Rank 317 of 637 of Colorado's highest peaks (264 of 584 13ers)
Located at the extreme north end of the Needle Mountains, where it runs into the Grenadiers, Peak Nine is quite isolated.
Peak Nine is not a destination in and of itself. However, if the goal is to summit several peaks in the area it can be part of a worthwhile adventure. Due to its proximity to Vestal Peak, the Trinities, Storm King Peak, and others, it is easily combined with other mountains.
Technically, this is not a difficult route. However, it is extremely loose with kitty litter gravel or scree on much of the route (although mostly on easier terrain). This is overlaying rock which can at times be very fragile as well. If it wasn't for this fact, I’d call this mountain “quite quaint.”
The information currently available through trip reports on the net is very confusing and unhelpful. This will hopefully provide some clarification.
1. Beartown/Hunchback TH (4x4 last 17 miles)
From Creede, drive south on Hwy 149 for approximately 20.1 miles to FR 520 (Upper Rio Grande River Road). Go approximately 33.0 miles on FR 520 to a point about 0.5 mile below Stony Pass. A 4-wheel-drive vehicle is required for the rough road conditions the last 17.0 miles of this route. Snowbanks and high creek crossings usually limit vehicle access until the first or second week in July. The trail crossing of the road is signed.
Hike about 3 miles south on the Continental Divide Trail (#813) to a junction. Turn right on the Vallecito Trail (# 529) and descend just over a mile into the valley. Turn right and head off trail and follow Trinity Creek towards Storm King Peak about 1.6 miles. Below the peak, head left up the creek towards Lake Silex. At the lake, head up to the saddle between Storm King and Peak Nine and drop down the other side. Look left and you’ll see the Peak Eight/Peak Nine saddle.
Total approach (very roughly): 9 miles one-way, -1700’/+2600’
2. Molas Lake TH
The Molas Lake TH is 5.5 miles south of Silverton at MM 65.2. Descend about 3.3 miles and 1700’ to Elk Park at 8680’. Walk south 100yds along the tracks, then cross the tracks and start climbing the trail at the sign. Continue 2.7mi to the beaver ponds (climbing somewhat steeply about 1/3 of a mile before). Find a route either before the beaver ponds or immediately after and boulder hop to its SE side where you should regain a faint trail. Descend slightly to the creek and find a crossing point.
Depending on where you find the trail, you will ascend slightly left before doubling back and traversing right. From here it is 1 mile up a somewhat steep ascent on a fairly descent trail (not counting occasional fallen trees) to the first meadow at 11,000’. (That is, a wet meadow with many plants and a small waterfall at the end. This is also below the Arrow/Electric saddle). Climb into the trees to the second meadow at 11,400’.
This is the main base camp for Vestal and Arrow. In the middle of this meadow there is a faint trail cutting S that then ascends up steep terrain to the large bench below Vestal Peak. Find your way SE past Vestal Lake and continue to the Vestal/West Trinity saddle, avoiding talus fields and ups and downs as much as possible on the way. The climb to the saddle is horrendously loose and/or steep and hard, but fortunately fairly short.
At the saddle, descend slightly and then start contouring E/SE while staying fairly close to the cliffs above to the north. Cairns are spotty at best, but can usually be found. Don’t start to descend until the cliffs start to force you down and you can obviously see start to see the two small lakes in the basin west of Storm King. From the lakes, it is a fairly easy jaunt towards Storm King and Peak Eight. The terrain becomes a little more rocky and slightly less flat as you climb higher in the basin, so find appropriate camping spots where you can.
Total approach: ~15 miles one way
3. Elk Creek TH
Via the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. $83 (+ taxes and/or fees) for adults as of 2012. Check websites for schedules and more information.
The West Face is considered to be the standard approach. However, beta on the internet is sparse or unclear previous to this post. The route I present is one (pretty easy and straight forward) option, but not the only one. I have seen comments that there are other avenues, but they have never been described to me in detail. On the route pic on the route page, I present the route I took, as well as two other possibilities.
It may be possible to climb the Northeast Face, but would almost definitely be Class 4 if not low Class 5. The ridge from the Silex saddle may be another possibility (Class 3+?), but I do not know if it goes without big breaks or what the rock quality is like.
No permits required, open camping. Vestal Basin has campfire restrictions.