight Softshell Trekking PantsA lightweight synthetic softshell pant is a great layer that you'll wear every day on a trek or for an ascent of a peak. These are water resistant, breathable and comfortable in a wide range of weather and temps.

Head and Hands

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Buff Neck GaiterBuff is a brand of light weight neck gaiters that have grown to become a staple of every guide's kit. These are amazingly versatile, and can be worn as a hat, a neck gaiter or pulled over your face for protection from the wind or sun. They come in many thicknesses nowadays, but we prefer the original weight for its versatility.
Warm HatBring one warm hat or two hats of different weights. Wool or fleece are fine, but your hat must provide ear protection from the cold.
Sun HatBaseball type or wide brimmed sun hats are required for protection against the intense sunshine found on many peaks. You can combine a baseball hat with a BUFF for good sun protection or go for a wide brimmed version to protect your face, ears and neck.
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
Climbing PackSuitable climbing packs will be 30 - 45 liters in volume and have the capability of easily attaching crampons, and ice axes if used for a day of ice climbing or if needed for a peak ascent. For a day climbs, any pack in the 30 - 45 liter range will work, but we recommend that you consider the weight of the pack carefully. Overnight, alpine routes require larger (45L) packs that also let you strap your sleeping pad to the outside.

Climbing Gear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Alpine Climbing HarnessYour harness should be adjustable enough to accommodate several layers of clothing. As with most items on this list, choose a light weight harness.
Climbing HarnessAn aspect of technical climbing is hanging in a harness. Having a padded, comfortable harness will make you much happier than will a thinly padded, alpine harness, and, should you find yourself at a semi hanging belay, your legs are less likely to fall asleep from lack of circulation.
Carabiners2 locking carabiners and 2 non-locking carabiners. (4 total)
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
Stuff SacksWe are fans of the very light stiff sacks made from Sil Nylon fabric. Bring enough for your clothes and personal items. Light, zippered stuff bags are really nice for toiletries.
Two (2) One-Liter Water BottlesYou will need two, 1-liter plastic water bottles. Please bring wide-mouth bottles, such as those from Nalgene, as these are much easier to fill than bottles with small openings.
Several Good Jokes!"A Moose walks into a bar..."
Lip BalmBring a tube of quality lip balm with sun protection (SPF).
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.
HeadlampBring an extra set of batteries, as well. Lithium batteries work the best in cold weather!! For some trips (Carstensz, Everest, Cho Oyu) where we will be frequently climbing at night a second headlamp is a good idea, and always bring extra batteries!
Snacks and Lunch FoodPack enough food for snacking while on the skin track, in-between rock pitches or on the trail in the summer. We recommend a combination of energy bars, dried fruit and nuts and/or a sandwich. Bring something that you like to eat!

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