Peak(s):  Jagged Mtn  -  13,824 feet
Vestal Pk  -  13,864 feet
Pigeon Pk  -  13,972 feet
Turret Pk A  -  13,835 feet
Jupiter Mtn  -  13,830 feet
Crestone Needle  -  14,197 feet
Date Posted:  07/29/2016
Modified:  12/02/2020
Date Climbed:   07/29/2016
Author:  blazintoes
 Centennial Grand Slam  

Centennial Grand Slam with an Arete Appeteaser
Peak(s): Vestal Pk - 13,864 feet
Jagged Mtn - 13,824 feet
Pigeon Pk - 13,972 feet
Turret Pk A - 13,835 feet
Jupiter Mtn - 13,830 feet
Crestone Needle - 14,197 feet
Posted By: blazintoes
Post Date: 08/11/2016
Date Climbed: 07/29/2016

After receiving a simple message I knew it was time to write, which I love to do but don't sit still long enough sometimes.
..."Having not seen the adventures of (you) lately, just confirming you are alive and healthy and putting 99.99% of us to shame".
Penned-bony bob
Well, Here's keeping in touch with you kid.
Bob. The man that taught me to tie a figure-8, you'll be pleased to know that I'm now passing on your good teachings minus the stupid stuff I do i.e., running out my pitches cause I like scaring myself, occasionally tie a figure-9 or a figure-8 only into the bottom loop and/or forgetting to double back and double check and what not. The rocky road from Bob to Tony to Joe from Chicago to a broken foot to Mr. G and his Eldorado classroom has been a sidewinder of sorts but at last, I'm in a good place. No, I'm in a fantastic place! So what have I been doing Mr. Bony Bob you ask? Two recent things come to mind that will perk you up are, swapping leads on Hallett's Culp Bossier with Eliot the gentleman that carried me and my broken foot on his back last year and going back to the accident scene with Mr. G a couple weeks ago to lead the sport pitch immediately left of to realize this monster I built in my head was much smaller than reality. T'was good to put all those demons to rest and experience some harsh realities about all the mistakes I made that day. On the trail to Emerald Lake in RMNP I asked Eliot, "did you ever imagine we'd be swapping leads on a multi-pitch alpine route after what happened last year?" His simple reply, "uh, no."

I'm feeling good. Strong. Happy. Able to lead with a reasonable and respectable amount of fear. All my buddies know I'm back so, when Mad Dad Mike sent a message, "Do you think you could lead us up the Ellingwood Arete?" I immediately wrote back, "Yes!"
Crestone Needle's Ellingwood Arete Direct start and finish
Rating: 5.9
July 29th, 2016
RT: 12 hours CTC
Blazintoes and DadMike
In celebration of Mikes' boy Ben Ellingwood, Mike has been doing all things great that start with an iconic middle name and so I got to join on this excellent adventure. Mike and I met at the upper trail head Thursday night, crack open beers and go over beta, which is fuzzy at best. Those were some good beers, thanks Mike! A trip report from the late Dancesatmoonrise was my go-to resource and after a brief discussion with Mr. G who urged to carry more gear than recommended I decided on a single rack up to a #2, tricams, medium to large stoppers, some aliens, one hex and my new favorite piece; a yellow omega. Muah! While I don't do advice and believe a rack is a personal choice if I were to do this again I'd bring a couple more hexes, and ditch the small stuff specifically all the C3's.

Friday 0330 Mike charges up toward upper South Colony Lake with the 60m rope and I with the no envy rack. By sun rise we are blasting up to the
base of the arete ready to gear up. The direct start, I quickly realize, is run-out 5.6 and so I call to Mike, "hey, you think you can free this pitch?" He had
no issue and is as tough as he looks. Rawr! 2nd pitch, me on lead is a dirty little 5.7 hand crack and what I mean by dirty is loose rock, lichen with
bounties of skunk weed whose smell is intoxicating to me. I find a nice slung belay about 70' up and right. Mike quickly follows, I pluck him and lead up the next dirty wide crack to find a bolted belay. Nice. We scrambled free the entire middle section of the arete with Mike on lead. The only exciting
obstacle here was a short chimney followed by some juggy thuggy moves to the finale. I tend to find the path of most resistance and after a right
traverse to a hand crack to unprotected face climbing I shout to Mike, "I don't think this is 5.7!" I find some old rattly pitons, clip them for good measure
and silently run-out the final pitch. This is alpine climbing at it's finest. Eek! And I'm pretty sure I lead the 5.9 direct arete finish. Mike and I wrap up all
the gear and free solo the last ~100' to the top. The summit is all ours as we revel in our success. Those with fire and those who admire, right Mike?
We share snacks, stories, pictures and cruise the descent to Broken Hand. We ran into one roped up duo on the east gully, a trio on their way up Broken Hand and a mangy mountain goat pack. At the last creek crossing we soak our swollen feet and Mike names my gnarly big toe "Biff" (it is the ugliest thing you'll ever see). Back at the cars I ask him about a short cut to highway 160 because I'm supposed to meet my favorite peak bagging buddy from Chicago in Durango at 8pm for a Weminuche Centennial show down.
A brief history:
Joe and I met at the Rock of Ages saddle summer 2013 and he asked, "what are you doing today?" I replied, "well, going up Wilson Peak then I might
try El Diente to Mount Wilson." "Mind if I join you?", he asks. "No, let's go!" Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing and definitely didn't belong. Most
certainly I would have stopped hammering up Colorado mountains had I not met Joe from Chicago. He comes out here every summer x5 now to see
what I get to see most every weekend so the last two times when he's been recovering from injury so frail and skinny subject to my agenda, this year it
was my turn to pay it forward. Joe told me he was fit this year and would definitely be able to keep up so I planned a whacky adventure just for him;
ALL the San Juan Weminuche Centennials in one go. 4 nights 5 days. Molas Pass to Chicago Basin. Joe's friend Tom who is also an avid peak bagger
would be joining.

We three meet Friday night, sort gear and dirt bag it at the Durango Walmart...shhhh! By 4am Saturday we are on a mission involving dropping vehicles
in secret locations, a McDonalds breakfast for the boys followed by a glazed and dazed shuttle to the top of Molas Pass via the Colorado Trail. I call
"shot gun" and Joe and I catch up on life, music and girls.

Molas Pass to Vestal Basin via the CT
~10 miles/5,000 vertcial
July 30th, 2016
7 hours to our first camp
Blazintoes, Joe2002, Everest Dreams

Wham summer summit rain, Camp with a Trinities view, Wham with summer flowers my brilliant idea began with hiking from Molas Pass down to the river then up the CT with a final jaunt to Vestal Basin to set up camp so we could hopefully nab the Trinities. When I put on my 50 pound pack aka 'Godzilla 2' I kinda knew anything extra wasn't going to happen this trip. I've been on this stretch of trail a couple times so knew it well. We sign in at the Weminuche Wilderness kiosk, swat a few mosquitoes and continue to the Vestal Basin turn-off. The first time ever I saw their behemoths I was captured. They look good in photos too. The hike in was a painful 10 mile slog up, up and up. We decided on a high camp at the base of Vestal Peak. My front door faced the Trinities that begged me to come play but, "Kaboom!" The weather rolled in and I rolled out in my 1man tent then passed out. Apparently two nights in a row with 4 hours of sleep each night had kicked my arse. I'll be back for you Trinities but probably as a day trip.
By 5pm Saturday the weather chilled out and we congregated in the man cave to discuss plans. Joe and Tom were upset that I wouldn't get any
bicentennials that day and I didn't want to admit that I'm not super human after all (sorry to disappoint you Bob).

Day 2. After quick gear review: ready, steady, go!
Vestal Peak via Wham Ridge
Max difficulty: 5.4
~1,600 vert
July 31st, 2016
RT: 5 hours
Sunday morning was chilly as I brewed tea and ate a disgusting burrito. The burrito was an experiment as my food expertise was in question. The Amy
burrito gets a big fat 'F'! I choked it down then put on my boots, surrounded my camp with moth balls and my favorite deterrent, coyote
urine. Then put on my harness, racked up and flaked the rope. Time for belaying 101 here in the Vestal Basin 0600 at 12,200 feet. Tom tells a story about tying a figure 8 with a bunny rabbit getting chased around a tree and he....he lost me at the bunny rabbit part so I taught him my tricks. While tricks may be for kids, involved memory devices don't work on the adult brain. "Here, watch this," I say. And voila, he tied the figure 8 three times in a row superbly. Alright, enough messing around, let's get Whamtastic! What can I say about the Wham ridge on Vestal? Hmmm, it gives a nice warm-up then pitches dramatically then becomes puzzly and loose but everything in the alpine is suspect to me. Every rock can and will eventually move so trust nothing. We three go free the first half of the climb on this glorious summer morning. 2/3 of the way up Tom is not his usual self. I've hiked with him before and he's usually a chatter box excited to talk about anything. This entire trip he is unsure and cautious. He's had a rough life lately and this trip was really good for him to hakuna matata. Fuggedaboutit Tom, get up this mountain I think to myself hoping my positive vibes light up that fire! Anyway, he freezes and I scamper up a little to set up a belay. Giving him that extra security and with no issue he blasts right up. Sometimes a little piece of rope breeds a little bit of confidence. The summit is farther away than I remembered an frankly I don't remember the final moves at all but then again Tony and I freed the center shift route and I was on another planet. Alas, the summit is ours and Joe is keeping track of his Colorado Centennials, selfishly savored. Well deserved my friend. Tom is baffled that he was able to do what he just did without rock climbing experience and I'm looking over at the next objective worried about this shooting gallery descent, packing camp then taking Godzilla up two 13,000 foot passes.

The descent off the backside of Vestal almost makes the climb not worth it. Blasphemy I know, but I have been spoiled lately. The backside of Vestal is Medusa's head, damn ugly. We trend right and meander through hideous gullies careful to not kill each other. The details here are boring.
Do you see that pass over there? Like waaaaaaaay over there? On the other side is Balsam Lake Back at camp everyone is feeling dread but pack up we must because waaaaaaaay over there is the Vestal/Trinity saddle and on the other side is Balsam Lake according to my planning. I've never been and only read of one report that says the ridge goes easy but with unwieldy legs under heavy packs I'm skeptical.

We find a cairned path up and over this saddle and slowly crest the top and Whoa Balsam Lake sure violates the eyes. Blue as a smurf and calm as
the Dead Sea. B-E-A utiful! The afternoon clouds roll in and send a gentle rain down. The cooling effect is acceptable. We side hill for six years and
eventually get to the lake. Life through a camera lens doesn't suffice. We bushwhack around the west side and begin our final push over the Peak 6
saddle where I'll pass yet another bicentennial. Oh well. One pass down, Peak 6 saddle still to go. We choose to go high and left at the Peak 6 saddle but the entire ridge sucks. It's carined too. One mistake is all it takes for the ground to fall underneath me and whamo I fall hard on my left hip hanging on to something firm with just two fingers. I whimper a little and Tom asks if I need help. "Yes, please!" I shout because my feet are dangling off the edge and my left two fingers are slipping off the rock. Somehow he grabs my wrist at the last second and with super hero power and Destoroyah on his back he pulls me and Godzilla off the edge. I'm pretty sure Tom saved my life right there.

Nine more years later we are at last on the Peak 5/6 saddle looking down at the upper No Name Lake at 12,500', yippie! We made it! I find new pep in
my step and scurry right down to the lake where we set up tents, filter water and I choke down another disgusting burrito. Tomorrow I can't wait to see
Jagged Mountain again since I got blasted off the top last time unable to enjoy the views. Nestled in my tent atop my princess pad, full belly and ready pack, I drift off to dream.

Day 3. Jagged Mountain (middle, north and proper)
Max difficulty: a brief off-route 5.8 otherwise 5.2
Cross the creek and side hill to Jagged pass. Cairns mark the way, hooray!
~1,700 vert and 2 miles
August 1st, 2016
The morning fog is thick but expect it to burn off as the sun blazes the morning sky. Tom and Joe are rustling about and I hear Joe telling Tom that it's
okay to sit this one out if he's not feeling good. Tom doesn't sound good but I give one last nudge to see if it'll work. "Hey Tom, get up and walk around
before you decide to call it quits today." "Yeah, yeah...," he replies. While Joe is sweet and forgiving, accepting even I would have been a great Field
Commander. But I see that look on Tom's face and know that the only thing worse than a bad climbing partner is one you have to convince to be there
because if something bad happens, it's your fault. Good on Tom for knowing to stay put and ward of the pesky marmots while Joe and I rage.
Various Jagged cruxes, if done right, no rope required. Honed and toned, Joe is on step with me and I tell him I have no idea of the first couple cruxes because my first time up this peak I hammered straight up and down the couloir. We sniff out the route and find a couple good scrambles and cairns marking the way. We come to a point where the route could go one of three ways and without a cairn in sight we choose the middle and quickly find ourselves on sketchy 5.8 terrain. Me on lead I practice the moves to see if they'll go or if I need to bust out some gear. I'm digging my fingers in dirt, yarding on mountain weeds and doing my best to paste those feet. We end up at a chock stone and decide to crawl under it. At this point I know we're off-route but having fun. We end up on the center spire and Joe says, "we're effed!" Nah, I think and start placing gear protecting him first. I pull out some webbing and build a rap then single rope rappel 60 feet to stable ground. Joe quickly follows. With the law of intensity, I'm sure that will be a forever etched memory. Since we're so close we decide to explore the north tower too, why not? I've always wanted to scramble up and over all the Jagged spires and that Joe kid has some mad skills. Eventually we scramble all the way back down to the last known cairn and find the route to the top. The little chimney on the backside is as cute as I remember and the summit just as big and rewarding. The views this time are outstanding making all the effort well worth the torture.

Jagged is a fun little peak but it's time to go. There are two new nice bolts on the summit but I'm pretty sure it's at least a 60 m rappel. Having no idea really where it drops we decide to re-trace our steps back to the chimney then to the east side skipping the two available rappels. Eventually we find a final rap station with slings in good condition and decide to partake. Within an hour, we cruise all the way back to the pass, side hill the large boulders and back to high camp where we confess to Tom he chose wisely because we got ourselves into some serious terrain.

Back at camp there's time to relax and study maps because I'd like to explore a different drainage up to Ruby Pass. All the drainage's back here are
pretty brutal. But we have 2 peaks down, 3 to go and the biggest day lay just ahead. We can do it! My DeLorme starts to chirp and it's a message from
Marc that says, "Nice work! You're covering a lot of terrain both vertical and horizontal. Keep your chin up. 50% chance of rain the next few days after
3pm." I like getting messages from home camp and the command center.

The drainage at first was shoulder high vegetation then a semi loose gully followed by a dangerous steepening with large boulders. Things were going
well until a car sized boulder dislodged and headed for Joe. He pushed into it like a linebacker; his prior football career evident but I see the boulder
slam into his right foot. He doubles over in pain shouting obscenities. Not good. Eventually we get him to flat ground waiting for the verdict as he takes off his shoe and stinky sock. Miraculously nothing broke. He's pretty tough anyway. Without cairns, just mad navigating skills we eventually get to Ruby pass. Goats mark the way. Again we choose a high camp and prep for night. I send Marc a long message on my DeLorme because I'm starting to miss home, and a shower.

Day 4. Pigeon and Turret from Ruby Basin
Zero technical even to the summit of Pigeon IMO
It's a long slog ~7,500 vertical and 8 miles
Then up Ruby Pass, up Twin Thumbs pass, down to Chicago Basin
August 2nd, 2016

We thought it wise to have a high camp and in the morning hike down the basin, bushwhack up to the Pigeon Turret saddle, nab Pigeon, scurry to
Turret and back so that we didn't' have to carry our little monsters over unnecessary vert. Wise indeed as we lazily saunter with light packs toward the basin. Pigeon has an impressive north face and glows with morning sun. But it's a dirty big bird with a painful long standard route to the summit. Of course there are other routes and I see them all over the north face but they would require rope and gear. This will be my third time to this area. As we're slogging it up I tell Joe that I'm the idiot that has chosen to do this twice. He smirks back, "yep, uh huh..."
We figured our profile went a little something like this...down, up, up, down, around, up. Down, around, up, up, up, down, down, up. Up, down, around,
up, down. This was yet another of my my brilliant ideas for the peak bagger in you. The willows up, then boulder field to the Pigeon/Turret saddle are steep but I've come from the other side up Pigeon Creek and can say that side is much worse. At the saddle now the guys see the next saddle and sometimes your eyes play tricks on you especially tired eyes. Things look much harder and farther away than reality. Just keep going.
The first time I went up Pigeon I chose a spicy little chimney because I was bored. Don't follow me. This time we found the standard route and there is
one small reasonable crux that requires some thought. We are all beat up and the chattering has ceased. But wow the views from the top have got to
be the best in the joint. Again we have perfect weather and perfect views. On the descent we play a little game of slippage. If you slip a little, minus 1/2 point. Slip and catch a knee, minus 3/4 point. Slip and totally wipe out, minus a whole point. Not sure who won that game but it helped with the monotony. Again the mind starts playing tricks as we walk all the way around Pigeon, back up the saddle and stare headlong at Turret aka Turdlet, cause it's kinda a crappy mountain and Pigeon blocks the view toward the Grenadiers. On Turret's descent I spy a short cut and we blast back down the boulder field and willows toward high camp. A momentary lapse in my leading skills and we are off route through the final willow push to camp.
The grit we three have at this point is the sole thing that got us up over Ruby Pass then over Twin Thumbs pass in the pouring rain after climbing Pigeon and Turret. One look back and we say, bye bye Ruby Basin hello one. last. peak. Quite frankly I had zero interest in doing Jupiter again. The only thing that makes this mountain fun I suspect would be snow. The first time I did this peak I jumped on the northwest ridge proper and scrambled up and over. Very fun! We set up camp in Chicago basin under headlamp and went to bed wet, cold and hungry for a 4am go time.

Day 5. Jupiter Mountain
~2,500 vert 3.5 miles
August 3rd, 2016
The rude alarm blares. My shoes are cold wet tug boats. My chest is burning because I'm at an impasse. I'm very close to Grizzly Peak and would
rather check it out but know that since we didn't have time to go over maps, separating at 4am hoping we all get our peaks and make it back to camp to then catch a train didn't seem the right thing to do. The big sister in me stood at the junction of Jupiter and Columbine pass looking at two dog tired
buddies knowing we needed each other. Besides I didn't want to miss seeing Joe nab his final Weminuche Centennial, are you kidding me!? The burning in my chest instantly dissipates and I tell Joe, "well guess what you get to do next year?" Haaaaaa! In the pitch black of pre-dawn we Marcel Marceau our way up Jupiter's southwest face and as the sun comes up I tell the guys to keep going because I can feel frost bite settle in my right big toe. I peel off my shoe and try to get the circulation back but putting my feet back into cold wet shoes doesn't
help. Biff is officially dead. Who gets frost bite in summer? The final push to the summit is actually a little fun and at last we three are on our final peak. What an adventure! On top, we decide to display how we all truly feel.


Those peak baggers are just dying to get up here. Final summit of Jupiter!

The way back reveals some items we missed like the many mining tunnels and old shacks. Many surrounding mines. Our final day we take our time to pack up and head out and the last few miles on a nice trail toward the train allow the mind to wander. The train back to Durango is scheduled to arrive at 3:35pm and we don't have tickets so we wait til all have boarded and I approach the Conductor taking tickets an simply say, "we don't have tickets." He says, "no problem, go on up to the concession and pay $35 each." "All Aboard!" Choooo choooooooo!

This would be Joe's first time on the Narrow Gauge and he is giddy like a kid in a candy store. We give three good cheers with beers in hand.

Back to civilization now, we all need a shower and deserved grub. We leave Joe with the bags and Tom and I somehow score a sweet hotel 1 block
from the train station with three queen beds. A celebration is in order.

The good, bad and not so ugly we unbelievably traveled 24,200 feet vertical in 43 miles and bagged all the Weminuche Centennials. Sans Jagged for
Tom...anyone wanna take up the nicest human on the planet next time they go? He just might pull you off a cliffhanger...

Caption Here

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

 Comments or Questions

can't believe
02/28/2021 12:43
this got no comments.

Great pics and nice trip.


02/28/2021 18:50
Hey thanks Zephyr truth is, this is one of many TR‘s I posted then deleted because my brain damage flares up from time to time then reposted and when doing so all former comments are removed after the TR is saved as a pdf, which is an option if you choose. Phew that‘s a long run on sentence. After rereads there were a couple reports I was still proud of and happy to re-share with the community. Besides my OG homie Joe is the superstar in this report and I wanted the dot com to see. Thanks for your comment! Also we three were in CB getting the 14ers back there via Purgatory in the same month and in the same time frame. Small wonderful world.

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