| Murder in the Weminuche; 13ers That Is.
July 16, 2011
~17.2 Miles, ~10,200 Gain.
Trailhead: Kite Lake south of Beartown (4WD)
For what seems to be the first time this year, the weather cooperated. My wife and I made the long 6-7 hour drive from Denver to Beartown where we set up camp at ~11,400 for the next three nights. Crossing the Rio Grande was exciting as water engulfed the hood of my Pathfinder. Around 11:30 PM, my partner, John Kirk, found us and set up camp.
John and I woke up around 4:45 AM, made breakfast, made the short drive to Kite Lake from camp, and started hiking around 5:30 AM. Heading west from the lake we climbed up a grassy/talus slope to a high plateau, ~12,500, above Kite Lake. Since John hadn't climbed Hunchback Mountain, he headed for the Hunchback-White Dome saddle while I slowly worked my way up White Dome. From the Hunchback-White Dome saddle, I headed west and bypassed 13,378 on some talus to the south.
Stopping direct progress to the summit of White Dome was a large cliff band which I decided to climb directly. With careful route finding, I was able to keep the climbing at class 3. The rock was enjoyably solid. Once above the cliff band, it was an easy stroll to the summit where I arrived at 6:50 AM. Within no time, John met me on the summit. He mentioned that the west ridge of Hunchback went at class 2 almost class 1.
Cliff band on White Dome.
Looking down the class 3 on White dome.
Silex and the Guardian from White Dome.
Peak One from White Dome.
After a short break, we proceeded on to our next objective. Peak One. We descended the west- southwest ridge of White Dome and headed directly for Peak One climbing up and over 13,401. From 13,402, we climbed up Peak One's northeast ridge. Travel was quick on the class 2 terrain and we arrived on the summit of Peak One at 7:50 AM. The views of the Trinities and Vestal were stunning.
West ridge of White Dome.
Trinities from Peak One.
At this point, we had no intention of climbing the Trinities so we continued to our "next" peak, Peak Three. We had to descend directly south off of Peak One and climb up 13,385 and from the top of 13,385, we descended the west ridge. Around ~13,200, we decided to head south off the ridge because if we had stayed directly on the ridge the scrambling would have been time consuming.
Once below the ridge, ~200 feet, we traversed toward the Peak One-Three saddle. The Trinities looked really close. Too close not to climb them. With some heated discussion, I had convinced John to add the Trinities. It was complete shenanigans. Maybe we need medication for our illness.
Descending off of Peak One (13,385 south side).
Good idea, Bad idea? Since we hadn't planned on climbing the Trinities, I didn't bring any of the literature on the routes. I had an idea what to expect but we didn't have much beta. We headed for the Peak Three-East Trinity Saddle. Once at the saddle, staying on the ridge wasn't much of an option. The rock quality was horrendous. I scouted ahead and descended re- ascended to the ridge only to find extremely chossy shale. John wasn't excited and was wondering if this was a good idea.
East Trinity and Trinity from Peak Three-East Trinity saddle.
Shale choss to East Trinity.
Finally, I just dropped ~200 feet off of the ridge on the west side and skirted all of the junk. From our vantage point at the saddle, climbing East Trinity looked really hard but as I got closer the deceiving angle relented and the climbing looked more doable. I climbed back to the ridge and at ~13,100, the rock quality took a turn for the good. The chossy shale stopped and the rock shifted to a solid granite/quartzite.
We continued to climb upward, some class 3, to the eastern edge of the east ridge of East Trinity (say that 10 times fast, ey?). Once on the east ridge, it was class 2 with the occasional class 3 move to the summit where we arrived at 10:05 AM. So far, adding the Trinities was a good idea.
East ridge of East Trinity.
The hardest part of the day was trying to figure out how to descend off of East Trinity. The gully to Middle Trinity was steep and there wasn't an obvious way down directly from the summit. The rock quality trying to descend into the gully was garbage. I headed down the west ridge about 200' off of East Trinity and noticed a cairn on the southern edge of the gully.
I re-ascended the ridge to the summit. Traversing on the ridge to the southern edge, even though only class 3, was exposed and scary. Once on the southern edge, the route was more obvious and we down-climbed very carefully into the west gully. I can't say descending this gully was a fun/good option. Climbing up this gully would be much more trivial and probably more enjoyable.
Looking down the west gully on East Trinity from the climb-down point.
Looking up the west gully on East Trinity. (Finger had to deflect light to show detail due to sun position)
Full of loose rubble, we took care as we descended the west gully on East Trinity, and once we reached the saddle of East Trinity and Trinity, we started our ascent up the southeast class 2+ gully to the summit. The rock was much more solid and the climbing was very enjoyable. We arrived on the summit of Trinity Peak at 11:10 AM where the views were outstanding and the weather was holding.
Class 2+ Southeast gully on Trinity Peak
East Trinity climbing up Trinity.
Continuing onward, we descended the west ridge of Trinity Peak and dropped about ~200 feet below the ridge (some class 3). We traversed on the south side of the ridge until we found the class 4 chimney. Although short, the rock was solid and the climbing wasn't very exposed. We both agreed we preferred descending this class 4 chimney than the class 3 gully on East Trinity. Once below the class 4 chimney it was class 2 to the West Trinity-Trinity saddle.
Flowers near the summit of Trinity.
Looking down the class 4 chimney.
John down-climbing the class 4 chimney.
Trinity from the West Trinity-Trinity Saddle.
Easy terrain once again. The class 2 east ridge up West Trinity was a nice break from the amount of scrambling we had been doing. We reached the summit of West Trinity at 12:10 PM. So far, it was a good idea to add the Trinities. As for our descent off of West Trinity, we got a bit off route. We descending the west ridge then down the talused northwest face. Unfortunately, there was a large cliff-band that prevented us from descending directly into Vestal Basin. Once we got low, we had to re-ascended back to the west ridge and then descend to the West Trinity-Vestal saddle. It was time consuming.
Class 2 east slopes of West Trinity.
I was starting to feel the gain and we still had 3 peaks left on the agenda. From the West Trinity- Vestal saddle, we treaded north into Vestal Basin. Talus hopping, we skirted the Trinities at ~12,300 until we found a trail that took us toward the unnamed lake at 12,396. Options for gaining the ridge to Peak Three looked dismal but we found an angling gully that would take us to the Peak Three-13,241 saddle. To our surprise the angling gully had "solid" talus and travel wasn't as horrible as anticipated. Once at the Peak Three-13,241 saddle, it was a class 2 talus hike to the summit where we arrived at 2:30 PM. Peak Three has outstanding views of all the peaks in Vestal Basin. Wow.
West Trinity, Vestal and Arrow on our climb up Peak Three.
Southeast ridge of Peak Three.
Vestal and Arrow from the summit of Peak Three.
Proceeding to Peak Two was nothing more than a class 2 hike as we left our packs at the Peak Two-Three saddle. We arrived on the summit of Peak Two at 3:20 PM. From the summit of Peak Two, looking at where camp was located, was rather depressing. Maybe the Trinities were a bad idea? At this point, we had already climbed 7,500 gain and without a choice we still had to do another 2,000 gain just to get back to camp.
Talus summit of Peak Two.
Peak Three and two of the Trinities from the summit of Peak Two.
From the Peak Two-Three saddle, we scree skied east into a small basin and then talus hopped north until we intercepted the Colorado Trail. Who turned up the heat? Climbing up the Colorado Trail was brutal and slow. At times, I was getting the screaming barfees from the heat. I only had a few ounces of water left.
Peak Two from the Colorado trail.
Old cabin from the Colorado trail.
Slogging slowly, we finally crested the top of the Colorado Trail at ~12,700 but our day wasn't over yet. The ever so lonely 12ver "Beartown Bald" waited for us. The grassy southwest slopes of "Beartown Bald" were a nice change from the hours of talus travel we had encountered. We arrived on the summit of "Beartown Bald" at 6:30 PM.
Our stay was short and we headed down the grassy south slopes of "Beartown Bald" and arrived in camp just after 7:00 PM. Unfortunately, my wife had driven up to Kite Lake where she was waiting for us. We took a ˝ hour break and then made the grueling hike back to Kite Lake to pick up John's truck. At the lake, we found 2 guys that were planning on climbing other peaks in the area and graciously offered me a beer. Thanks! It was cold and delicious.
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