Peak(s):  Vestal Pk  -  13,864 feet
Jagged Mtn  -  13,824 feet
Arrow Pk  -  13,803 feet
Pigeon Pk  -  13,972 feet
Turret Pk A  -  13,835 feet
Date Posted:  08/15/2017
Date Climbed:   08/07/2017
Author:  professorstinky
 Weminuche Wilderness Peakbagging - Vestal, Arrow, Jagged, Pigeon, Turret   

Alternative names for this trip include the San Juan Sojourn and Noodling in the Needles. We spent a total of six nights and seven days scampering around Vestal Basin, Noname Basin, and Ruby Creek Basin in search of Centennial Peaks. We used Gerry Roach and Jennifer Roach's route descriptions from his book "Colorado's Thirteeners" and the trip reports we found here on We were also aided greatly by a 10-year old GPS device that Kurt brought along with programmed waypoints for Vestal and Arrow. The whole crew included Captain Paul, Vaughan, myself (professorstinky), and Kurt (for the Vestal Basin portion)

8/05 (Elk Park to Vestal Basin Camp)
We leave Louisville, CO at 5am to arrive in Silverton before our train leaves for the backcountry. I am the master of sleeping in cars and sleep solidly until our fearless captain pulls the Wilderness Wagon into Silverton. We take the train in from Silverton to Elk Park. A fond farewell to the stifling confines of our crumbling civilization.
ready to head off on the train

We meet up with the Colorado Trail and continue along the CT until the Beaver Ponds at 9.800 ft. We skirt around the edge of the boulder field (right of trail, east side of pond) and descend to Elk Creek where we cross a helpful log bridge to meet the Elk Creek Trail.
the elk creek crossing shortly after turning off the CT at the beaver ponds

The trail is as rigorous as I remember from the previous summer and has us huffing and puffing. All weariness is gone when we are able to see Arrow and then Vestal in front of us. We meet Elk Creek in a field of wildflowers and turn uphill to the left. In the second defined basin there is a stand of trees with an excellent campsite. The campsite is located at coordinate (37.7209, -107.6079). We clamber into bed with dreams of Vestal Peak and Wham Ridge.

8/06 (Vestal - Wham Ridge and Arrow)
Kurt and My Dad (capitalized for respect) are seasoned Centennial Baggers and their counts stood at 98 and 91 respectively, prior to this trip. We set off with zeal on a climber's path that ascends the right side of the basin through wet brush. We crest at the base of Wham Ridge as the sun is rising on the quartzite ridge. True geologic beauty. We ascend via grass ledges sticking to the left of the face. A traverse on the last grass ledge has us ready to climb some beautiful class 4 on the right ridge of Wham. We ascend steadily and with smiles on our faces. As Wham slopes upwards we decide to rope up for three of the low 5th class climbing. Big Man Paul leads the three pitches and re-lives his early 20s and days of late-80s jean shorts.

thumbs up for sunshine

Some difficult 4th class gives us a little bit of fun near the summit and we summit at about 11 am. All sunshine.

vestal summit smiles

The backside of Vestal takes some navigation but we descend to the elevation of the Arrow-Vestal saddle and turn right and head in the direction of Arrow to descend a slidy, scree slope. Clouds are building and Captain Paul needs to rest his almost 50 year old body for the peaks ahead. Kurt is scampering up Arrow already so I follow his lead and we huff and puff our way to some steep Class 3/4 moves. ping ping ping. What's that? Hail. The storm is moving in as we summit.
kurt on the summit of arrow

Few congratulatory words are exchanged and we descend in a full-blown hail and rain and thunder system. Things are slippery but focused heads prevail after a long day of climbing. We return to camp soaked at 3pm and turn in for a pre-dinner nap. We talk about a possible run at the Trinities the following day over dinner. What a day.

8/07 (Trinity Pass to Balsam Lake)
There is a lot of waffling over some morning clouds as we eat breakfast. Kurt decides to head back to the train and return for a Trinity Traverse another time. Looking forward to that trip! Kurt heads down and we use the same climber's trail to ascend to the mini-valley between Vestal and West Trinity. The scree slope shows some signs of travel and we crest in between the Trinities and Vestal.
pointing out the trinity pass. balsam lake awaited on the other side

We were nervous about this part of the trip to Balsam Lake. A faint trail petered out at the end of the tree band and we turned left along the grass and rock-banded slope. Balsam Lake glimmered below and we hit a creek that we followed down to a nice campsite lakeside.
the trail down to balsam lake

We contemplated heading up and over to the pass in between Peak Five and Six but decided to bask in the afternoon sun at Balsam Lake. Dehydrated Pasta Putanesca for dinner. Decadent!

8/08 (Balsam Lake to Un-named Lake below Jagged - Jagged Summit Attempt)
Clouds greeted us in the morning and we hoofed our way up the pass above Balsam Lake. There is a cairned trail until the trail meets a large cliff face near the col. We skirted the face to the left and gained the ridge by using a gritty trail to the left of the col and then traversing to the right. Route-finding was difficult at times on the pass ascent, but taking our time and scouring for cairns certainly helped.
not sure how to get over the pass to jagged

Rain and hail moved in quickly as we descended to a lake at 12,500. This lake became our home for the next day and a half. We set up tents in the rain and waited eagerly for a chance to get at Jagged. The clouds broke at Noon and Captain Paul and I skirted the cliff faces to reach the steep ascent to Jagged Pass. We made an ascending traverse on the grass slope and were stopped by thunderclaps at what Gerry and Jennifer Roach describe as (paraphrase "an often wet 4th class chimney followed by an ascending ledge with ball-bearings of granite." We huddled in the drizzle and after evaluating the clouds decided to retreat back to camp. Jagged would have to wait for another day. We wolfed down a double serving of dehydrated vegan chili and went to bed with dreams of blue sky for a summit bid tomorrow.

8/09 (Un-named Lake to Jagged Summit to No Name Creek Camp)
Instead of sunshine, Mother Nature gave us hail and rain in the morning. We were kept in our tents until 10:30. The clouds cleared and we made a break for a summit attempt of Jagged. We reached the same point as the day prior and the skies looked clear on our side of Jagged. We cleared the three cruxes that Gerry and Jennifer Roach document in their Jagged route. One 5.0-5.2 move gave me trouble and I decided to rope up and have my Dad protect the move from above. Things got a little hairy for my gentle nerves. While we were on the main route side of Jagged we couldn't see the weather that had been traveling up Noname Valley. A quick-moving hail storm stopped us in our tracks on the summit notch. We waited out the storm with bated breath and chased off a marmot that came to nibble our rope. The storm broke and we scampered over some airy traverses and the final chimney to the summit block. It had been a long journey but Jagged had temporarily opened its doors. My Dad lowered me from the summit notch and rappelled behind me. There are rappel anchors set up directly from the summit but a double rope setup is necessary.
thumbs up for jagged

stoked on bagging jagged

After some celebration at camp we descended to Noname Creek. Make sure to follow the faint trail to the scree slopes before heading into the forest and finding the Noname campsite. There was somehow a trash can deep in the brush.
do not take the steep gully down to noname creek. there is a trail to be found

a trash can next to noname creek?

Any information about said trashcan would be welcome.

8/10 (No Name Creek Camp to Ruby Creek Camp)
The steep slopes above Ruby Creek proved arduous, but we managed to clamber up to Monitor Peak and get a view of Turret and Pigeon. The climb from Ruby Creek to Monitor Pass follows the creek for about half of the trail and then hooks right to below Monitor Peak. We entered our final drainage and found an excellent campsite below Pigeon and Turret. Instead of going for an afternoon summit we spent a sun-drenched afternoon relaxing at one of the best campsites we had ever enjoyed. Hopes were high for good weather for Turret and Pigeon the next day. We ran into a rare pair of backpackers at our campsite. Wombat! We hope you made it home safe and enjoyed your hike. We ate our last dehydrated meal and planned on oatmeal for dinner the following night.

8/11 (Ruby Creek Camp to Pigeon and Turret summits)
The clouds were thick when we awoke and we started our journey up Pigeon and Turret. The clouds only grew thicker throughout the morning. Big V was not feeling well so we parted ways near the saddle in between Pigeon and Turret. Pigeon is a far more complex route so we tackled it first. The route descends from the saddle around the back of the mountain (from the perspective of the drainage) and then climbs grassy ledges with a view of the Animas River. Rain clouds descended and we went from mildly wet to fully-soaked quickly. Snow began to fall as we reached 13,500 and the last push to the summit was a bit of a wet mess. Cairns have been placed in the summit area that have standardized a route different than Gerry and Jennifer Roach's. Gerry mentions a 4th class chimney that is no longer necessary for gaining the summit. Snow fell in fat flakes and we did a quick summit dance. "Pigeon: a dirty little bird" was the phrase of the day.
rainy day on pigeon

We shimmied (notice how many different verbs I can use for hike. Very impressive). down the grassy ledges and regained the almost 700 feet we lost on our journey around Pigeon's back. The saddle is not too far from Turret's summit and we practically ran to Turret's summit to bag the fifth peak of the trip.
wet selfie on turret

Wet and exhausted we stumbled back to camp and conjectured about how would feel about our summit bid on a wet and snowy day. We choked down the last of our food (oatmeal) and dreamed of 32 oz. Ouray Beers and Orvis Hot Springs.

8/12 (Ruby Creek Camp to Needleton)
The Weminuche wasn't going to let us get out easy. We worked our way down what had been described as a hell-ish descent with less trouble than expected. The trail passes Ruby Lake and then climbs steeply before ultimately descending to the Animas River. When we reached an open campsite we went straight when we should have turned left in the direction of the tracks. We left our camp at 6:30 and arrived at the train tracks at 10:30, with 45 minutes to soak in the sunshine before our ticket to Silverton arrived. High fives were shared and hugs were hugged. It had not been easy but we had bagged numbers 92,93,94, and 95 in my Dad's quest for 100 before 50. Check out his donation page if you would like:

This is my first trip report and I look forward to joining the and online Peak-bagging community.

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

Nice TR
08/15/2017 15:09
Did the exact same route back in June 2006 (and partially again in 2008). Some very hard miles yet totally rewarding. Congrats. Garbage can must have blown in on the jet stream. Heading into Storm King quad next psyched to see this beta and report. Cheers!


Great read!
08/15/2017 18:16
Hey it was a pleasure meeting you guys as the only group we saw in four basins! I think we were a few hours behind you but we stupidly persisted past the trash can through the willows. I thoroughly enjoyed your instructive photos and hiking synonyms!


08/15/2017 22:51
Looks like a fun trip!


08/16/2017 12:14
Nice report. Yet, you climbed Vestal, Arrow, Pigeon, Turret, and Jagged and didn't include a single pic of these very photogenic mountains.

Come on, man!


Good Work, Team!
08/17/2017 12:07
Excellent work Captain and mates! It was great to be a part of the excellent adventure for Vestal and Arrow. You took on some of the most challenging mountains Colorado has to offer and did it in spiteful weather, while remaining positive. That is a true testament to a strong family bond...

As for not having pics of the objectives in the TR, someone important once said something insightful like "it's all about the journey and less about the destination"... Though in this case both were pretty cool.


08/18/2017 08:58
Going for the same trip/route next weekend with two buddies. This trip report was very helpful, thanks! And great job.

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