Wilson Peak: Photo credit Whit Richardson, The Trust for Public Land 

Author’s Note: Fred Beckey, a fabled mountaineer and author, made as many as a thousand first ascents of North American summits and routes, considered at the time, too difficult to climb. Fred passed away at age 94 in October of 2017. 

There are two climbers. Even from this distance, I know they are experienced by their consistent and efficient pace. Hiking up the head of Silver Pick Basin, their goal is the summit of Wilson Peak. Located near Telluride Colorado, the iconic Wilson Peak, featured in Coors beer commercials, is a Colorado 14’er with classic pyramid summit, sweeping ridges, and snow fluted East Face. Having summited Wilson Peak myself, I felt a connection with these small figures in the distance, kindred spirits from afar.

It is August 1978. I am alone, 2000 feet above the climbers, prospecting a 13,000 foot ridgeline. The rock is steep, exposed, and loose. As an exploration geologist, my experience as a rock climber and mountaineer allows me to explore terrain where others couldn’t, or wouldn’t go. The ground north of Wilson Peak, including the Silver Pick Basin, is a confusing mix of private mining claims, National Forrest, and Wilderness Study Area. Under contract by the owner of the Silver Pick Mine, my job is to evaluate the mining property for development. I have a key to the gate that allows me to access the old Silver Pick Mill, located several miles up the road past the normal trailhead.

For the full story: Fred Beckey_A Close Encounter


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