Mount Wilson (Colorado)

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Mount Wilson
Wilson Peak and San Miguel Mountains.jpg
Mount Wilson is the peak in the far left background of this photo. (Wilson Peak is in the center foreground.)
Highest point
Elevation14,252 ft (4,344 m) [1] NAVD88
Prominence4,024 ft (1,227 m) [1]
Isolation33.0 mi (53.1 km) [1]
Coordinates37°50′21″N 107°59′29″W / 37.8391607°N 107.9914581°W / 37.8391607; -107.9914581Coordinates: 37°50′21″N 107°59′29″W / 37.8391607°N 107.9914581°W / 37.8391607; -107.9914581[2]
Mount Wilson is located in Colorado
Mount Wilson
Mount Wilson
Location in Colorado
LocationHigh point of Dolores County, Colorado, United States[1]
Parent rangeHighest summit of the
San Miguel Mountains[1]
Topo mapUSGS 7.5' topographic map
Mount Wilson, Colorado[2]
First ascentSeptember 13, 1874, by A. D. Wilson, Franklin Rhoda, and others (Hayden Survey party)
Easiest routeNorth Face (hike/snow climb/scramble)[3]

Mount Wilson is the highest summit of the San Miguel Mountains range of the Rocky Mountains of North America. The prominent 14,252-foot (4,344 m) fourteener is located in the Lizard Head Wilderness of San Juan National Forest, 10.6 miles (17.1 km) north by east (bearing 12°) of the Town of Rico in Dolores County, Colorado, United States.[4][1][2] Mount Wilson should not to be confused with the lower Wilson Peak nearby.

The peak was named for A.D. Wilson, a topographer with the Hayden Survey. He was in the first ascent party, which climbed the peak on September 13, 1874, via the south ridge (a difficult route, not often climbed today).[5]


Mount Wilson is ranked among the top ten hardest of the Colorado fourteeners to climb.[3][5] The standard climbing route ascends the North Face from Navajo Basin. Some permanent snowfields exist high in the basin (sometimes termed "Navajo Glacier") and the climb usually involves snow travel, with ice axe and crampons recommended. Scrambling on rock then leads to the summit.

A popular, though long, outing for expert climbers is the mile-long ridge connecting Mount Wilson to El Diente Peak. The ridge is sharp and rocky, and requires difficult scrambling and often a small amount of rappelling.

Geology and history[edit]

Mount Wilson, and the rest of the San Miguel Mountains, are made up of a large, irregular tertiary igneous intrusion.[6]

The Mount Wilson region became the site of intense mining activity, particularly for silver, in the early 1880s. The most famous of these mines was the Silver Pick Mine, which gave its name to Silver Pick Basin, just north of Navajo Basin.

Glaciers and permafrost[edit]

Mount Wilson contains four small glaciers on its summit, these being the southernmost modern glaciers in the Rocky Mountains and indeed the most southerly in the contiguous US outside the Sierra Nevada in California. These descend to 3,887 metres (12,753 ft). None of the glaciers have ever been named, and it has never been investigated whether they are presently active.[7] At least nine rock glaciers, composed of alpine permafrost, exist on the northern slope of the mountain, extending down to around 10,000 feet (3,050 m), although the lower limit of permafrost is more typically around 11,500 feet (3,500 m).[8]

During the Pleistocene glaciers were much more extensive than today, covering the whole summit plateau[9] In glaciations previous to the Wisconsinian, it is generally thought that summit ice caps were even more extensive and joined to form the "San Miguel Glacier" with icecaps in the San Juan Mountains.[10]

Historical names[edit]

  • Glacier Mountain
  • Mount Wilson – 1906 [2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Mount Wilson, Colorado". Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "Mount Wilson". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved October 21, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Louis W. Dawson, Dawson's Guide to Colorado's Fourteeners, Vol. 2, Blue Clover Press, 1996, ISBN 0-9628867-2-6, pp. 160–165.
  4. ^ The elevation of Mount Wilson includes an adjustment of +1.899 m (+6.23 ft) from NGVD 29 to NAVD 88.
  5. ^ a b Walter R. Borneman and Lyndon J. Lampert, A Climbing Guide to Colorado's Fourteeners (3rd ed.), Pruett Publishing, 1994, ISBN 0-87108-850-9, pp. 231–239.
  6. ^ Halka Chronic, Roadside Geology of Colorado, Mountain Press, 1980, ISBN 0-87842-105-X, p. 245.
  7. ^ Glaciers of Colorado
  8. ^ See Péwé, Troy L.; "Alpine permafrost in the United States: A Review"; in Arctic and Alpine Research; vol. 15, no. 2 (May 1983); pp. 145–156
  9. ^ Atwood, Wallace Walter and Mather, Kirtley Fletcher; Physiography and quaternary geology of the San Juan Mountains, Colorado; p. 74
  10. ^ Atwood and Mather; Physiography and quaternary geology of the San Juan Mountains; p. 72

External links[edit]