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Wilson Traverse

Very Difficult
 4.5 (4)

A loose, exposed, class 4-5 traverse between Wilson 14ers.

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14,118' 4,303 m


13,908' 4,239 m


210' 64 m


43' 13 m



Avg Grade (4°)


Max Grade (11°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Views · Wildlife

Access to this trail, via Kilpacker Trail, is limited in the winter due to road closures. Dogs will not be able to do this trail or any of the trails leading up to it.

Runner Notes

Running here would probably prove fatal, due to either rockfall or becoming stuck in the middle of nowhere with broken ankles.


This traverse - you can't really call it a trail - is brutal. Traveling between the summits of El Diente and Mt. Wilson, it's made up of some of the loosest rocks in the state. In fact, it's so loose that runners have postulated that it's not a ridge, but merely a pile of rocks coincidentally heaped into some vague class 4 formation.

From the summit, head back down around the "organ pipes" on El Diente Southern Slopes. Instead of dropping back down toward Kilpacker Trail, stay on the ridge between El Diente and Mt. Wilson. Run up some gray rocks to get closer to the ridge. For the most part you'll stay just right of ridge proper.

Continue class 2+ scrambling on poor rock. Your next obstacle is a large set of gendarmes on the ridge. To keep scrambling to class 3, traverse to the right where they meet the talus field just below you. Alternatively, stay below ridge proper but don't drop down, scrambling on the class 4 terrain across the gendarmes. The rock here is good compared to the rest of the route: only kinda crap. Come to the end of the gendarmes and climb up more loose, gray rock, this time all the way up to ridge proper.

Now you must walk on loose, class 2+ rock. Follow the ridge crest up and over a bump at 14,000ft. Drop down 15ft or so and pass by a very short section of class 3, keeping slightly to the right. Come back up to class 2 rocks on the ridge. This is quasi-14er "West Wilson," too lacking in prominence to be a true mountain of its own. From here, you must continue on and drop into a saddle. Descend a steep 100t or so on loose rock. The talus of Kilpacker Basin is to your right; you can bail out here if the weather is turning.

To continue to the summit of Mt. Wilson, climb up the class 3 wall in front of you. This is the crux of the route. It's loose, steep, and moderately exposed, but there are plenty of reasonable ways up, the easiest of which are to the right. After about 100ft of gain, return to the ridge.

Run briefly along the ridge before dropping down into another saddle, again losing around 100ft. Stay on or just left of ridge proper to avoid exposure to the right. Run the narrow gully to the left of the summit, ending about 50ft below the summit.

Turn right and head up. A set of boulders prevents easy access to the summit. Slabs to the left provide the easiest route. Alternatively, traverse to the right around the back of the summit block. A short class 4 chimney with epic exposure is right below the summit.

Flora & Fauna

Even the marmots and pika tend to stay away from this traverse. In fact, it might just be the most alien trail in the state.


Shared By:

Tyler Prince

Trail Ratings

  4.5 from 4 votes


  4.5 from 4 votes
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in Colorado


2 Views Last Month
511 Since Apr 29, 2015
Very Difficult



Cross Peak Ridge Walk and Lizard Head.
Apr 30, 2015 near Rico, CO
A view of Wilson Peak, across Navajo Basin from near the summit of El Diente.
May 5, 2015 near Rico, CO
Scrambling along the gendarmes of the Wilson Traverse.
May 5, 2015 near Rico, CO
Below the class 4 chimney at Mt. Wilson's summit block. This photo doesn't do the exposure justice.
May 5, 2015 near Rico, CO



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