Peak(s): Electric Peak and West, Middle, and East Trinity
Elevation(s): 13,292′ – 13,765′ – 13,805′ – 13,745′
Date Climbed: 9/9/2017 – 9/10/2017
I wrote about two options for accessing Vestal Basin in an earlier post, which you can access here.
A buddy of mine, Trent, and I got a late start Friday evening, not leaving Durango until about 8pm. The sun had already disappeared for the day as we pulled into the parking lot at the Molas trail head. We slapped on our packs and headlamps and started the 3 hour journey into the darkness, heading for the Beaver Ponds. I learned that hiking at night isn’t necessarily my favorite time of day to hike. The views are pretty boring, and you always get the feeling that you’re being watched… We arrived at a camp site a little south of the ponds and decided it was a good place to call it for the night. It was around 11:30 before we slipped into our tents and dozed off.
Saturday morning came and we packed up and started heading for Vestal Basin with Electric Peak on the brain. The trail into Vestal Basin is a steep, unmaintained, climbers trail. It’s a real slap in the face at 7am, but offers you a good opportunity to wake-up and get the blood flowing to your legs before the real fun begins.
Electric Peak is located in the incredible Grenadier Range, and is the least dramatic out of the group (sorry Electric, don’t take it personal). We decided to gain it’s north ridge by scrambling up a steep, grassy, avalanche chute and aimed for the ridge line just north of Electric’s northern face. The avy chute can be seen from the trail leading into Vestal Basin and a quick creek crossing puts you right at it’s base. Head straight up the avy chute and angle left (south). There are a few ways to exit the avy chute, one of which requires class 3/4 scrambling, however the scrambling can be kept at a minimum with careful route selection.
Once above the avy chute the slope begins to form into steep, broken ledges. Keep angling left (south) towards the saddle connecting the north face of Electric and a ridge to it’s north. Navigating these ledges is fairly straight forward and doesn’t exceed class 3 terrain, just pick your line and climb. Once to the saddle the remaining route comes into view.
The rest of the route is fairly cruiser, although steep, and is split up by ramps that require a class 3 move here and there. Overall the north face is a fun walk-up/scramble with little to no exposure. Descend the way you came.
The Trinity Traverse
The alarm started blasting at 4:45am, but I was already awake in anticipation for the day. hat’s normally how these early alpine mornings start, not by an annoying alarm going off, but by a restless night of tossing and turning, waiting for the day to begin.
Another buddy of mine, Eric, started his morning at 2:30am and ran from Molas pass into Vestal Basin to meet Trent and I at 5:30 for the traverse. Eric is not from this planet. At 5:30 we see his head lamp appear near the entrance to the Basin and what a sweet site it was. We fueled up for the day, refilled water, drank coffee, consequently shedding some weight, and started up the steep headwall into the upper basin and Vestal Lake.
Once to the upper basin we started heading east along the base of Vestal Peak and skirted south around Vestal Lake en route to the West Trinity – Vestal saddle. There is a faint trail with a couple cairns marking the way up to the saddle.
Once to the saddle you can see the west buttress of West Trinity and a fairly well traveled trail leading up to the west ridge. Make your way up to the ridge line and continue east staying ridge proper. The scrambling is fun class 3 boulder hopping with decent exposure in spots and incredible views of the Weminuche to the south.
The west ridge continues east for sometime before turning back north-ish towards the final push to the summit. The class 2/3 scrambling remains consistent throughout.
This final ridge push leads directly to a wide summit. Enjoy the views of Vestal Peak to the west and the next objective, Middle Trinity, to the east. It took us roughly 2 hours from camp to top out on West Trinity and was around 8:00am. We took a quick break and took in the views before heading towards Middle Trinity.
If you plan on completing the traverse, descend off the east side of the summit towards Middle Trinity. Stay south of the connecting ridge and work your way east towards the southwest buttress of Middle Trinity. The down climbing is solid and doesn’t exceed class 3. There are few cairns leading across the south side, but the route finding is straight forward.
Once off East Trinity, stay high on the connecting ridge and continue east towards the ridge line directly in front of you. As you approach the southwest buttress, drop off the connecting ridge and work your way up and over the buttress onto the south face of Middle Trinity and onto a series of grassy ledges.
When ascending towards the south rib look for a notch high on the rib and cross there. Work you way across the grassy ledges and keep an eye out for cairns. You’ll cross another rib before turning back north towards a high east/west ridge line.
After turning north towards Middle Trinity’s west ridge, the climbing difficulty increases slightly. There is a 30′ 4th class chimney marked by a large cairn, with another stint of 4th class climbing above that. This route will take you to the connecting ridge line just west of Middle Trinity. Once to this ridge line the remaining route to the summit comes into view. If you top out on the ridge you will have to down climb to get back to the grass ledges along the south face of Middle Trinity. There are several grass ledges that traverse east under the 4th Trinity. Follow cairns along the south side in an ascending traverse towards the summit. This climbing stays around class 3 to the summit and is well marked with cairns.
The summit views from Middle Trinity do not disappoint. The final route up the East Trinity gully can be seen from the summit and should be studied. It’s fairly straight forward with multiple options up the gully to summit. Choose wisely.
The descent from Middle Trinity is steep and loose in some places, but the down climb never exceeds class 3. I read a trip report that talked about taking the gully to the right, but we decided to stay left as it looked more stable and we could see more of the route to the bottom. I think we made the right decision as the gully on the right takes you further down Middle Trinity and would require you to gain more elevation on the climb up East Trinity.
Once to the bottom of the gully leading off of Middle Trinity, there is a short wall you must climb (class 3) to get into the East Trinity gully. Once into the gully look up. All that remains ahead of you is solid class 3/4 scrambling. It appeared to me that if you stayed more in the center of the gully you could keep the scrambling to class 2/3. We choose to climb left of the gully and found ourselves on fun class 4 terrain.
Towards the top of the gully there is a steep chimney that, in my opinion, takes a low 5th class move to climb through. The holds are all solid and the chimney is short, but I felt the climbing was in the low 5th class range. The exposure is not too shabby below you, so hold on and enjoy the moves. You’re almost there!
After climbing through the chimney there is only about 20′ vertical left to the summit. Scramble up and you’re there. The stoke level was super high for the three of us as we topped out on East Trinity. The weather held all day and everybody made it through the traverse in one piece.
The descent from East Trinity is straight forward. Stay on the northeast ridge, dropping off to the east occasionally. Descend down to the saddle/ridge and drop into a loose gully. Scree ski your way down towards Trinity lake and continue on back down to Vestal Basin. Picking up the trail back into Vestal Basin is tough, but will save yourself a lot of grief. We couldn’t find the trail until lower in the basin so I can’t give any good beta on where it picks up at. Good luck! Total time for us to complete the traverse from camp to camp was 6 hours.
After arriving back at camp, Eric took off running back towards Molas TH. The dude is bonkers. Trent and I packed up camp and made moves toward the Beaver Ponds. It took Trent and I another 4.5 hours to hike back out to the TH, arriving at our car at 5:30pm. About 10 minutes away from the car we got caught in a nice afternoon thunderstorm, which washed us of our sins, as well as some of our stank, and wrapped up another epic trip in the Weminuche.
Additional Trip Reports