El Diente
Descent Route: Northeast Face
El Diente Peak, Mt. Wilson, and Wilson Peak Trip Reports
May 4, 2006

Yesterday was my biggest day in the mountains so far on this project. As many of you who have been following my progress know, I have completed some great descents during this time. My team and I took it to an entire new level yesterday in the San Juans, with a massive, fifteen and a half hour ?enchainment? of all three fourteeners in the range, El Diente Peak, Mt. Wilson, and Wilson Peak. This effort totaled 8500 vertical feet of climbing and skiing, and we skied off the exact summit of each peak, climbing technical snow and rock, and skiing very challenging routes. This link-up of three fourteener summits on skis is rarely accomplished, but I ran into a friend of mine in Telluride today who did it two weeks ago, so it does get done. In any case, this adventure in many ways is the culmination of all the hard work, dedication, passion, and commitment of my team and me during my ?Ski The 14ers? project.

Nick DeVore, Will Cardamone, Jon Hagman, and I left the Silver Pick Road trailhead at 4:00 a.m. and began a zombie like walk up into the Silver Pick Basin. It was not until sunrise (6:30 a.m.) at the Rock of Ages saddle at 13,000? that our minds began to wake up to the massive views of El Diente and Mt. Wilson. My plan for the day was to attempt these two peaks, which are right next to each other and connected by a nasty, sharp ridge. We chose to hit El Diente first, and skied 900? vertical down from the saddle to the base of our climbing route. Climbing our first big face of the day, we quickly found our groove and rhythm. After so many peaks over the last month, our fitness level is pretty much as high as it has ever been in the mountains, and we were on the summit in two hours. The final hundred vertical feet of El Diente is quite technical, involving an exposed snow traverse above big cliffs (see photo) Most people who ski El Diente do so from the start of this traverse, but conditions to the summit looked good, and I wanted to ski from the top as usual. So I led across the snow, axe held firm and crampons kicking into wonderful powder. Jon filmed the action from a rock band, and when I reached the summit ridge, Nick began the traverse. Will and John chose to stay on the near side, and Nick and I finished the climb to the summit. At the top we discussed our lines. Nick was really interested in a direct north route off the top, a rarely skied line that involves some ?billy-goating? through cliffs, and is at least 50 degrees at the top. I chose to ski back across the snow traverse, and then drop directly below the top down a steep chute cross by two rock bands. I went first, with Jon filming from the top, and my helmet cam rolling. The snow in my line was amazing, soft powder on top of a firm wind pack. I tried to ski it as fast as I could, but had to slow to negotiate these tricky rock bands, and air one of them about six feet. I tagged a few hidden rocks along the way, but made it out at the bottom feeling great and ready to watch Nick and Will. Nick took his time negotiating the technical section of his route, but then came flying out the apron at the bottom in true DeVore style, fast, powerful, and fluid. Will dropped from the ridge skier?s right, and found the best snow of the run. His first few turns were epic powder, and he carved deep tele turns into the mountain. Jon caught all this action on film, and we regrouped at the base for our next objective of the day, Mt. Wilson, lying over two thousand vertical feet above us to the south.

**** For the continued report of the day, click on the Mt. Wilson page.

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