Rock of Ages Trailhead Elevation: 10,349 ft.
Rock of Ages Saddle Elevation: 13,043 ft.
Navajo Basin Low Point: 12,241 ft.
Summit Elevation: 14,246 ft.
Hike Elevation Total: 6531 ft. (GEarth estimate of GPX)
Hike Mileage Total: 11.8 mi. (my GPX)
TRIP REPORT:Start Time: 3:55am
ROA Saddle: 6:45am
Summit Time: 10:07am (10 minutes)
ROA Saddle: 12:57pm (15 minutes)
End Time: 3:23pm
It was tough setting a wakeup time for today's hike as we were running on a short amount of sleep (bedtime at midnight) but we also knew the amount of time that would be needed. We had it in the backs of our minds that we wanted to do Wilson Peak today as well. The Rock of Ages approach is a long haul and we were certain we'd have the time and energy to hit Wilson Peak on the "way back". The compromise time was wake-up cal at 3:30am which we did. I was pleased that I slept like a rock for the short 3 1/2 hours I was in my bag. Usually before a hike of this caliber, and at this elevation, I just can't sleep that well. This night, I did, a good sign.
|Sky on fire sunrise|
|Trail wipe out area|
|Mt. Wilson and El Diente from the Rock of Ages saddle|
|These photos help visualize the lower half of the NE ridge ascent|
It appears between these two features is where you want to hit the summit ridge. We used these markers as something to aim for as we proceeded. As we ascended above the white rock we got split up with some indecisiveness on the group's part in where to go. Dad ended up ascending along the left side of a rib. David and I on the right side. For a time we seemed to have lost contact with each other. From below this was an area leading up to a patch of lichen-covered rocks. Just above them we finally made contact again. I was watching the GPX route on my GPS and it always seemed like we were climber's left of the "standard" route. But the terrain seemed good so we kept ascending.
We nearly topped out on the ridge at around 14000 feet, roughly 5/100ths of a mile northeast of the summit. Above us we could see the terrain cliffing out. To our right we could see a notch. I scouted this out and found that the notch led to a ledgy traverse that would allow us to scramble across the top of a steep gully that was keeping us from the summit area. We decided this was a go and were glad we crossed the gully here as we definitely would have cliffed out had we ascended any higher. After crossing this gully we moved across one last rib and this put us into the top part of the gully that hits the summit notch. As we looked below this gully looked steep and loose as well. In thinking of the downclimb we weren't sure yet which way would go best. It appeared as though the "standard route" GPX crossed the gully we had topped out in somewhere but it was so steep we couldn't imagine where.
When we made it to the summit area notch it was the first time in a long time the route became clear. The summit ridge is very narrow and you just have to go up and over. There is a bit of easy scrambling to start and then the ridge narrows into a jumble of 4 or 5 big blocks that you basically had to go up and over by hugging them and maneuvering around them. This had pretty big exposure on each side.
|If you get this view, it means you've found the summit ridge. It is behind and above this spot.|
Beyond that is a little more easy scrambling and then the well-known crux blocks the route. What we had seen and read previous was pretty accurate. You can go to the right and go up and over the block with dramatic exposure below. Or you can skirt it to the left, still with great exposure. We skirted it to the left. I went first and carefully found good hand holds and move along the side of the blocks to a flat spot where I could stand. There I had to traverse around one more block until there was a mini chute to ascend through. Above that chute was the remaining 10 feet or so to the summit. Having done this ascending and descending now, I hate to say it, but its feels as though these are more likely class 3 moves that we did traversing around the summit crux blocks.
|Looking over to South Wilson|
|The friendly summit marmot|
|Checking out the terrain on the upper northeast ridge as we descend|
|Looking up to the Rock of Ages saddle from the Navajo Basin side|
This meant we had to start into the long, long, rocky descent from Rock of Ages saddle. This trail and road seemed to go forever and we quickly grew tired of the day's long incessant stepping over rocks. As we neared the rockfall section from early in the morning I groaned at the thought of descending through that loose and steep mess, but we did so anyway. I vowed tomorrow to skip that and ascend a snowy gully west of it.
|Views to the northeast from Silver Pick Basin. Those peaks are the western end of the Sneffels group.|
As we headed down we already began to bemoan the thought of doing this whole trail all over again tomorrow. We agreed unanimously that doing this road in the dark as much as possible was the way to go as it just went faster. We were back at camp at 3:23pm. While it took us 2:50 to ascend the ROA approach it took only 2:13 on the way down.
TRACKS:The entire track of the Mt. Wilson hike is available here as well as several waypoints from the hike.