The final day of climbing from Vestal Basin began with a cloudy morning. We took our time this morning and were met at the base and top of the first hill by a group of accomplished veteran climbers on their way to Vestal's standard route. After watching the clouds grow then stabilize and shrink we engaged the wide Arrow Peak Ramp.
Entering the grass ledges on Arrow Peak's large ramp
The base of the ramp is very smooth, look for the obvious weakness just above the lower part of the ramp and climb many grassy ledges to make it onto the ramp.
Sun hitting Wham Ridge
The Start of the long ramp
Further up the ramp the difficulty becomes class 3
It starts very easy class 2 and slowly angles towards the sky. Great scrambling with very little loose rock the lower parts of the ramp went quickly by.
Before it gets really high above the main ramp you need to exit onto the right upper ramp. This avoids many big cliffs and large drops. We spotted it from a long way away and it's clear when the transition changes from class 2 to 3 and then 5. Move over when it is convenient if it is hard you've gone too far up.
The entrance to the upper right ramp
Great Class 3 scrambling
Stay near the upper ramp's east side, on a small rib there was tons of handholds and no loose rock. The gully on the right side of the upper ramp is filled with loose rock and smooth slabs around it. At one point you actually traverse around the rib on the Left (east) side on a well used climber's walkway.
Incredible profile of Wham Ridge with West Trinity
Fun climbing on solid rock
The route then leads back to the right aiming for the notch between Arrow and North Arrow peak. The chimney is to the left of this notch by 40 ft and then ascends across Arrow peaks upper North face, actually passes the summit and then cuts back right at the very end. We choose to climb directly up to the notch via a class 4 chimney and then ascended the ridge proper to Arrow Peak (class 4+).
Marc climbing the last bit towards the ridge
The view of North Arrow from the saddle was amazing and Marc and I decided to trade summit pictures. He started up North Arrow and I climbed the ridge up Arrow.
North Arrow peak menacing and loose!
Marc can be seen climbing N Arrow here
When Marc was close to the summit of North Arrow a mini-fridge sized rock he was standing on moved and as he jumped off it cascaded off the North West edge of the tower exploding into a thousand rock shards that continued down into the gully for at least a minuet. Marc was visibly shaken and without his quick reflexes he might have followed the rock down the mountain. Luckily there was no other parties on Arrow peak that day, I'm pretty sure the rocks fell harmlessly in the gully that isn't climbed but anyone below us would have been in a very bad place.
Me climbing class 4 rocks above the standard finish
Me from the summit of North Arrow
I gained Arrow Peak and shortly after Marc joined me.
Turret Peak and Pigeon Peak's huge east face
Success on all of our peaks was great, it was amazing to look to the East and see all the Mountains climbed.
#5 we got all the high peaks in Vestal Basin!
We spent a good amount of time on the summit and left it quickly via the standard path.
Down climbing back onto the upper ramp
People on Vestal Peak's Summit
Vestal & the Trinities
Unfortunately after descending to the upper ramp Marc's Go Pro camera slipped and fell 90' and shattered into many flying pieces. It seemed to explode in slow motion with parts ejecting 200' down the ramp and gully. After over an hour of searching we found the busted camera, parts of the case, a piece of the mounting, and the battery. BUT NO MEMORY CARD!!!!
All the HD movies of our climbs (especially Wham Ridge) lost... If anyone finds a black memory card on Arrow's standard route that would be priceless to us. Marc joked that Arrow Peak tried to claim his life but when he was too fast it took his Go Pro instead.
The entrance to the upper (right) ramp
After searching in vain for the Memory card we made short work of the rest of the ramp and were in the upper basin in no time. Lounging around for a while the Vestal Peak part caught up with us at the steep trail. Although there were alot of people in the Vestal basin that week everyone was very nice and super positive. I'm glad to see so many good people out doing the things I love.
One more parting shot of the Wham Ridge Vestal Peak!
We climbed the hill back up to camp broke it down and started the long steep trek back to the Beaver pond. The sky thundered for a while but never really got to raining until we were mostly down. BTW the vestal creek trail does not go near Vestal creek almost the whole way. It stays North of the Creek on the steep hill and without this trail climbing into the basin would be all but impossible with a heavy pack. Also there are around 50 downed trees between the beaver pond and lower meadow. Exhausted we made it to the pond early and got to see 3 different Moose do Moose stuff. (drink water from a lake)
He's got small antlers but still a large animal
We were asleep early due to the evening rain. I got up early enough to see the sun rise and we leisurely packed up and after one last visit with our friends.
Moose at the Beaver Pond
We then made our way down to the Elk Creek trailhead with more than an hour to spare before the train arrived to take us back to Silverton. What an amazing 5 days in one of the best places in Colorado.