Help Me Plan An Epic Backpacking Trip In The Weminuche

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italianbreakstick
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Help Me Plan An Epic Backpacking Trip In The Weminuche

Post by italianbreakstick »

Hi All! I'm setting up a 6 day backpacking trip for me and some friends this summer. We are experienced climbers but decently new to backpacking. We are not incredibly fit but competent. Here's my trip plan (markers are camp sites) :

https://caltopo.com/m/8LG6

We would go from Elk Creek to Needleton. I am concerned about a few things:
1. Climbing the saddle from Vestal Basin to the Vallecito trail
2.Horrendous amounts of bushwhacking
3. Travelling from the train to Vestal Basin in one day

If anyone has insight into this or anything else related it would be much appreciated. Thanks!
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cottonmountaineering
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Re: Help Me Plan An Epic Backpacking Trip In The Weminuche

Post by cottonmountaineering »

ive been everywhere along this route with the exception of trinity saddle to vallecito creek, most of that area is above treeline and i believe there is a game/climbers trail below treeline to get to the creek

there is a very established climbers trail from the train stop to vestal basin and its easy to do in a few hours, super easy to follow the trail to the trinity saddle area

very few people go to leviathan lake however there is a faint trail on the north side of the drainage, expect some route finding/bushwhacking
Ericds84
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Re: Help Me Plan An Epic Backpacking Trip In The Weminuche

Post by Ericds84 »

I did a trip through here about 10 years ago, and it was tough but incredible. We came to the Trinity watershed from the north and entered via the Peak 3 / Peak 1 saddle. A lot of loose talus in there, still have a scar on my knee from a microwave sized rock that moved on me, but the terrain was not especially steep or challenging. Coming down Trinity was a mixed bag. There were threads of old trail that helped us move quickly, but it petered out below treeline and there was a ton of deadfall. River crossing on Vallecito was a non-issue in early August. I also highly recommend a side trip to Lake Silex--scenery is incredible, and the trip up a narrow gully to get there is surreal.

Enjoy!
italianbreakstick
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Re: Help Me Plan An Epic Backpacking Trip In The Weminuche

Post by italianbreakstick »

cottonmountaineering wrote: Tue Jun 08, 2021 10:03 pm ive been everywhere along this route with the exception of trinity saddle to vallecito creek, most of that area is above treeline and i believe there is a game/climbers trail below treeline to get to the creek

there is a very established climbers trail from the train stop to vestal basin and its easy to do in a few hours, super easy to follow the trail to the trinity saddle area

very few people go to leviathan lake however there is a faint trail on the north side of the drainage, expect some route finding/bushwhacking
Comforting to hear that vestal basin is easy to get to. Do you think going through the trinity saddle and heading to leviathan lake that way would be easier?
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Re: Help Me Plan An Epic Backpacking Trip In The Weminuche

Post by Boggy B »

Yeah, your Day 2 looks cruxy. You might consider taking the Kodiak High Route (it's on the MyTopo map) to eliminate the Vallecito circuit around The Guardian.

From the NE side of Storm King, head S up to Lake Silex (steep, though you might be able to sneak around the NE ridge of Storm King at 11,700' to avoid the big hill), then W to the Storm King-Peak Eight saddle, then W to the KHR which takes you S/SW above Leviathan Lake, where you can drop in. It's all above treeline so navigation is easy and there's no bushwhacking, but it wouldn't be fun in a storm.

You could also take the KHR directly from Vestal Basin, S past Vestal Lake and contouring E around the S side of the Trinities--but you'll miss out on the N Faces Tour going that way.
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cottonmountaineering
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Re: Help Me Plan An Epic Backpacking Trip In The Weminuche

Post by cottonmountaineering »

yeah day 2 looks brutal and contains 99% of the routefinding for the entire trip, would either split it up or use kodiak route
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Re: Help Me Plan An Epic Backpacking Trip In The Weminuche

Post by hellmanm »

italianbreakstick wrote: Tue Jun 08, 2021 10:54 pm
cottonmountaineering wrote: Tue Jun 08, 2021 10:03 pm ive been everywhere along this route with the exception of trinity saddle to vallecito creek, most of that area is above treeline and i believe there is a game/climbers trail below treeline to get to the creek

there is a very established climbers trail from the train stop to vestal basin and its easy to do in a few hours, super easy to follow the trail to the trinity saddle area

very few people go to leviathan lake however there is a faint trail on the north side of the drainage, expect some route finding/bushwhacking
Comforting to hear that vestal basin is easy to get to. Do you think going through the trinity saddle and heading to leviathan lake that way would be easier?
This is very subjective. I'd call myself on the slower side of average by CO standards, but by no means slow. I'm in decent shape too. I found the pack-in to Vestal to be BRUTAL. It's easy to the Animas. Up Elk Creek isn't awful, but you'll need to be able to do some log-hopping with a full pack through the avy debris (even with the path clearly marked...and who knows what this year's snowmelt will do). From the beaver ponds to Vestal basin is horrible with a full pack. It's steep, there's deadfall everywhere, and it really doesn't relent. The creek crossings could be interesting in early summer too. I went around labor day and they were a piece of cake, but I could see them being problematic in early July (for example).

Anyway, good luck! I've been eyeing areas on your route too and it looks like a beautiful trip.
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cottonmountaineering
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Re: Help Me Plan An Epic Backpacking Trip In The Weminuche

Post by cottonmountaineering »

hellmanm wrote: Wed Jun 09, 2021 12:50 pm
italianbreakstick wrote: Tue Jun 08, 2021 10:54 pm
cottonmountaineering wrote: Tue Jun 08, 2021 10:03 pm ive been everywhere along this route with the exception of trinity saddle to vallecito creek, most of that area is above treeline and i believe there is a game/climbers trail below treeline to get to the creek

there is a very established climbers trail from the train stop to vestal basin and its easy to do in a few hours, super easy to follow the trail to the trinity saddle area

very few people go to leviathan lake however there is a faint trail on the north side of the drainage, expect some route finding/bushwhacking
Comforting to hear that vestal basin is easy to get to. Do you think going through the trinity saddle and heading to leviathan lake that way would be easier?
This is very subjective. I'd call myself on the slower side of average by CO standards, but by no means slow. I'm in decent shape too. I found the pack-in to Vestal to be BRUTAL. It's easy to the Animas. Up Elk Creek isn't awful, but you'll need to be able to do some log-hopping with a full pack through the avy debris (even with the path clearly marked...and who knows what this year's snowmelt will do). From the beaver ponds to Vestal basin is horrible with a full pack. It's steep, there's deadfall everywhere, and it really doesn't relent. The creek crossings could be interesting in early summer too. I went around labor day and they were a piece of cake, but I could see them being problematic in early July (for example).

Anyway, good luck! I've been eyeing areas on your route too and it looks like a beautiful trip.
for the itinerary he linked i think animas river to vestal basin is going to be the easiest day of the trip
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Jon Frohlich
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Re: Help Me Plan An Epic Backpacking Trip In The Weminuche

Post by Jon Frohlich »

hellmanm wrote: Wed Jun 09, 2021 12:50 pm
italianbreakstick wrote: Tue Jun 08, 2021 10:54 pm Comforting to hear that vestal basin is easy to get to. Do you think going through the trinity saddle and heading to leviathan lake that way would be easier?
This is very subjective. I'd call myself on the slower side of average by CO standards, but by no means slow. I'm in decent shape too. I found the pack-in to Vestal to be BRUTAL. It's easy to the Animas. Up Elk Creek isn't awful, but you'll need to be able to do some log-hopping with a full pack through the avy debris (even with the path clearly marked...and who knows what this year's snowmelt will do). From the beaver ponds to Vestal basin is horrible with a full pack. It's steep, there's deadfall everywhere, and it really doesn't relent. The creek crossings could be interesting in early summer too. I went around labor day and they were a piece of cake, but I could see them being problematic in early July (for example).

Anyway, good luck! I've been eyeing areas on your route too and it looks like a beautiful trip.
I was thinking the same thing. That hike to Vestal basin absolutely wrecked me. Some of the avy debris shold be gone this year but the part after the beaver ponds will still be the same.

Easy is not at all the word I would use for that trail.
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Re: Help Me Plan An Epic Backpacking Trip In The Weminuche

Post by justiner »

italianbreakstick wrote: Tue Jun 08, 2021 9:36 pm We would go from Elk Creek to Needleton. I am concerned about a few things:
2.Horrendous amounts of bushwhacking
I would just want to opin that you should be comfortable with getting into situations where you'll do some bushwhacking. Much of the off-trail, below treeline routes feature a lot of 'schwacking and sometimes on really steep terrain. It's one of the best parts of the area, to be honest, and really gives the place a different feel to other parts of CO. Sometimes it's hard to get away from over-your-head-height willows, which aren't my favorite, but just revel in those parts :)

Once off the CDT, the trail to the Vestal Basin isn't an easy one. It can be steep, and sometimes hard to follow - lots of sharp branches to look out for. After the ponds it does get harder to follow and wetter. Worth it of course - Vestal Basin is quite beautiful.
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Re: Help Me Plan An Epic Backpacking Trip In The Weminuche

Post by Jakomait »

I've done all parts of that route.
1. Vestal to Vellecito - the hardest part is getting from Vestal to the lake by the trinities (bushwhacking and some cliff systems to dodge). The saddle is an ok scramble, a ledge system to get up and a straight shot down scree to descend the backside. Unpleasant but it goes.
2. Bushwacking - all depends on what you consider horrendous! A bonus is there is actually a really good trail (not on Caltopo) just below Leviathan lake to Vellecito trail.
3. Day 1 - as others said, relative to your other days, that should be no prob.

have fun!
Giver skidoo
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