Peak(s):  Vestal Pk  -  13,864 feet
Arrow Pk  -  13,803 feet
Date Posted:  08/08/2013
Modified:  08/10/2013
Date Climbed:   07/31/2013
Author:  iquack08
 A Day's Conquest of Vestal + Arrow   

I usually don't do trip reports, but I feel this one may be useful for future hikers who are contemplating a day hike of Vestal Peak and/or Arrow Peak.

I entered this hiking season fairly out of shape. In the past year or so, I haven't done much hiking or gotten much exercise. School has been consuming most of my time. However, this summer I had vowed to get back into shape to finish off the 14ers. I only had 9 more - Culebra, Holy Cross, the Wilson group, and the Chicago Basin group. I had already knocked off Culebra and Holy Cross before I began my trip into the San Juans. Summer classes had just ended, and I had less than 3 weeks before fall classes begin. What I wanted more than completing the 14ers this summer was to do Vestal. This was the plan for day one into my trip.

I started at the trailhead next to the Molas Lake Campground Park near Molas Pass. The trail is pretty straight forward. You will get on the Colorado Trail and take the turn off at the beaver ponds. If you look at the map below, you will notice that I didn't stay on the Colorado Trail and that I took the longer route in the beginning. I would recommend that you take the shorter route, which is the route I took during the hike back.


The hike begins super easy. You will drop over 1,600 feet in elevation. After crossing the river, the route is relatively flat to the beaver ponds. I crossed on the rocks to get to the other side of the ponds and found the trail to Vestal Basin.


Once I got to the basin, I found a route up to Vestal Lake. I noticed on the return that some people were able to hike up to the lake at an earlier point in time. I thought I had noticed an earlier turn off but that trail was not too well defined. Check out strudolyubov's map in his trip report to see what I mean. The route I took up to the lake was relatively easy to follow. It really didn't matter that the route was a little longer because it led me closer to the lake where I was able to refill my water bottles. Also, Roach's classic route starts on the left side of Wham Ridge.



After a nice break, I started up Wham Ridge. Starting on the left side, I crossed to the right side on the highest patch of green. Near the right side, I climbed up two vertical cracks. I can't really tell you what the exposure was like because I told myself not to look down. There weren't any real benefits to looking down, so I resisted the temptation and keep my focus on the climb. For me, the climb wasn't too bad. I'm not exactly sure where the crux was, but I think I have an idea. To me, the crux wasn't much more difficult than other parts of the climb. Near the top, the rest of the climb had less exposure. I had thought it would be easier near the top, but to my surprise, there was still quite a bit of climbing left and route finding was required.

Finally, I made it to the summit! I was the only one on the summit! The weather was great (I would later learn during my trip that this was an aberration). It seemed that I was the only climber that day which was strange given the great weather.


After spending quite a bit of time on the summit, I headed down the back side. I recommend that when you head down, you stay in the same gully the entire time. You will know when it is time to head to the Vestal/Arrow saddle when you can see it. I tried to cut across to the saddle at an earlier point to see if there was a shortcut - there is none.

Once I got to the base of Vestal, I decided I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do Arrow with the weather being so great. How could I resist such a beautiful peak? However, I made the mistake of going up the wrong ledge. I had Roach's Arrow route printed out, but I thought I had found another decent route. This turned a class 3 climb to class 5. There was a point near the ridge that I had to bust out a move more difficult than anything I had to do on Vestal. I had to do a triple-take before I was able to pass that pitch. Eventually, I would make it to the summit!



After a long day, I started my hike back to the trailhead. The hike up to Molas Pass was slow and brutal! It was hell on earth regaining the 1,600 feet in elevation. The most difficult part was fighting back my sleepiness. My eyes just wanted to take a little rest...

I would eventually make it back to the car and pass out. It felt like a surreal experience given my drowsy state but mission accomplished! The hike ended up being my longest to date - by four hours. However, I would later beat this record during this trip by day hiking the four peaks in Chicago Basin to finish off the 14ers (will post soon).

Here are my times for reference:
- 4 hours to the beaver ponds
- 7 hours to Vestal Lake
- 9 hours to summit Vestal Peak
- 12 hours to summit Arrow Peak
- 19 hours to the car

You can download the .gpx below. I deleted the route up to Arrow because it's not the right route. If the link dies, you can PM for a copy. Thanks!

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Comments or Questions

08/08/2013 20:50
You were the dude trudging out as we set up camp. Good times; we climbed Vestal the next day and it was great. Didn't know you were a guy!

Excellent and timely
08/08/2013 22:03
Thanks for confirming what I'd hoped/suspected: Vestal & Arrow are day-trippable (new word there). Congrats!

08/08/2013 22:31
I'm not sure if I would classify the hike back as good times but Vestal definitely was. You must have been the father & son combo I talked to in the basin? Glad you guys were able to get Vestal!


Britt and sam, father and son?
08/08/2013 23:12
Hah. That was probably us - those two guys were near you and I was perched above on that rock.

08/08/2013 23:20
my bad; my assumption. ahh you were that mysterious voice behind me while I was talking to the two dudes. i could hear you, but I couldnt pin point your location


Glad you got out ok...
08/09/2013 15:44
I was one of the guys setting up camp in the open meadow and we were a bit concerned you were hiking out so late. We guessed you wouldn't get to your car until around 11pm. Long day for you! But congratulations on getting those two amazing peaks.

Sam & I climbed Arrow up the far left ridge/left side of the wide gray ramp. This was the recommend route from Summit Lounger. Great route with solid rock. I never encountered Class 5 but Sam did.

Again...glad to see you made it safely out that night.

08/09/2013 16:06
nkan02 - how did i miss your trip report? reading that before my hike would have been really helpful. i must have focused more on getting beta for vestal than arrow, which i wasn't sure if i was would have time to do.

it seems that near the top of the wrong ledge you headed right when i headed left? i thought it got pretty steep on the right side, so I decided on left to get to the ridge and go up that way.

i felt the wrong ledge was pretty damn solid at the lower end compared to the recommended ledge. on the descent, i was on the right route but i wanted to drop down to the lower ledge. i'm guessing there wasn't an easy way to cross over the different ledges near the top?

globreal - doing a long, return hike in the night was not on my to-do list that day

Steve Climber

05/09/2014 12:26
Just following some old links on and found this report (4 months later )

This was a great trip. Very cool that you were able to day-trip it. Brutal!

As Britt mentioned, we followed the Gray/Green rock to the far left of the ridge line on Arrow and found nothing but spectacular blocky 3rd/4th scrambling. I no-brained it off route a bit at one point and got myself into a bit of a pickle. Ended up on an exposed blank slab, working up an easy finger crack (guessing around 5.4/5.5 - think P1 on 1st Flatiron) for about 15-20 ft to get back onto the top of the 4th class blocks. Was definitely some of the spicier free climbing I've done. Grade was easy, but exposure was HUGE

We saw a pair of guys short-roping down the lower ”red rock” side of the ramp (they were up on top of the dihedral) and it didn't look like much fun. Much looser than anything we encountered.

Will ABSOLUTELY be heading back there for more climbing on those peaks. Would like the center route up Vestal's face next time.


04/02/2015 19:45
I made the same mistake on Arrow - took the lower ledge. There were definitely some ”interesting” moves as you go higher. I had to backtrack a few times. Glad it went! uff.

Congrats on both peaks.

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