Peak(s):  "East Trinity"  -  13,745 feet
Trinity Pk  -  13,805 feet
"West Trinity"  -  13,765 feet
Date Posted:  10/14/2015
Modified:  11/01/2015
Date Climbed:   09/26/2015
Author:  Hoot
 Eastern Grenadiers: East Trinity, Trinity, West Trinity and Pack Out   

23-27 Sep 2015 Eastern Grenadiers Trip Report
Climbers: John and Hoot
Trailhead: Beartown Continental Divide Trail
Day 3 and Day 4: Trinity Traverse and Pack Out
Distance 8.5 miles Sat, 4.7 miles Sun, 31.7 miles Thurs-Sun

Saturday: The Trinity Traverse East-to-West

Saturday morning I woke up when my alarm went off and John and I left camp at 6:37 am as the skies were just beginning to lighten. I started out carrying little water and did not fill up until we crossed Trinity Creek for the last time at 11,840' below Trinity Lake. We continued on the trail we had used the two previous days past the Lake Silex turnoff and up into Stormy Gulch. Surprisingly, the trail became more well-established above 11,400'. We passed two small ponds and some nice campsites before engaging lots of willows crowding in on the trail. This is a gorgeous drainage and in the morning light it was a sublime place to be. We passed a little north of Trinity Lake, but didn't see the lake until we were well above it. Once above the lake the willows began to thin out and we could see our first challenge of the day, Trinity Pass.

From a distance, Trinity Pass looked very steep. As we approached, we saw that we had two options, the northern saddle on the right and the southern saddle on the left. The northern saddle looked much easier but the southern saddle topped out on East Trinity's northeast ridge exactly where we needed to be. I had originally planned to descend from Trinity Pass toward Vestal Basin and then do the Trinity Traverse from west-to-east as most parties do. However, John had previously done the Trinity Traverse from west to east and was very graciously spending the day repeating these peaks with me. So to mix it up a bit for John, we agreed to traverse east-to-west and give John the opportunity to climb the unranked 13,060' summit, nicknamed "The Kurzhorn," between East Trinity and Vestal after the traverse. We decided to take the more direct route and climb the south saddle of Trinity Pass. This turned out to be the nastiest and scariest climbing of the trip for me. Getting to the base of the couloir leading to this saddle was a bit of a challenge on very loose and sliding shale. But that was easy compared to climbing in the couloir. The couloir was not all that steep, but every surface was loaded with loose rock. I started out climbing up the center, but decided I did not want to be beneath John so I slowly worked my way up the left (south) side. There were surprisingly few solid hand holds and I frequently had to clear away loose rocks to make a reasonably secure place to step. Near the top, I traversed back to my right to reach the saddle. This was slow and nervous going. I joined John on the saddle at 9:10am. With that mess behind us, the fun began!

Climbing East Trinity's northeast ridge, I was surprised to encounter some easy class 4 climbing right away. There might have been class 3 bypasses to these short pitches, but we didn't bother looking for them. The rock up this ridge was mostly solid and it got better the higher we climbed. Above the 13,400', the ridge became steeper and presented some fun class 4 climbing on the ridge proper, including a short knife edge. We choose not to bypass these sections for easier alternatives, mostly on the south side of the ridge. We reached the summit of East Trinity, our fourth Grenadier summit at 9:45 am. From the summit of East Trinity, the descent and climb to Trinity Peak looked crazy but we knew it was not as bad as it looked.

We left East Trinity at 10:00 am and down climbed the very steep gully leading down to the East Trinity-Trinity saddle. While I worked my way down from a sitting position a few times, I don't recall anything harder than tough class 3 climbing on the descent. The climb up Trinity Peak from the saddle was steep and fun, requiring nothing more difficult than class 3 scrambling. We reached the summit of 13,805' Trinity Peak (sometimes called Middle Trinity) at 10:50 am, just 50 minutes after leaving East Trinity's summit. While we enjoyed the summit, we were joined by Dan from Durango who was doing the traverse from west-to-east. Dan was the only other person we spoke with on the trip. We exchanged some information on the route and traded photos before wishing each other well and parting in opposite directions.

John and I left Trinity Peak continuing the traverse to West Trinity at 11:15 am. The traverse between Middle and West Trinity is longer and a little more challenging than the traverse between Middle and East Trinity. Most of the challenges arise on the south side of the ridge between Middle Trinity and the saddle. This section required some careful climbing on ledges covered with loose rocks and, for us, descending a 30-foot class 4 chimney. I did not find this chimney particularly difficult and down climbed it facing out. Once past this section, we continued along a cairned route on the south side of the ridge past the West-Middle saddle above us. Just past the saddle, we scrambled up to West Trinity's East Ridge and enjoyed the fun solid climbing on the ridge proper. As I didn't see any cairns along this ridge, it wasn't clear we were on the usual traverse route. We reached the summit of West Trinity, our sixth and final Grenadier peak, at 12:19 pm. From West Trinity we could barely make out a person standing on the summit of Vestal Peak. That was the third and last person we saw on the trip. We spent about 20 minutes on West Trinity taking a break and eating some lunch.

John and I started down West Trinity's southwest ridge heading toward its saddle with Vestal at 12:40 pm. After descending the ridge for 15 minutes, John suggested we drop off the right side of the ridge and head down a gully which he thought he had climbed many years before. While I could see the cairns on the ridge ahead of us, I figured this would be a shortcut down. After descending 400 feet in the loose gully, it became clear that this was not a good option as there were cliffs below us. So we traversed left on the slope back to the ridge just above the Vestal-West Trinity saddle which we reached at 1:30 pm. (I have removed this off-route section from my GPS tracks.) From the saddle John continued on to "Kurtzhorn" while I descended on a poor excuse for a trail down steep loose rock into the high basin between Vestal and West Trinity.

I had a track of my intended route around the north side of the Trinities stored in my GPS. And I knew that John had a spare set of batteries with him should my GPS batteries give out. But sure enough, shortly after John and I separated and I needed my track to know whether to traverse high or low, my GPS batteries gave out! I guessed a high traverse and that turned out to be correct. After summiting "Kurtzhorn", John quickly caught back up to me and we hiked around West Trinity into the basin on the north side of the Trinities. As we hiked east up into the basin, we crossed very cool huge slabs of rock similar in composition to those on Wham Ridge. Approaching Trinity Pass from the west, the climb to the north saddle did not look fun, but there was no way I was going over the south saddle. I thought I had seen a trail through the talus to the north saddle earlier in the day, but we never found one. The final push to the saddle was through yet more steep and loose rock. We reached the north saddle of Trinity Pass at 3:30 pm.

Once at the saddle I presumed we were home free, but the direct route down on the east side of the pass was on steep very hard-packed dirt (San Juan hardpan). John started down ahead of me and briefly got stuck on the hard-packed slope. I descended to the left of the dirt on rocks which took longer but worked out fine. After retrieving my Steripen where I had left it in the morning at the Trinity Creek crossing, I told John to head on back ahead of me. We had decided not to pack out that evening, so there was no rush and I took my time hiking back down to camp. I really enjoyed the beautiful scenery along the way. After filling my containers with water from Trinity Creek, I arrived back in camp at 5:50 pm. My GPS logged 8.5 miles and 4750' of climbing for the day. John and I polished off most of the rest of our food for dinner and then spent our third night at our Stormy Gulch camp site.

Sunday: Backpack Out and Drive Home

Sunday morning I woke up with the sun and enjoyed some coffee before breaking camp. Before we left camp, John found a second pile of fresh bear scat just outside our camp. The pile was not there when we arrived. Hmmm. Leaving camp at 7:20 am, we hiked back to the Beartown trailhead the way we had come 3 days before. We considered climbing the ranked 13er Hunchback Mountain just 0.7 miles from Hunchback Pass, but ended up continuing on to the trailhead which we reached at 10:18 am on Sunday morning, about 3 hours after leaving our camp in Stormy Gulch. The morning's 4.7 miles and 2060' of climbing, made for a total trip hiking distance of 31.7 miles and 16510' of climbing.

While we briefly considered driving out to the west over Stony Pass, we returned the way we came on FS 520 past Timber Hill and Rio Grande Reservoir. I came head to head with two vehicles on the narrow road, but fortunately both times were in spots where it was easy for us to get past each other. In the bright sunlight, the turning aspens along the way were even more spectacular than they had been four days earlier. And tackling that rough road with my 4Runner was a blast. It took me 3 hours to drive from the Beartown trailhead back to Creede. In Creede, John and I enjoyed lunch at Kip's where I had eaten once before. There was a live band playing, my "Pilewski" was delicious, and the $1 beer really hit the spot! Life is good! After exchanging photos and thanking each other for a fantastic 3 days of climbing, I headed back to the Springs and John headed out for another day of climbing. Without a doubt, this was the best single climbing trip I've done in Colorado!

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

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

Sweet trip!
10/16/2015 18:02
I enjoyed all three of your eastern Grenadier/Needle reports...recalled my recent trip there this past August and the Vestal & Trinities trip a few Septembers back. We camped just northwest of Trinity lake, gazing in awe at Storm King’s north face. A great area for solitude and spectacular vistas, though it sounds like that Stormy Gulch trail is seeing more traffic, as it was pretty hard to follow in 2012.

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