Peak(s):  Arrow Pk  -  13,803 feet
Vestal Pk  -  13,864 feet
"West Trinity"  -  13,765 feet
Trinity Pk  -  13,805 feet
"East Trinity"  -  13,745 feet
Date Posted:  03/23/2019
Modified:  09/06/2019
Date Climbed:   09/13/2018
Author:  HikerGuy
 AVWTE - A Grand Traverse   

Dates: 9/13/18 to 9/15/18 (3 days, 2 nights)

Stats: ~25.5 miles and 11,800 feet

Day 1 - Drive to Molas Pass from Boulder, pack into lower Vestal Basin, camp at 11,400' (4.5 hours, ~9 miles)
Day 2 - Hike Arrow Peak, Vestal Peak, "West Trinity", Trinity Peak, and "East Trinity", stay in camp (10.5 hours, ~7.5 miles)
Day 3 - Break camp, hike out to Molas Pass and drive back to Boulder (5 hours, ~9 miles)


"For the fit, this is one of Colorado's grand tours, as it collects all the peaks in the Vestal Group." -Gerry Roach

I don't claim to be fit, but this is definitely a grand tour. Along with an earlier Chicago to Ruby Basin trip, this was my favorite hike of 2018. Mid-September, perfect weather, last minute leave request (awesome boss) = fun in the San Juans! The plan was to drive down, pack into Vestal Basin and try to hike all of the peaks in one day and pack out the next day. I also packed enough food to stay an extra night in case I could not complete the traverse in one day.

The hike in was uneventful. The scenery is so beautiful that the miles are easy. There was some minor deadfall to deal with on the climbers trail up Vestal Basin, but nothing too bad. The trail is very well defined. It was steep at times, but relents for stretches. There was one other small group camped in the lower basin. Vestal Peak is magnetic, drawing your attention the entire time.

The older I get, the more I dislike early starts. With the perfect weather forecast, I enjoyed an easy start at 7:30am and arrived back at camp at 6pm, hungry, but happy with the successful traverse. Arrow Peak was my favorite of the day and Vestal my least favorite. I'd like to go back to climb Wham Ridge, I'm sure that would change my opinion. Plenty of fun route finding on the way across the Trinities. The 4th class crux on Trinity Peak is legit, but it is short, solid and the holds are great. Standing on top of Trinity Peak and looking over at "East Trinity" is a bit sobering. I was feeling tired and it looked so steep, but it was not bad at all and I had fun picking a line up the face and was surprised to see the "heart" arch. It's a bit loose coming off "East Trinity", but nothing too difficult. I was happy to be back in the basin and made my way back to camp as the sun dipped below the peaks.

I took my time packing up the next day and headed back down to the Colorado Trail. Had some minor excitement with moose by the Animas River before making the ascent back up to Molas Pass.

DAY 1 - Pack Into Vestal Basin

Starting out from Molas Pass, the Grendier Range in the distance.

Making my way down to the Animas River. Fall colors starting to show in the San Juan Mountains.

Crossing the Animas River.

Crossing the D&SNGR tracks. Had to dodge and weave through a family of moose here on my return.

First good view of Arrow and Vestal Peaks.

Pond at the turnoff for Vestal Basin.

First view of the Trinity Peaks as I arrived at the lower meadow in Vestal Basin.

Looking up at Vestal Peak and a crescent moon from my campsite.

Tried to capture some alpenglow on Vestal Peak.

DAY 2 - Traverse the Vestal Group

Vestal Peak, up next.

Arrow Peak, up first. The route goes up the greenish ramp, switching over to a smaller ramp to the west (right) further up.

Looking over at Vestal's Wham Ridge while climbing up Arrow Peak. Wham Ridge is rated 5.4 and many choose to protect the crux.

Another shot of Wham Ridge from Arrow Peak. I did not climb Wham Ridge, but rather traversed around the south side and went up the non-technical southeast face.

Looking down at my campsite from atop Arrow Peak, only one mile from camp to summit. Arrow was a blast, my favorite peak of the day.

Vestal Peak viewed from atop Arrow Peak. West Trinity and Trinity Peak are behind Vestal.

Looking south at the heart of the Needle Mountains. From left to right: Windom, Sunlight, Eolus, Turret, Pigeon and a bunch of others.

Looking down at Vestal Basin and Vestal Lake from atop Arrow Peak.

West Trinity, up next, viewed from atop Vestal Peak.

A look back at Arrow Peak from atop Vestal Peak.

View of West Trinity while making my way over to the low saddle point.

View of Vestal Peak from the low saddle point with West Trinity.

View of Balsam Lake from atop West Trinity.

View of Vestal Peak and connecting ridge from atop West Trinity.

View of Trinity Peak from atop West Trinity.

Vestal and Arrow Peaks viewed from atop West Trinity.

Trinity Peak as I make my way over from West Trinity.

Balsam Lake. I'm thinking Sapphire Lake would probably be a better name.

View of West Trinity from atop Trinity Peak.

And last up, East Trinity, viewed here from atop Trinity Peak. So close, but I can't fly, so down and up I went.

East Trinity from about halfway down Trinity Peak. Pretty much went straight up the center, starting a bit to the left then switching over to the right on the darker rock.

Heart arch.

Heart arch. I decided to climb through it on the way up.

A look back at Trinity Peak from atop East Trinity. The descent route followed the right, northernmost gully down.

View of an unnamed lake in upper Vestal Basin while descending East Trinity.

Finally, some shade. I spent most of the day in the hot sun.

The Trinity Peaks.

The Trinity Peaks, almost back to camp.

My campsite at 11,400 feet in Vestal Basin's lower meadow.

DAY 3 - Back to Molas Pass

Back at the junction of the Vestal Basin trail and the Colorado Trail.

I think these aspens turned while I was camped up in the basin.

Stand of aspen providing some nice fall color.

On the Colorado Trail, almost back to the car.

Nice patch of color near the top of Molas Pass.

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

Wow, Troy!
03/23/2019 16:44
That's quite the grand tour. I didn't miss you on the Trinities by much (Sept. 2) but adding Arrow and Vestal sounds like a lot. How was the ridge between Vestal and the Vestal-West Trinity saddle?


Not bad at all
03/23/2019 17:31
Thanks, Eddie. Yeah, I was there just a couple of weeks after you. Such a beautiful place. The ridge between Vestal and West Trinity is much easier than anything on the Trinity traverse. Easy Class 2 ridge walk, I'd call a lot of it Class 1 if there was a trail. It's Class 2+ coming off the south face of Vestal with maybe some very easy Class 3 if you choose to stay higher on more solid rock.

03/24/2019 09:48
One of my most favorite places. Thank You for the report and all the great photos.


03/27/2019 13:27
Thanks for the great report. I'm looking at doing this myself, I love these huge multi-peak traverses.


Great report!
03/28/2019 20:13
That looks like a solid day up high! Don't know if I would have the juice to do them all in one day, but I like the idea of Arrow & Vestal one day(preferably Wham if I can get more comfortable on 5th class) and then the Trinity Traverse as a separate day.

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