The alarm went off at 4:30 and I snapped awake. The night before we packed our backpacks and after a short stop in the lower meadow for water we began the ruthless climb up to the upper basin. In the dark the steep hill was quickly forgotten and dismissed but the ever widening view of incredible mountains.
The Twilight view of Vestal Peak
Moonlight on Vestal Peak
We contoured beneath Wham ridge to it's east side after a little searching we found the grass ramps entrance and started climbing up the class 2+ ledges towards the prominent upper grass ramp.
Climbing up the grass ramps to the wide standard start point
The ramp is clear once you are on the wall and it draws you to the western edge of the ridge. Wham Ridge is really a giant face of the mountain but the climb stays close to the western edge most of the way up.
The end of the grass ramps a perfect place to gear and fuel up
The first long 2+ to class 4 pitch
Marc quickly lead the entire 70 meter rope and set up the first belay station. The climbing was very easy here and with the exposure to the west it was inspiring.
Top of the first pitch
Looking up the 2nd pitch
After another long lead Marc set up the 2nd belay just below the 5.4 crux. It was clear and obvious how to ascend the ridge.
The Crux was an easy to follow crack with alot of options for holds and climbing. It was not very exposed here either and I can understand why this was a classic climb here.
Far view of the Crux pitch
Marc leading the 5.4 Crux pitch
Above the Crux Pitch 5.0 ish
Looking down Wham Ridge at Vestal Lake
The climbing became exposed class 4 with a few 5 moves mixed in. As you move further from the crux pitch the upper section of Vestal peak becomes more broken with many options for summiting.
Arrow Peak Points to Heaven
Looking down most of Wham Ridge above all the difficulties
The top of Vestal was much more broken and less exposed
Marc lead just east of the westernmost towers, this kept the difficulty at class 5.2-5.4 and it felt right to continue up the edge of the ridge with great exposure to the west.
The final scramble from N Vestal to Vestal peak
We started climbing at 7:15 and 7 well protected pitches later were on the summit at 1:10. I admit when the clouds started to build around 11am I was a little anxious, but they stopped billowing and started to shrink. This gave us confidence to continue climbing with lots of protection and diligently enjoying the ascent while being safe.
#4 1 to go~!
What a spectacular summit! With unreal views in every direction and not a trace of civilization visible this peak is a true wilderness destination.
San Juan Mania
North face view just off the summit of Vestal peak
After spending a good amount of time basking in our accomplishment we began to look for the descent. The correct gully took some work to find and was below the summit across one gully to the west and then down the south west side of the south face. This gully is VERY loose with lots of blocks poised to fall. After going SW for a few hundred feet it contours around the south face of Vestal peak which towers above the cleaver traverse.
The downclimb was horribly loose and wraps all the way around Vestal
More contouring on loose shelves
The "Dues collector" hill from the Vestal Arrow saddle was HORRIBLE! Completely loose scree and worthless small moving rocks. This was very unpleasant and I couldn't imagine climbing up to the saddle this way could be any fun at all.
An amazing classic climb
We took our time descending, looked at the entrance to Arrow Peak's ramp and finally made it back to the lower meadow at around 4pm. We refilled our water hiked up to camp ate like wolves and the rain came on again harder this time at around 6pm. It helped us sleep and prepare for yet another day of scrambling on Arrow in the morning.