Sarah, Nina, and I joined Jason Halladay, Allison Fritz, Bill Geist, and Lee Hunsaker for a trip into the Granadiers. Our primary goal was to climb Vestal Peak's very aesthetic Wham Ridge. With four days on our hands, we hoped to climb many of the other peaks in the area. For Sarah and me, however, the trip was cut short because Nina escaped from our tent while we were climbing Wham Ridge.
With our packs weighed down with climbing gear in addition to our usual backpacking loads, we began the over 8-mile approach under ominous skies.
Before climbing up into Vestal Basin, which was our camping destination, we first had to do a long descent down to the Animas River. The tracks for the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad can be seen running along the river with the Grenadiers on the horizon.
Allison and Sarah pause along one of the 30+ switchbacks on the way down to the Animas. Regaining this elevation on the way back to the cars at the end of the trip would prove painful.
crossing the Animas River, the low point of the approach to Vestal Basin
making our way along the D&SNGR tracks
Little did we know at the time that Nina would come all the way back down to this sign the following day, forcing Sarah and me to do the same.
Sarah and Jason posing next to an amazing patch of Colorado Columbine
After ascending from the Animas River along Elk Creek, Vestal Peak and Arrow Peak (L to R) finally come into view.
By the time we arrived at our camp site and setup our tents, the clouds had finally broken. Jason and Bill, with their endless energy reserves, convinced me to join them for a quick attempt at Electric Peak.
Of course, the *easy* route wouldn't suffice for these two adrenaline junkies. I think these guys just enjoyed making me sweat. Here, Bill leads the way up a low angle chimney towards a small roof.
With the roof behind us, loads of fun scrambling were still to be had on the upper reaches of the peak's shoulder.
Upon reaching the saddle just below Electric's summit, we realized that our weather window had closed on us. We took a few minutes to soak in the views of Trinity and Arrow before heading back down to camp for dinner.
Bill and Jason showed me some mercy and opted for the *easy* way down.
Back at camp, we feasted on freeze-dried meals and prepped for our attempt of Wham Ridge the following morning.
After getting pounded by storms through the night, we were forced to start later than intended so that the rock could dry in the early morning sun. Wham Ridge, a bit of a misnomer, is the broad, smooth face in the sun. We ascended the far right side of the face, near the edge of the shadow.
the moon setting over Vestal Peak, with Wham Ridge on the skyline to the right
Jason contemplating our route up the incredibly aesthetic line
making our way around Vestal Lake
Wham Ridge looking ever more imposing as we approach its start
Andy and Jason above Vestal Lake
Lee surveying the route
Lee traversing a grassy ledge with Arrow in the background
with the introduction over, Allison preparing for the climbing to begin
Lee, Andy, and Bill full of excitement and anticipation
Bill walking up the face like it's a sidewalk with Jason working the crack above him
Vestal towering above Andy and Lee
Jason and Allison waiting on a ledge while Bill makes his way up to them
Andy trying his best to keep up with the speed demons ahead of him
Andy working through a tricky section
Jason waiting patiently above while Andy climbs through the crux of the route
The crux required a couple hand and foot jams in a great crack, which had me worried that it might give Sarah a bit of trouble. Because Sarah was still carrying our rope, Jason was nice enough to use his own rope to quickly belay her up. Sarah ended up pulling the crux with no problem, so I was probably being a bit too over cautious.
With the smooth face behind us, the broken ridge to the summit still offered plenty of opportunities for some fun moves.
Sarah and I on the summit of Vestal Peak, overflowing with excitement after ascending Wham Ridge
taking in the views of the surrounding peaks
Remarkably, this was Lee's first Colorado summit and his highest ever elevation!
looking south towards the Needle Mountains
Jagged, Windom, Sunlight Spire, Sunlight, North Eolus, Eolus, Turret, and Pigeon (L to R)
Jagged, Windom, Sunlight Spire, and Sunlight (L to R)
Windom, Sunlight Spire, and Sunlight (L to R)
Turret and Pigeon, including an amazing view of Pigeon's sheer east face
Rio Grande Pyramid and The Window (L to R)
Wetterhorn, Matterhorn, and Uncompahgre peaking over the horizon (L to R)
Sneffels, Teakettle, Coffeepot, and Potosi (L to R)
beyond Arrow's summit (foreground) lies the Wilson Group: El Diente, Mt. Wilson, Gladstone, Lizard Head (below the horizon), and Wilson Peak (L to R)
Jason and Bill posing along the descent from Vestal
waiting to see if the weather will grant us a window to head up Arrow
Bill starting up Arrow, trying to make the most of a potentially narrow break in the clouds
Andy and Lee making their way up with Vestal Lake lying at the foot of Wham Ridge
Andy excited to get his second summit of the day
From the summit of Arrow, the views of Wham Ridge are spectacular.
the Needle Mountains, as seen from the summit of Arrow
grand view of Vestal and her neighbor Trinity
the upper reaches of Wham Ridge
Upon arriving back at our camp after climbing Vestal and Arrow, we were shocked to find that Nina had chewed her way out of our tent, which is where we had left her because Wham Ridge wasn't possible for her. After an already long day on Vestal and Arrow, the day got even longer for Sarah and me. We quickly searched the Vestal Basin area without finding her, so we decided to head towards the trailhead, turning our backs on the rest of the trip, including a perfect day for doing the Trinity Traverse. After hurriedly packing up our camping gear, we ran down from Vestal Basin in under two hours. We were very fortunate to find her waiting with another group who were camping at the Elk Creek train stop.
Upon finding Nina down at the train stop, we opted to camp there for the night before attacking the steep ascent out of the Animas River canyon back up to our car. The following morning we were greeted with the clearest skies of the entire weekend. Though we were thankful to have found Nina, it was very depressing to know that we were missing a great day on the Trinity Traverse with the rest of our group.
Nina wandering down the train tracks, oblivious to just how close she was to being lost forever on the previous day
The spectacular views helped to distract us from the exhausting climb out of the canyon. Here, the foot bridge we used to cross the river is seen below the Grenadiers.
The D&SNGR making its way along the Animas en route to Silverton
Under blue skies, Sarah and Nina put the 30+ switchbacks behind them and make their way to the trailhead up on the horizon. Though our weekend didn't exactly go to plan, we were very lucky to get two great peaks and still have our pooch with us. Unfortunately, the Trinity Traverse will have to wait for another day.