El Diente Peak

El Diente Peak. Photo Credit: EE One – OutThere Colorado.

El Diente Peak is an unranked Fourteener in the San Miguel Mountains. The 14,159-foot mountain has only 239 feet of prominence between it and nearby 14,246-foot Mount Wilson so it’s not a separate peak based on the 300-foot prominence rule. Most climbers consider El Diente one of the Fourteeners since it’s difficult to climb and the 0.75-mile ridge traverse to Mount Wilson is tricky, exposed, and challenging. The mountain is the high point of a long ridge that runs west from Mount Wilson to the West Dolores River valley. Climbers use four routes to climb El Diente with the North Slopes route being the standard ascent line. Climbers consider it one of the harder and more serious Fourteeners because of loose rock and objective dangers. El Diente, given the Spanish name “The Tooth,” lies in the 41,309-acre Lizard Head Wilderness Area.

Pro Tips

  • The North Slopes route on El Diente climbs an obvious couloir on the left side of the mountain’s North Face. It’s best to do the route early in the summer when snow fills the couloir. This is a snow climb so bring an ice axe and wear crampons and a helmet. Snow and ice lingers on the route for much of the summer. The route climbs the couloirs to the low point of the ridge between El Diente and Mount Wilson, and then follows the ridge west to the summit. Loose rock fills the couloirs in August and September after the snow melts, so you’ll find dangerous scrambling.
  • The 0.75-mile-long ridge between El Diente and Mount Wilson is one of Colorado’s great ridge traverses. The route is long and difficult, with routefinding problems and lots of loose, dangerous rock. It’s hard Class 3 or even Class 4 if you follow the easiest route along the southern side of the ridge. If you stick to the ridge itself, be prepared for Class 5 scrambling in spots. A rope is handy at a 30-foot notch for rappelling or belaying.
  • Get an early morning start if you’re doing the El Diente to Mount Wilson traverse. Plan on taking at least three hours to climb from peak to peak in good weather. The traverse can be done from either summit, but most do it from Wilson to El Diente. This requires descending the steep couloir on the North Slopes route. Be familiar with it beforehand. Finish the traverse in the morning before afternoon storms move in. The ridge is dangerous in a lightning storm.
  • Reach El Diente Peak from either Kilpacker Basin or Silver Pick Basin. Kilpacker Basin is often preferred since it’s a short backpack to Navajo Lake, where either the South Face or North Slopes routes are climbed. It’s 15-miles round trip from the Navajo Basin Trailhead, with an elevation gain of 5,000 feet. The Silver Pick approach north of Wilson Peak requires climbing over the Rock of Ages Pass to Navajo Basin and the peak. Roundtrip distance is 11 miles with 5,500 feet of elevation gain.
  • Recommended season(s): June through September.

    —Stewart M. Green

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