Welcome to SP!  -
Too Cheap to take the Train – 6-23-12
Trip Report

Too Cheap to take the Train – 6-23-12

  Featured on the Front Page
Too Cheap to take the Train – 6-23-12

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Colorado, United States, North America

Object Title: Too Cheap to take the Train – 6-23-12

Date Climbed/Hiked: Jun 23, 2012

Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Scrambling

Season: Summer

 

Page By: maverick

Created/Edited: Jun 28, 2012 / Jun 30, 2012

Object ID: 797589

Hits: 2966 

Page Score: 88.19%  - 26 Votes 

Vote: Log in to vote

 

Stats

20.5 miles and 8800’ including the pack in / out
Day 1: Backpacked from Molas Pass (10,620’) down to the Elk Park stop on the Silverton / Durango NGRR to the Elk Creek trail up to ~11,400’ in Vestal Basin – 8.5 miles (approx) and ~3000’
Day 2: Wham Ridge (5.4) to Vestal Peak (13,864’), Vestal’s A-hole descent and Arrow Peak (13,803’) from camp ~3.5 Miles, 4,100'
Day 3: Pack out down the Elk Creek trail and up Molas Pass – 8.5 miles and ~1700’
Crew: Sarah and Prakash

Prologue

I was looking for a low key alpine route to start the rock climbing season. I also wanted to fully use a Friday off by getting down to the San Juan. A short search led to a classic target in the Grenadier. Sarah decided to join me on this one and I decided to bring up a rope for some trad practice. It’s always good to bring the trad gear out for a walk periodically. The fresh air is good for them. Many thanks to Ben Conners and Kevin Baker for the accurate route info... My appreciation doubles for Ben’s genius naming the 3rd class exit out the backside of Vestal – Vestal’s Asshole. This afforded us a few grins. I first spent a confused hour or so tooling around mountain project finding beta recommending anywhere between 2 – 6 full rope lengths to get up Wham. I then e-mailed Ben who gave me what I felt was the most accurate beta possible for our group’s comfort level and climbing preferences. We saw a 30% chance of thunderstorms forecast for the area for Saturday and Sunday but decided to go check it out directly.

The Pack In

We reached the Molas pass campground at about 2PM after driving through most of the morning.

W001
The Pack


Loaded for bear with packs in excess of 65lbs consisting rope, rack, kitchen sink, defibrillator and other comical, heavy backcountry essentials we headed down the 38 or so switchbacks from Molas to the silty Animas River. This Molas grunt while unintelligible to some saved us ~$85 each on the DSNGRR, or 17 standard foot-long subs… or what it takes to feed those that exit this grunt. We were soon down at the footbridge across the Animas and began heading up the Elk Creek trail. On this trail we met up with Matt Lemke and his friend on a 12-day Weiminuche tour and signed in at the register. The elk creek trail is steady up hill to the beaver ponds where there are some great camping spots. I think it’s a legitimate option to camp at the Beaver Ponds if you’d like to save up some leg juice for a Vestal / Arrow attempt with a lighter pack.

W008
View from the Beaver Ponds


The Elk Creek crossing is pretty tame right now with the stifled spring runoff. A solid log bridge can be easily found and crossed with decent balance. The rest of the trail steepens with some deadfall (not too bad IMO).

W011
Vestal Creek Trail


We got up to a meadow at the base of the headwall that leads to the peaks. We camped in the first clump of trees at the East end of the meadow. Matt and his friend set up camp in the meadow. We hit the hay at around 10PM with plans for an early start to beat the 30% thunderstorm forecast.

The Climb up Vestal

At a little after 5AM we set up the headwall. We were at the base of Vestal in a half hour and since Sarah hadn’t much experience with trad, we spent a half hour or so discussing some basics before heading up the face. I'd brought a pretty comprehensive rack overloaded with cams because I'd had some trouble removing passive pieces when I was a beginner. I brought a couple sets of finger sized cams up to a couple small fist-sized ones, full set of hexes, tricams, 3-4 slings, 2 32 foot length cord for anchors, 4 light quickdraws, 3, singles and 5 doubles.... waaaay more than you'll probably need.

W019
Vestal


The sun rose over Vestal Lake as we headed up the center of the face to the grassy ledge…

W026
To the grassy ledge...


The ledge leads to the west edge of the face…

W029
The grassy ledge leads to the West edge of the face


The route looked a lot easier once we were on it.

W031
The Future is Bright


Arrow looks imposing from Wham…

W033
Arrow


The climbing started getting to class 3 with some exposure but not much yet.

W037
Class 3 Begins


Some Mountain Project reports said that some teams tend to rope up by the two large boulders but we felt comfortable without since the climbing didn’t seem to exceed class 3 when we stayed on the route… plus, I felt like the angle of the rock didn’t warrant the use of a rope there.

W045
Where some parties rope up for the first time on this route


W047
Looking down from the twin boulders


The angle gradually steepens and the climbing starts getting to Class 4 at spots.

W054
Class 4


A couple moves may need to be made off the face…

W055-mod
Off the Face Momentarily


W059
Off the Face Momentarily 2


We finally roped up at the base of what I believed to be the 5.4 section Ben had described.

W062
Base of the 5.4 Pitch


I went a total of about 50 feet (max) and didn’t find that the terrain above was conducive to roped climbing. It was mostly 3rd class terrain past this pitch with large blocks along the way which I felt might snag and drag the rope. Therefore, I decided to place an anchor and bring Sarah up. She did well on her first trad follow

W063
Sarah follows the 5.4 Pitch


I packed the rope up after the pitch and we continued unroped thereafter.

W064
Unroped


W066
Unroped 2


W068
Unroped 3


The climbing started getting fun after a couple hundred feet of Class 3-4.

W069
Low 5th moves in the offing


W073
A little exposure


There are ways to get more than one roped pitch on this route but it is also possible to avoid significant difficulty and free solo the entire route IMO.

W074
More low 5th class study material


We approached a wall which seemed like exposed 5.4 to me. I went to the left a little bit and found a more prospective chimney with better holds, also 5.4-ish.

W077
Exposed 5.4?


I started up the base of the chimney...

247
up the base of the chimney... photo (c) Sarah


and continued as it headed towards a small roof...

249
up towards the roof - photo (c) Sarah


I traversed under and around the roof with big juggy holds above. A reachy move gets you over the roof but the handholds are great. The move tends to push your midsection over the face, which appears to amplify the difficulty of the move. A stem gets you up the last bit...

250
Traversing around the roof - photo (c) Sarah


and then Sarah followed... I slung a horn above the roof with some cord for her to use as a handhold, just in case. She didn’t need it…

W079
Free-climbing 5.4


The climbing and rock quality continued to impress.

W080
Solid Rock Quality


W081
Back to solid 4th class


W082
Nearing the top now...


Before we knew it we topped out on the false summit.

W085
Topping out on the False Summit


W086
The True Summit


The true summit is less than 5 minutes from here.

Vestal Summit and Descent

We reached the summit at around 10AM. The views from the top of Vestal are amazing…

W087
The Grenadiers


the Chicago Basin group is seen in the distance…

W089
Chicago Basin group


Sarah approaches the summit with Arrow in the background…

W092
Approaching the Summit


Pigeon…

W095
Pigeon


We lounged on the summit for at least a half hour since the weather looked amazing. We began descending the well cairned SE couloir route… which didn’t really stink too bad but actually made for some decent talus hopping fun.

W098
SE Couloir Descent


W101
The SE Couloir


We soon got down to a grassy traverse around the back side of the peak (Vestal’s buttock?) to the saddle between Vestal and arrow

W102
Traverse


From the saddle, a scree skier’s (skreer?) paradise exists… skreer’s Dav shot…

W103
Dav Shot


And the turns that followed…

A002
Scree Turns


We were back in the upper basin by noon or so and with the good weather and vanishing headache, decided to head up Arrow as well.

Arrow

A thick pall of smoke from wildfires had settled in the Vestal basin area…

A001
Smoky


We walked around the base of the peak to the ramp breathing in the smoke, thick enough that at times we would taste it. The ramp is cairned from time to time.

A006
The Ramp 1


The ramp heads up pretty high before it breaks off right and heads higher.

A011
The Ramp 2


The climbing starts getting up to Class 3 a few hundred feet below the top. The exposure is not bad at all.

A012
Route turns to Class 3


Harder terrain is available if you want to stray off route for extra credit. If not, cairns are frequent although it might take some searching and good eyesight.

A014
Easy to stray off on to harder, more fun stuff


We found 4th and occasionally low 5th class moves when we went off route in search of interesting climbing.

A016
Easy to stray off on to harder, more fun stuff 2


A018
4th class finish


We summitted arrow with the smoke remaining in the area. Somehow I felt like the smoke kept the thunderheads from building - several puffy white clouds showed up to fulfill the thunderstorm forecast but slowly melted away despite the warm day.

A021
Arrow Summit and Beyond


Sarah approaches the summit.

A020
Sarah approaches the summit


Cairns can appear in the weirdest of places on this mountain…

A025
Weird Cairn Locations on Arrow


We descended the peak carefully at the top and more quickly once down on the ramp. The smoke slowly cleared out and afforded us a better view of Vestal by the time we were down in the upper basin.

A028
Vestal

The Pack Out

We broke camp and began hiking out by 8AM on Sunday. As we hiked down the Vestal trail we stopped to take a look at our destination, which looks depressingly far away…

A032-mod
Molas Pass from Vestal Creek Trail


The Elk Creek crossing is no adventure with the scanty spring runoff this year.

A035
Elk Creek crossing


The Beaver ponds may be no maroon lake but look pretty serene all the same…

A038
The Beaver ponds


We reached the footbridge at Elk Park station a little after noon and I filtered water at the Animas River not realizing what a bad idea that is. Instead walk up the trail to Molas a couple hundred yards and get water in a much clearer creek. We decided to count down the switchbacks resulting in what seemed like a pretty short hike back up Molas pass. Looking back at where we started ~5.5 hours earlier

A040
Looking back towards Vestal Creek Drainage


We were back at the Jeep at around 2PM and onward to Silverton to eat giant smothered burritos which cost 1/9th of what we saved by approaching from Molas Pass.

Images

A028

Comments


[ Post a Comment ]
Viewing: 1-7 of 7    

cftbqawesome

cftbq

Hasn't voted

good beta and nice photos; thanks.
Posted Jun 28, 2012 1:18 pm

maverickRe: awesome

maverick

Hasn't voted

Thanks. It's a pretty area and easy to end up with good pics.
Posted Jun 30, 2012 11:39 pm

astrobassmanNice Work Prakash

astrobassman

Voted 10/10

I love the Dav Shot. This climbing looks much better than what we had in the Elks a few weeks ago...Good to see you were able to get down to the San Jauns on one of your long weekends.
Posted Jul 1, 2012 12:26 pm

maverickRe: Nice Work Prakash

maverick

Hasn't voted

Yeah man, the solid rock was nice. You'll love this one.
Posted Jul 8, 2012 3:06 pm

Josh LewisToo Cheap also

Josh Lewis

Voted 10/10

It was neat to meet you in person. Wish we could have done that route but did not have the proper leading experience. I too was too cheap to take the train! :-D
Posted Jul 5, 2012 12:36 am

maverickRe: Too Cheap also

maverick

Hasn't voted

Nice to meet you too Josh. Hope the trinities went well?
Posted Jul 8, 2012 3:06 pm

Josh LewisRe: Too Cheap also

Josh Lewis

Voted 10/10

We got smoked out and had to bail. So we did a bunch of other things which eventually I'll have a mega trip report on.
Posted Jul 9, 2012 1:59 am

Viewing: 1-7 of 7