Peak(s):  Graystone Pk - 13,489 feet
"West Trinity" - 13,765 feet
Trinity Pk - 13,805 feet
"East Trinity" - 13,745 feet
Rolling Mtn - 13,693 feet
Date Posted:  09/13/2018
Modified:  02/25/2019
Date Climbed:   09/04/2018
Author:  Mtnman200
Additional Members:   RandyMack
 Weekend for the Weakened   

Randy and I planned a backpacking trip to Vestal Creek for Labor Day weekend but haven't felt particularly strong in our climbing this summer, which is the reason for the title "Weekend for the Weakened."

Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018. As soon as Randy got out of class at about 11:15 AM, we started the six-hour drive to the Molas Trailhead just south of Silverton. Our plan was to backpack on the Elk Creek Trail to the beaver ponds at about 9980' and hopefully get there before dark so that we could squeeze in a climb the next day. It didn't quite work out as planned, however, because we had to use headlamps the last 20 minutes or so to our campsite.

Friday, Aug. 31, 2018. We backpacked up the informal Vestal Creek Trail to about 11,300', stashed our backpacks, and began hiking SW up the drainage between Arrow Peak and Electric Peak.

We went up the east (climber's left) side of the drainage between Arrow Peak and Electric Peak (Photo taken on the descent)

Once things leveled out a bit, we contoured west and SW at about 12,400'. It probably would have been easier if we'd contoured a bit lower, as we ended up crossing some boilerplate slabs that might not have been too much fun if wet.

Eventually, we stopped contouring and scrambled up toward Graystone Peak's NW ridge. After reaching the ridge, we headed SE over a false summit and continued to the true summit of Graystone Peak (13,489').

Almost to the summit of Graystone Peak, with Electric Peak (13,292') to its left

The summit of Graystone Peak, with a sea of mountains in the background

Looking west toward the Molas Trailhead (center) from Graystone Peak

Arrow Peak and Vestal Peak from Graystone Peak's summit

Vestal Peak, Storm King Peak, Mt. Silex, Peak Nine, Peak Seven, and Peak Six from Graystone Peak's summit

Electric Peak from the summit of Graystone Peak, with the Electric - Arrow saddle in the center of the photo

Rather than return by our ascent route, we descended a bit toward Arrow Peak until we found a suitable place to descend directly toward the basin between Graystone, Electric, and Arrow Peaks.

Looking up at the gully we used to descend from Graystone Peak

The basin between Graystone, Electric, and Arrow Peaks has no shortage of rocks
Blue = Graystone Peak ascent route; red = descent route

We returned to our backpacks and continued about a half mile further up the Vestal Creek Trail to a nice campsite in the trees at the east end of a meadow at 11,400'. Tomorrow's objective: the Trinities traverse.

Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. Today's forecast was sketchy (60% chance of precipitation after 7:00 AM), so Randy and I got up early and were hiking at 4:45 AM. We headed up the steep informal trail to about 12,200' in the basin between Arrow and Vestal Peaks.

A long exposure of Vestal Peak's Wham Ridge at 5:30 AM shows how overcast the skies were already

From there, we traversed WSW past Vestal Lake to the basin between Vestal Peak and West Trinity Peak and were nearing the Vestal - West Trinity saddle when a snowstorm began. We bailed into the basin to the north and followed the Vestal Creek Trail back to our campsite. Rain forced us into our tent for a few hours. Fortunately, we'd brought an extra day's worth of food in case of a bad weather day.

Several people camped nearby intended to climb Wham Ridge today but likewise had to cancel due to the weather.

Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018. My track record when I've wanted to climb the Trinities has been less than stellar:

8/18/1988 - My dad and I were about 150' from West Trinity Peak's summit when ongoing rain turned to sleet and snow, and the water on the wet rocks began to freeze. A full retreat ensued.

8/19/1988 - My dad and I vindicated ourselves by completing the Trinities traverse.

8/22/2014 - Rain that had been falling since the previous afternoon kept my sons (David and Randy) and me from making an attempt on the Trinities.

8/17/2018 - Randy and I were at the Molas Trailhead parking lot and were about to start backpacking for a planned attempt on the Trinities when my backpack's waistbelt buckle broke. With no way to repair it, we had to head home.

9/1/2018 - Yesterday was another bad weather day.

Having eaten our extra food yesterday, we were determined to make today count. Randy and I got up extra early and were hiking at 4:20 AM. Getting from the basin between Vestal Peak and West Trinity Peak to the Vestal - West Trinity saddle was a bit of a slog, but this report will not include any of our remarks ("colorful metaphors") about the loose rock.

Lots of clouds are visible already, and it's only 6:20 AM

The climb from the Vestal - West Trinity saddle to the summit of West Trinity Peak is fairly straightforward and involves simply scrambling east up the ridge.

Almost to the summit of West Trinity Peak

Randy and I reached the summit of West Trinity Peak (13,765') under heavy cloud cover but no precipitation yet. We wanted to stay ahead of the weather, as Trinity Peak definitely is not a good place to get caught in bad weather.

Vestal Peak and Arrow Peak as seen from the summit of West Trinity Peak

Trinity Peak from the summit of West Trinity Peak

After a brief stay on West Trinity Peak's summit, we descended its east ridge to the West Trinity - Trinity Peak saddle. Now the fun begins! We traversed on ledges on the south side of the ridge, passing a few cairns along the way. Unfortunately, we overshot the Class 4 chimney that provides access to Trinity Peak's ridge. After looking down at Balsam Lake, we realized that we'd traversed too far east and returned west, this time keeping a more careful eye out for the chimney.

Randy spotted a large cairn above us which led to the chimney. The rock was more solid than expected, and above the chimney we soon climbed to the ridge, reaching the summit of Trinity Peak (13,805') as light snow began falling. This was one of a half dozen times today that light snow fell for about 10 minutes.

Looking up from just below the summit of Trinity Peak

West Trinity Peak (right) from just below the summit of Trinity Peak

Looking back at West Trinity Peak from the summit of Trinity Peak

The unnamed lake at 12,396' from the summit of Trinity Peak

Looking WNW from the summit of Trinity Peak toward the Vestal Creek drainage

East Trinity Peak from the summit of Trinity Peak, with Rio Grand Pyramid visible in the background (upper left)

Looking south toward the Needle Mountains from Trinity Peak's summit

After a brief stay on Trinity Peak's summit, Randy and I turned our attention to East Trinity Peak and began descending a gully to the Trinity - East Trinity saddle. Before long, the gully split. Both options looked like nothing more than Class 3, but we took the one on descender's right as recommended by others.

At the Trinity - East Trinity saddle, we took a break to recharge our batteries with a few power bars before scrambling up a gully south of East Trinity Peak's west ridge. Shortly below the summit of East Trinity, we found an interesting gateway/archway. We could have bypassed it but stepped through just for fun.

Just below the summit of East Trinity Peak

We went through this gateway just below the summit of East Trinity Peak

Soon, Randy and I were on the summit of East Trinity Peak (13,745') as light snow was falling. We were a bit relieved to be on the final summit of the day, as the descent from East Trinity is straightforward enough that any bad weather would not be an issue now.

Looking back at Trinity Peak from East Trinity Peak's summit in light snowfall

Snowfall is obstructing the view from East Trinity Peak's summit

We descended East Trinity Peak's NE ridge to a saddle at about 13,060', where we headed down scree to an unnamed lake at 12,396'. Eventually, we located the Vestal Creek Trail and followed it back to our campsite as light rain fell but couldn't dampen our spirits.

Looking up at Trinity Peak and East Trinity from near an unnamed lake at 12,396'

Our descent route from East Trinity Peak used the scree from the low point left of center

West Trinity Peak, Vestal Peak, and Arrow Peak rise above an unnamed lake at 12,396'

West Trinity Peak is reflected in the unnamed lake at 12,396'

Looking down the Vestal Creek drainage from the meadow at 11,400' just below where we camped

To escape the rain, we retreated into our tent and napped for a couple of hours. When Randy and I awakened and realized it was 4:00 PM already, we hustled to pack up and start backpacking. We'd intended to camp at the Animas River tonight but instead cooked dinner at the beaver ponds before continuing to a campsite along the Elk Creek Trail at about 9420'.

Beaver pond along the Elk Creek Trail at about 9980', looking south up the Vestal Creek drainage at Vestal Peak and Arrow Peak

Monday, Sept. 3, 2018. After sleeping in, we backpacked to the Animas River and then up the 33 switchbacks to the Molas Trailhead.

The footbridge over the Animas River near Elk Park

Looking upstream at the Animas River from the footbridge. Don't drink the water!

Randy had the day off from school tomorrow, so after a tasty lunch at the Brown Bear Restaurant in Silverton, we drove to the Rico-Silverton Trailhead at the end of the South Mineral Creek Road with plans to climb Rolling Mountain tomorrow. There are plenty of good established campsites here, and we had no trouble finding one.

Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. Randy and I hiked up the Rico-Silverton Trail to a creek crossing at 11,600', where we left the trail and headed west up the drainage toward a 13,180' saddle on Rolling Mountain's south ridge. Initially we were on tundra before transitioning onto frost-covered rocky slopes that were slippery due to the ice.

The rocks are icy this morning, and so are our boots

Looking toward the 13,180' saddle at the head of the drainage

A steady but none-too-difficult climb brought us to the saddle on Rolling Mountain's south ridge.

Rolling Mountain from near the 13,180' saddle on its south ridge

From here, we followed the ridge north and then east to the summit of Rolling Mountain (13,693'). Any ridge difficulties are bypassed to the left.

Randy on the summit of Rolling Mountain with the Wilson group behind him

Eddie on the summit of Rolling Mountain with Vermilion Peak, Golden Horn, and Fuller Peak in the background

Because the weather was beautiful today, we spent a long time enjoying the views from the summit before heading down.

Looking back toward the saddle on Rolling Mountain's south ridge

Looking down toward the valley (and the Rico - Silverton Trail) (Taken from the same location as the previous photo)

Some cool waterfalls formed by the creek as it flows down from the basin below Rolling Mountain

The creek flowing away from the falls

Just above where the Rico - Silverton Trail crosses this creek at 11,600', some interesting discoloration can be seen in the water and on the rocks

Back at the Rico - Silverton Trail, it was an easy hike down to our campsite. Randy had to drive home due to his classes, while I stayed in the area and did some more climbs. We never get tired of the San Juan Mountains!

A structure that is part of the Bandora Mine, not far from the trailhead
Blue = ascent route; red = descent route

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Nice report!
09/13/2018 09:15
That little gateway on East Trinity looks cool! I missed that when I was there several years ago.

09/18/2018 13:09
Thanks, Dave. I didn't remember the gateway on East Trinity in 1988, so I went back and looked at our trip write-up. No mention of the gateway, and I'm sure we'd have commented if we'd seen it. Perhaps our route back then didn't go very close to the gateway, or the gateway wasn't there at the time. Anyone else have any idea?

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