I usually don't do trip reports, but I feel this one may be useful for future hikers who are contemplating a day hike of Vestal Peak and/or Arrow Peak.
I entered this hiking season fairly out of shape. In the past year or so, I haven't done much hiking or gotten much exercise. School has been consuming most of my time. However, this summer I had vowed to get back into shape to finish off the 14ers. I only had 9 more - Culebra, Holy Cross, the Wilson group, and the Chicago Basin group. I had already knocked off Culebra and Holy Cross before I began my trip into the San Juans. Summer classes had just ended, and I had less than 3 weeks before fall classes begin. What I wanted more than completing the 14ers this summer was to do Vestal. This was the plan for day one into my trip.
I started at the trailhead next to the Molas Lake Campground Park near Molas Pass. The trail is pretty straight forward. You will get on the Colorado Trail and take the turn off at the beaver ponds. If you look at the map below, you will notice that I didn't stay on the Colorado Trail and that I took the longer route in the beginning. I would recommend that you take the shorter route, which is the route I took during the hike back.
The hike begins super easy. You will drop over 1,600 feet in elevation. After crossing the river, the route is relatively flat to the beaver ponds. I crossed on the rocks to get to the other side of the ponds and found the trail to Vestal Basin.
Once I got to the basin, I found a route up to Vestal Lake. I noticed on the return that some people were able to hike up to the lake at an earlier point in time. I thought I had noticed an earlier turn off but that trail was not too well defined. Check out strudolyubov's map in his trip report to see what I mean. The route I took up to the lake was relatively easy to follow. It really didn't matter that the route was a little longer because it led me closer to the lake where I was able to refill my water bottles. Also, Roach's classic route starts on the left side of Wham Ridge.
After a nice break, I started up Wham Ridge. Starting on the left side, I crossed to the right side on the highest patch of green. Near the right side, I climbed up two vertical cracks. I can't really tell you what the exposure was like because I told myself not to look down. There weren't any real benefits to looking down, so I resisted the temptation and keep my focus on the climb. For me, the climb wasn't too bad. I'm not exactly sure where the crux was, but I think I have an idea. To me, the crux wasn't much more difficult than other parts of the climb. Near the top, the rest of the climb had less exposure. I had thought it would be easier near the top, but to my surprise, there was still quite a bit of climbing left and route finding was required.
Finally, I made it to the summit! I was the only one on the summit! The weather was great (I would later learn during my trip that this was an aberration). It seemed that I was the only climber that day which was strange given the great weather.
After spending quite a bit of time on the summit, I headed down the back side. I recommend that when you head down, you stay in the same gully the entire time. You will know when it is time to head to the Vestal/Arrow saddle when you can see it. I tried to cut across to the saddle at an earlier point to see if there was a shortcut - there is none.
Once I got to the base of Vestal, I decided I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do Arrow with the weather being so great. How could I resist such a beautiful peak? However, I made the mistake of going up the wrong ledge. I had Roach's Arrow route printed out, but I thought I had found another decent route. This turned a class 3 climb to class 5. There was a point near the ridge that I had to bust out a move more difficult than anything I had to do on Vestal. I had to do a triple-take before I was able to pass that pitch. Eventually, I would make it to the summit!
After a long day, I started my hike back to the trailhead. The hike up to Molas Pass was slow and brutal! It was hell on earth regaining the 1,600 feet in elevation. The most difficult part was fighting back my sleepiness. My eyes just wanted to take a little rest...
I would eventually make it back to the car and pass out. It felt like a surreal experience given my drowsy state but mission accomplished! The hike ended up being my longest to date - by four hours. However, I would later beat this record during this trip by day hiking the four peaks in Chicago Basin to finish off the 14ers (will post soon).
Here are my times for reference:
- 4 hours to the beaver ponds
- 7 hours to Vestal Lake
- 9 hours to summit Vestal Peak
- 12 hours to summit Arrow Peak
- 19 hours to the car
You can download the .gpx below. I deleted the route up to Arrow because it's not the right route. If the link dies, you can PM for a copy. Thanks!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. 14ers.com and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless 14ers.com and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the 14ers.com Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.