Route: North Face
Team: Ted, Dirk Bockelmann
After some pretty good days so far this spring (we were just in the Sangres), and with a week remaining before work starts up, I figured I should keep charging. Dirk was free as well, so we decided to head down to the San Juans with the three peaks of the Wilson group in mind.
We drove the Silver Pick Road until the snow stopped us, about a half mile from the usual trailhead parking, and we started up. The goal was to set up camp in Navajo Basin and have the next two days to see what we could get done. It was a real grunt getting over the Rock of Ages saddle with the overnight packs.
A clear night broke to a perfect day, we had the full view of the north side of both El Diente and Mount Wilson and the abundant ski lines. With El Diente catching a bit more sun than Wilson, we would hit that first, if time allowed we could try for two that day. We skied from the tent across Navajo Basin to the base of El Diente’s North Couloir and put on the crampons. With the snow fairly firm we thought we’d make better time booting up.
Having consulted Lou Dawson’s 14er guide extensively through the years, I knew this peak was considered unskiable from its true summit, Lou had left his skis where the couloir meets the loose rock/gendarme studded ridge, summited, and returned to his skis to descend from there. Later, Sean Crossen would do the same. That was our plan.
The ridge was pretty loose, while on the summit it appeared to us that a creative line could maybe be put together right off the top. Not really sure, and with our skis down below we didn’t put too much thought into it. After some pictures and a careful downclimb we were back at our skis, ready for a fun descent down the north side. Towards the bottom of the couloir we carried some speed to traverse east as far as we could in the direction of Mount Wilson— there was plenty of time left in the day to give another peak a go.
Two years later, Chris Davenport and Nick Devore skied two different ways off the true summit. After that, others including Dawson and Crossen returned to improve their original descents. I too plan to return to El Diente in the future to make a more true summit descent. At the time of this trip, in 2004, I included El Diente on my list of peaks I had skied. Back in 2004, this was how it was done.