Elevation: 13,664 ft
GPS: 37.689, -107.602 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 51,680 total · 256/month
Shared By: Jared Brin on Aug 16, 2002
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac


This peak is one of the highest peaks in the Grenadiers near Silverton in the southwest part of the state. It is also the location of the Wham Ridge, which is really the north face of the peak. The rock is mostly solid, but there is still a lot of loose rock, mainly sitting on ledges. Protection is also scarce, since most cracks are either seams or are filled with vegetation. I used the #.5-2 Camalots I had many times, since passive pro was usually hard to place. Although some of the climbing isn't super fun, the summit is awesome with views in all directions of the surrounding mountains. The maps that cover the area are Snowdon Peak Quad for the first half of the approach, and Storm King Peak Quad for the rest of the approach and the actual mountain.

Getting There

The mountain is over ten miles from any roads, so plan on camping. The first part of the approach is to Elk Park, on the Amimas River just south of Silverton. To reach it, there are three ways. The first is to find the Molas Trail (Colorado Trail) that starts on Molas Pass (US Highway 550 between Durango and Silverton). The trailhead is on the north side of the pass, just before the road drops steeply down into Silverton. The trail drops four miles down to the river at Elk Park. Another way, which I have not done, is to hike a level four miles down the railroad tracks from Silverton to Elk Park, which might be dangerous and/or illegal. The final way to Elk Park is to take a very expensive train ride. From the bridge across the river at Elk Park, follow the railroad a few hundred feet south to the trail up Elk Creek. Follow this trail for four miles to a large beaver pond. This is the end of the easy hiking. Go around the east end of the pond on talus and follow a trail through the trees down to Elk Creek. Cross Elk Creek, and find a small but well used trail angling up and right from the creek. It is important to find this trail, and it is not obvious. This trail leads up a couple miles to the drainage below Vestal Peak. The trail is easy to follow, but is very steep. Once the trail comes down near the creek below Arrow and Electric peaks, start looking for a place to camp. I camped in this meadow, but it might be a little better to continue up a short hill to a large, flat area directly below Arrow Peak.From this lower valley, there are probably several ways to reach the base of Vestal Peak. The way I went was fairly easy, and is probably the most direct way. From the flat area below Arrow Peak, look for a nearly horizontal tree-covered ledge that angles up and left above a small cliff. Hike up to the right hand side of the ledge through a meadow and follow the ledge east. When the ledge starts to end, continue up and east through the trees and just below some small red cliffs until you hit a small stream running through talus in a gully. Either follow the gully or the rocks to the left to flat talus below Vestal and Arrow Peaks. From here, it is easy to reach the base of either peak.For the descent, go south from the summit of Vestal to a large gully with lots of loose rock. Follow a faint trail down as the gully steepens and narrows, downclimbing several short rock steps. Just before the gully widens out at the bottom, look for a cairn on the right and exit the gully above the last cliff on the right side of it. Follow another faint trail through loose rock down to the saddle between Arrow and Vestal, and continue down to the flat talus below. The descent is not bad, except for the loose rock.

3 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Vestal Peak

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c R
Wham Ridge
Trad, Alpine 10 pitches
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R
Center Shift on Wham Ridge
Trad, Alpine 6 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Wham Ridge
5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c R Trad, Alpine 10 pitches
Center Shift on Wham Ridge
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R Trad, Alpine 6 pitches
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Weather Averages

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Ben Bruestle
Pueblo, CO
Ben Bruestle   Pueblo, CO
Vestal Peak can also be approached from the NE via the Bear Town trailhead. This approach may be even more appealing to those approaching from southeastern/central Colorado since you don't have to drive to Silverton or Durango. To get to Bear Town, drive to the Rio Grande Reservoir from Creede. Continue up Stony Pass in your 4 wheel drive to the turn off for Bear Town/Kite Lake. Drive across the Rio Grande River and past the old Bear Town ghost town to the trailhead. Once at the trailhead hike to the Continental Divide trail, merge with the Colorado Trail, and then descend Elk Creek 4.4 miles to the beaver ponds.

Bear Town trailhead also offers access to Sunlight, Eolus, and Windom. Hike over Hunchback Pass, and down the Vallecito to Sunlight Creek(cross the Vallecito before Leviathan Creek). Take a trail on the north side of the Sunlight Creek up to Sunlight Lake. Above the lake you can access the saddle between Sunlight Spire and Windom Peak. The gully up to the saddle is loose wtih big rocks and icy too, watch out. Aug 26, 2002
George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
Very interesting approach beta, Ben. I had no idea one would drive so close to the head of the Vallecito from the east. With all the 4WD roads, though, doesn't it take less time to drive to Silverton and Molas Lake than this Beartown Trailhead? How good are the 4WD roads on the way to Beartown? This must be at least 20 miles of 4WD, right? Aug 26, 2002
The Beartown trailhead would work, but I don't know if it would save much time. I have only been there from Silverton. From Silverton, head northeast out of town, and head up Cunningham gulch to Stony Pass. It should be possible to make it over the pass in a 2 wheel drive with some clearance. The road to Beartown, however, is very rough. Most of it is dried up mud puddles, but toward the end it gets rocky. If you continue to Kite lake, the Continental Divide trail crosses the road shortly before it, but expect to be in 4 low most of the time for the last mile or so. It took about 45 minutes to an hour to reach the divide trail from the turn off from the stony pass/ rio grande reservoir road. Aug 30, 2002
Another thing, the continental divide trail is marked in a different spot on the maps I had. Heading east from the beartown road, the trail goes over Hunchback pass, starts down toward Vallecito Creek, and then cuts up Nebo Creek and then down to Ute Lakes. There are signs, but the maps are wrong, so it was confusing. Aug 30, 2002
Chris Wetherill in Col. Spgs. here. I approached Vestal via the standard route from Elk Park and thought the Wham went fine as a 4th Class climb. Afterwards (the next day) we backpacked E up to the head of Vestal Crk at "MF" pass and eventually made our way N and E to the Divide at the head of Elk Crk above or a little N of Kite Lk. You could reverse this for an approach but I think it's the more difficult way to go. My illustrated page is at Mtns.MartianBachelor.com/Vestal.html . Oct 29, 2002
I took a look at the approach from kite lake more this summer, it wouldn't be too bad except for one long stretch of talus and the short steep part up over the pass between stormy gulch and vestal basin. You could drop down hunchback pass on the trail, then take a side trail up stormy gulch to the pass into vestal basin, or you could start at kite lake, go up over the pass between hunchback mountain and white dome, then cut across to a pass just south of peak one. I didn't actually do the part to this point, but it didn't look bad. From this pass, there is a long section of talus down to the base of the pass into vestal basin. I don't think I would go this way if only going to vestal basin, but it is likely better if you want to check out all of the grenadiers and will be in stormy gulch anyway. Also, I said before that stony pass is doable in 2wd, but the silverton side is very steep, so going down this without low range gearing would mean riding the brakes a lot, this is the only part I use four wheel drive on the pass if it's dry, and only for the low gearing. Dec 3, 2004
Phil Lauffen
Innsbruck, AT
Phil Lauffen   Innsbruck, AT  
Me and my bud hiked out on the RR tracks yesterday to exit. We were seen only by one cart and the guy inside was chill enough to inform us how far we had left to go. So I guess its not illegal, but maybe if swarms of climbers start going out this way they'll crack down. Keep a low profile. Aug 7, 2008
Martin le Roux
Superior, CO
Martin le Roux   Superior, CO
Here are some GPS coordinates (NAD27)

If hiking from Elk Park, the trail to Vestal Basin crosses Elk Creek at 13S0270341/4177518.

The trail to the base of Vestal Peak (and Arrow) leaves the Vestal Basin trail in the meadow at 13S0270823/4175556 and crosses Vestal Creek at 13S0270817/4175486 before heading steeply uphill. Jul 27, 2009
John Korfmacher
Fort Collins, CO
John Korfmacher   Fort Collins, CO
The approach via Elk Park gets pretty difficult after turning south at the beaver ponds. The trail has a lot of down trees, and is not easy to follow, at least at night anyway (!). Look carefully where the trail becomes indistinct, or otherwise you may be bushwhacking up a steep, muddy slope above cliffs.

Persevere until you get to the upper meadow. There are good campsites there with great views of Arrow, Vestal, and West Trinity.

Save some energy for the descent. As with most San Juan peaks, there is a great deal of unstable limestone and quartzite scree and very rotten rock. Aug 31, 2009