Earlier this summer, Sarah and I backpacked to Vestal Basin with several friends, hoping to spend a few days there climbing the peaks in the area, including the Trinities. While climbing Vestal and Arrow on the first day, however, Nina escaped from our tent and ran away. We bailed on the rest of our trip in order to find her, meaning we'd have to come back to get the Trinities. Jason gave us the crazy idea of doing them car to car. Several weeks later, we find ourselves leaving the top of Molas Pass at 2:30 A.M. Why do we listen to him?
early morning sunlight on the top of West Trinity and a thin patch of ice in Vestal Creek
Though a bit colder than we were expecting, the approach went really smoothly without any route finding issues at all. We made it to upper Vestal Basin right at sunrise around 7:00 A.M. After filtering the icy water, we crossed the creek at this point, managing to keep our feet dry, and quickly found a faint trail which took us directly to the Vestal-West Trinity saddle.
Mount Sneffels, Teakettle, and Potosi in the distance (just left of center)
neck-breaking view of early morning alpenglow on Vestal and Arrow (L to R)
West Trinity's silhouette on the east face of Vestal
Sarah making her way along the last few feet of ridge line to West Trinity's summit with the Needles providing the perfect backdrop
We reached the summit of West Trinity around 9:30 A.M. At this point, our quads were already feeling a bit tired from the long approach. Luckily we had spectacular scenery to distract us.
The Needle Mountains - Jagged, Windom, Sunlight, North Eolus, Eolus, Turret, and Pigeon (L to R)
This view never gets old!
the connecting ridge from West Trinity to Trinity (I apologize for the poor image quality, but Trinity was in a dark shadow)
We were relieved to see that most of the route was snow free, especially considering that it was October 2.
self portrait with Vestal in the background
Balsam Lake and the Needle Mountains, as seen along the West Trinity to Trinity ridge
Sarah climbing the Class 4 chimney on Trinity
This section of the traverse was cairned really well, so we didn't have much trouble with route finding, thankfully. The rock was surprisingly solid, which made for some fun scrambling.
Sarah taking a breather before the final push to the summit of Trinity, which we reached 90-min after leaving West Trinity's summit
west face of East Trinity
This was our first clear glimpse of the ascent gully on East Trinity's west face. It looked super steep from this vantage, and we were very thankful to see only trace amounts of snow on it.
Rio Grande Pyramid and The Window behind the summit of East Trinity
Turret (left of center) and Pigeon (far right) in the distance
super green unnamed lake in the upper most reaches of Vestal Basin
Sarah contemplating an airy move near the summit of East Trinity
Ascending the gully on the west face of East Trinity provided the best scrambling of the day. The climbing was steep, sustained Class 3 for over 100-feet on very solid rock. At the top of the gully, we were delivered directly onto the exposed summit ridge. We really had fun on this section.
looking back at the descent gully (center, starting just left of the summit) on Trinity's east face
We took just under an hour to get from Trinity to East Trinity. Descending off Trinity to the saddle went smoothly. The gully is notoriously loose, and we were a bit apprehensive because we had opted to save weight by not carrying our helmets. By moving one at a time between points of safety, we managed to keep the risk of rockfall to a minimum.
Sarah posing above Balsam Lake
looking down on Vestal Basin from East Trinity
crazy green color
Looking down Vestal Basin from the ridge on its eastern most end, this was the farthest point from our car on the trip. We had begun earlier this morning from Molas Pass, which is on the distant hillside (highlighted area).
Vestal and Arrow from the unnamed lake (L to R)
West Trinity and Vestal (L to R)
Sarah making her way along the lake
The descent from East Trinity's summit to the lake was much more difficult than we had anticipated. The loose, shale-like rock was brutal on our tired legs, and we had to do some sketchy moves at points. It certainly didn't match Roach's Class 2+ rating, so we were probably off route.
This photo is dedicated to Josh Smith. He always includes a photo of some mouthwatering lunch. Here, our Classic Italian Subs from Quizno's pose in front of the Trinities.
We had a really frustrating time with finding a route from the unnamed lake to this point. We contoured too far to the north side of the basin, eventually perching ourselves atop a 200-ft cliff directly above our stashed lunches. I was literally salivating at this point, too. We finally negotiated our way through the cliff bands, but we soaked our feet in the countless marshes along the way.
parting view of the Trinities (East Trinity, Trinity, and West Trinity, L to R)
From this point in upper Vestal Basin, the traverse took us exactly 6-hours. Aside from relatively slight route finding issues from East Trinity to this point, we were really, really fortunate this day. The fresh snowed had no effect on us, and we nailed the route along the traverse, thanks to the many useful cairns. On a committing day (for us, at least) like this, we really needed things to go smoothly, and we certainly appreciated just how well it went.
brilliant fall foliage along the descent from Vestal Basin to Elk Creek
From upper Vestal Basin, we reached the Animas River in 2-hours. The 33 switchbacks (yes, we counted!) from the Animas River up to Molas Pass were brutal. Our legs were hamburger meat by this point. Luckily we were mostly in the shade, and Mother Nature had provided quite the distraction.
"follow the Yellow Brick Road"
Sarah walking through a golden tunnel of aspens
aspens along the final push to the trailhead
parting view of the Trinities (left of center) and Arrow (tallest point, right of center)
We got back to the trailhead at 5:30 P.M., making for exactly 15-hours round trip. We had gone over 20-miles and gained over 7,000-ft, and our weary legs knew it!