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Stories from Element 52

Stories from Element 52

Go Conquering a 14,000-Foot Summit

Visible from the Telluride valley, Wilson Peak reaches 14,017 feet, meaning you gain an elevation of 5,200 over the course of 14 to 16 hours. With its shockingly vertical drops, it’s a trek popular among “peak baggers”—a nickname for hikers, climbers, and thrill-seekers who proudly tick off the number of mountains they’ve climbed like notches on a belt. They know first-hand not to underestimate a 14er, where weather can change drastically over the course of a few minutes. “The rough terrain is full of loose gravel, boulders, and rocks—after all, this is the Rocky Mountains,” Troy warns. “Be well-prepared and arrive with all the appropriate gear, including crampons, a helmet, and if you’re hiking in the winter, a mountain ax.”

Start at the Navajo Lake trailhead, where you’ll traverse several steep switchbacks and cross streams and the occasional wild animal. After about a mile into the hike, you can choose to take a side trail that leads to a powerful waterfall. “It’s worth the quick side trip, especially in the spring when the waterfall is impressive,” Troy promises. “Once you’re back on the main trail, it will take you up toward Navajo Basin, which, on your way back, is a sight to behold—a crystal-clear mirror surrounded by plenty of trees and plant life. After the unbeatable view from the top of the mountain, this comes in a pretty close second.”

The hike’s last stretch is the most formidable thanks to Class 3 conditions. “In climbing speak, that just means it’s a steep hillside that will require a little scrambling on your part,” says Troy. “Just when you don’t think you can take another second of sore muscles and sharp rocks tearing into your palms, you’ll reach Wilson Peak’s zenith. And no matter what time of day it is, the panorama views are worth the sweat.” So, too, are the bragging rights that you’ve conquered one of Colorado’s most notorious and punishing 14ers!Stories from Element 52