| West End of the Grenadiers
August 13-15, 2011
~28.6 Miles, ~14,000 Gain
Trailhead: Molas Pass South, Colorado Trail.
Hopefully the weather was going to cooperate. I ended up meeting Steve at the Molas Pass trail around 9:30 AM where my wife dropped me off. Steve and I then started our hike on the Colorado Trail towards the Animas River. After crossing the river, traveling was enjoyable as we worked our way back up the Elk Creek drainage to the Beaver Pond, our turn off into Vestal Basin.
Arrow and Vestal from the Elk Creek Drainage.
We contoured on the east side of the lake and to my surprise, Elk Creek was much easier to cross than my early June adventure a few years prior - many more logs to cross on. From what I remember, the trail into Vestal Basin was much easier to follow as well. I guess it is the growing popularity in Centennials. Since our first objective was the Electric/Graystone/Garfield group, we found a decent camping spot at ~11,300 off of the Vestal Basin trail near the creek. Good camping in this area was hard to find. We made excellent time and were off to bed early.
As usual, the alarm went off early and we were hiking towards the Electric-Graystone saddle at 4:45 AM. A snow field blocked easy access up the initial gully but we were able to bypass the snow gully on a talus ramp that angled west on the right side of the snow filled gully. The talus made things slow especially since it was still dark.
The talus ramp to avoid the snow (taken on the descent)
Once we climbed above the snow gully, we talus hopped our way to the Electric-Graystone saddle and from the saddle, it didn't look like there was going to be easy access up Electric. We headed north up a loose talus gully just to the right of the saddle. There were a few class 3 moves in the gully but things became easier once above this gully. Above the gully we had two options; an easier class 2 gully or a solid class 3 ridge. We took the class 3 ridge.
Electric Peak from the South.
Sunrise on Arrow.
The rock on this south ridge was solid and quite fun. Unfortunately, the fun scrambling ended shortly as we topped out on a false summit where we made a short class 2 hike to the summit of Electric arriving at 7:00 AM. There was a lingering high overcast which had me a bit worried.
Steve enjoying the loose initial class 3 gully on Electric.
Class 3 climbing on the south ridge of Electric.
Class 3 climbing on the south ridge of Electric.
Upper south ridge on Electric.
True summit of Electric from the false summit.
Arrow from the summit of Electric.
Route up Electric Peak.
Our stay was short and we descended the talus class 2 option to keep things quick where we arrived back at the Electric-Graystone saddle. To avoid loosing too much elevation gain, we contoured at ~12,400 towards the northwest ridge of Graystone. There were some fun boiler plate friction slab climbing that we had to climb to gain the ridge. Once on the northwest ridge, it was a class 2 talus hike to the western false summit.
The class 2 talus descent option on Electric.
Serious cliffs on Electric.
Boiler plate scrambling to gain Graystone.
Electric from the false summit of Graystone.
Working our way to the east summit, we found a notch which required a few short class 3 moves. We arrived on the summit of Graystone at 8:40 AM. Again, the weather was looking marginal and the high overcast had become a low overcast. Clouds were starting to engulf the lower valleys. Originally, we were thinking of staying on the ridge over to Point Pun and then up Garfield but the ridge looked like a quite a bit of sustained scrambling. With the marginal weather, we decided to skip the traverse and watch the weather as we made our way towards Garfield.
Arrow and Vestal from the summit of Graystone.
On our way back to the west summit of Graystone, the weather was looking better. We decided to start our way over to Point Pun via Graystone's southwest ridge and if the weather took a turn for the worse, we could make another decision at the Point Pun-Graystone saddle. It didn't take long for the weather to deteriorate again and as anticipated, we were able to bail off the ridge down the rotten talus north slopes of the southwest ridge.
Travel became better once the ground leveled as we hiked to Garfield Lake. Without a doubt, rain was pending and luckily, we found perhaps the only rock overhang in the valley as it started raining. We probably hid under the overhang for 20 minutes as we waited for the rain/drizzle to stop. Not doing the Graystone-Point Pun-Garfield traverse ended up being a wise idea. The traverse would have certainly been interesting with precipitation.
Neat rock bands above Garfield Lake.
Garfield Lake from our overhang to avoid the rain.
Steve reaching the overhang just in time.
Since it wasn't an electrical storm we decided to continue towards Garfield and evaluate the weather at the Point Pun-Garfield saddle. The clouds were starting to burn off as we traversed around the west end of Garfield Lake. From the west end of the Lake, we did an angling traverse up a talus then grassy slope to the west end of the Point Pun-Garfield saddle. The climb up to the traverse from the other side of the lake didn't look good but to our surprise it turned out to be not that bad.
Gaining the south-southeast ridge on Garfield with Garfield Lake.
At the saddle, the weather was looking much better and we decided to go ahead and climb to the summit of Garfield. As we worked our way west up the east ridge, we enjoyed plenty of fine class 3 scrambling. Most of the time we were on the ridge proper occasionally dropping to the north side of the ridge to avoid a particularly hard section. Wet lichen made things slippery so we took our time arriving on the summit around 11:10 AM.
The summit of Garfield.
Route up Garfield.
Weather engulfing Arrow and Vestal.
Class 3 scrambling on Garfield.
Some exposure on Garfield.
Steve nearing the summit of Garfield.
Outstanding views of the Animas River valley and of Pigeon. Very impressive. After a summit break, we returned back down to the Point Pun-Garfield saddle and then down to Garfield Lake. We traversed our way in the basin at ~12,400-500 back to the Electric-Graystone saddle and then descended our route back into camp arriving around 2:30 PM. It was a long haul from Garfield with all of the talus and boiler slabs.
Continued to Part 2:
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