Peak(s):  Vestal Pk  -  13,864 feet
Jagged Mtn  -  13,824 feet
Date Posted:  11/01/2015
Modified:  08/24/2016
Date Climbed:   09/21/2015
Author:  Stratosfearsome
 Vestal (Wham) and Jagged via Molas Pass  

I return from the verge with the urge to better earth

9/20 7pm: I arrive at the Molas Trail parking (10,600') along US 550 and pack up a two night, three day mountaineering pack. I go light and fast: Alpine Bivy, Jetboil, one book, extra food and layers and H2O pump etc. Read and fall asleep in the Jeep.

9/21 10am: Finish packing and hydrating and eat some granola, reread and study Gerry Roach's 13ers book routes and hit the trail. (phone died, thus no alarm for early start)
Hike down to the Animas river and cross the bridge into Elk park at 8860ft. Wave to the train as it puffs past.
I am the wildlife!

I cross the train tracks (allegedly) and start up the Elk Creek Trail. After 2.7 miles, I reach the beaver pond at 9,800ft. I turn right, (east side of pond) and look for the Vestal basin trail in the trees. After a little navigational hiccup, I find the excellent Vestal trail and follow it about two miles to Lower Vestal Basin at about 11,400ft. It is 3:00pm. I see Arrow and Vestal less than a mile SxSW of me. I turn right at a cairn and head in that direction up a boulder and willow slope. I reach the basin and can see the white scree notch between Arrow and Vestal.
I turn South East (soft left) and follow a grassy slide up to a position 300 feet before Vestal Lake at almost 12,000ft, directly beneath Wham Ridge.
Wham ridge from 12,000ft

I put everything down, cook up ramen, and pump a gallon of water. I finish eating at four. I toss essentials into my light pack (food, water, layers, headlamp, camera, climbing shoes) and started up Vestal's Wham Ridge via the standard grassy traverse at 4:20pm. I climbed South up the ever-steepening slope along its west edge.
After the grassy sidewalk.

After nearly taking center shift,
Me off route. Climbed the corner to my right.
I found the 5.4 crux pitch (a slab with two cracks in it) Wore my lizard shoes. It was not as difficult or as long as I thought, but it was definitely hard and the exposure was a thousand feet. Great view of Arrow.
Arrow, doing its thing.

After the crux, there was lots of class four climbing on solid rock.
I meandered up the more broken walls above the crux. Really fun climbing. There may have been some borderline class 5 moves in there, but I moved through them smoothly.
Quality Quartzite!

I reached the summit about 5:30pm as the sun begins to dip below Arrow's pinnacle. 90th Centennial!
One of my all-time favorite summits.

I took some photos of Arrow, and looked South towards Peak 5 and Jagged, and SW towards the Sunlight Cluster. I took photos of that direction and of the saddle between Vestal and Trinity.
Beta for tomorrow: W. Trinity / Vestal Saddle.

Peak 6 (Left) Jagged Mtn. (Center)

I head down, staying on the summit for seven minutes. I descend the Class 2+ loose Gully South off Vestal and turned right (ExNE) to hit the notch between Arrow and Vestal. I ski the loose zigzags down and reach camp around 630pm.
This basin is all mine!

I set up camp on a protected ledge, make dehydrated Chicken Teriyaki and read a little in my bivy. Inclement weather is forecast for Sunlight Pk. (1.4 miles from Jagged) tomorrow around noon, so I set my alarm for before dawn and fall asleep.

9/22 It is 5am and I am dead. I can't do it. Snooze. Six AM. OK, here we go. On your feet, Roberto.
It is gray and cold and calm at Vestal Lake. About 35 Fahrenheit. I am the only human. I cook beef stroganoff, pump water, and restudy yesterday's photos. Hang my food off a cliff, and leave camp at 7:30am I make my way through the VW bus-sized boulders, and climb the scree pass between W. Trinity and Vestal.
W.Trinity and Vestal Saddle approach.

I reach the notch at about 8:10am.
I move about 1,500ft elevation down boulders and grassy slopes and pine trees, first South then East then South (Down, left, down) to reach the west edge of Balsam Lake.
Balsam Lake and Peak 6

I hike into the grassy basin to the right (SW) of Peak Six and pass Peak Six to reach a pass between that Basin and No Name Basin.
Noname Lake (NW of Jagged)

It works better to wrap around the right (West) side of No Name Lake and hike east to Jagged Pass.
Jagged from Jagged Pass

By now, light flurries start to land and the sky to the South West grows dark. I did not pause much to take pictures, but my clock tells me that it took 3 hours and 20 minutes to reach Jagged Pass from Vestal Lake, and 44 minutes to reach the summit from here.
Atop Jagged looking back NxNW to Arrow and Vestal, Peak 6 in Right Foreground

I stay on top for only a couple minutes and then down climb the third class chimney, traverse to the notch
Notch around 13,700 on descent

and reverse the crux crack, the grassy steps, and the class four crack. My shoes are muddy so I switch to my climbers and return to the base of the north face safely. Yea, I am psyched to be down safe and sound. #91 done.
It's important to be fashionable out here.

The storm hits and the temperature drops below freezing. Rain, then hail, then snow.
Storm hits, light flurries

Sunlight Group fades away

The world clears a bit and I continue following my compass bearings from earlier. That basin west of peak six, down twelve hundred feet to Balsam Lake and back up 1,500ft to the Vestal and W. Trinity pass is a classic soggy slog.
Skirting the West Side of Peak 6. Arrow and Vestal

I arrived at the pass around 3:30pm and descended back into Vestal Basin. I carefully cross the slick boulder field with my old mantra said to every rock: "probably wobbly." I reach camp at four pm, make food, read a hundred pages of Annapurna and fall asleep at dusk in my Bivy.

9/23 9am Wake up to sunshine and hike out to my Jeep. Reach Molas Pass at 2pm and head back to Durango for pizza at Home-slice.

Definitely will return to climb Trinities and Arrow. What a place! Happy adventures.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

 Comments or Questions

Alone in the basin...
11/02/2015 14:09
... must have been VERY cool. Nice pics and report!


Thanks, Jay!
11/02/2015 15:20
It was a reflective and beautiful adventure. I now understand why the San Juan Range is quintessential Colorado.

Steve Climber

To this day
11/03/2015 15:29
One of my favorite CO trips was to that basin.

The position isn’t as cool, but I liked the scrambling on Arrow better than Vestal...Vestal and Arrow are just such cool peaks, it’s impossible not to rank them up there among the favorites.

Nice work on Home–Slice too...a Durango go–to for sure.


Nice work
11/03/2015 17:02
I’ve been wondering what the best and most efficient, lightweight way would be for bagging these two peaks in a single trip. Didn’t think it was possible without a 40 pound pack and a week long suffer fest. I will likely be trying this out next summer – thanks for the beta!


Is it summer again yet?
11/07/2015 11:16
Thanks Steve C and Eskermo. I did not think traversing between Vestal Basin and Jagged Pass would go until I looked at the path from atop Vestal. On the way to Jagged, I kept trying to traverse high around Peak Six and got mired in loose basketball sized scree slopes. On my return, I stayed two hundred or so feet lower on the grassy parts of the basin (Left when facing Arrow and Vestal) and followed cairns all the way back from the pass by No Name Creek to the creek that fed out of Balsam lake. Feel free to pm me if you have more questions. Good luck! –Rob


Great TR
11/14/2016 08:35
You didn't feel the need for a rope on Vestal?


12/05/2016 10:27
I thought about bringing my 30m rope. Between the dry, late September conditions, my fitness, a class three climb off Vestal, and bringing climbing shoes to feel more comfortable, it did not feel necessary or worth hiking it all in. Also, I couldn't find a partner and wanted to see if I could solo the Centennials. I would like to return with a partner and trad gear to climb center shift. The rock is excellent quality, the cracks are beautiful / bountiful, and the position is unique and ethereal.


Great Report!
04/06/2019 15:42
Tentatively planning to attempt Vestal this summer. Your report will be a big help.

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