Type: Trad, Alpine, 2000 ft, 10 pitches, Grade III
FA: unknown
Page Views: 54,195 total · 270/month
Shared By: Jared Brin on Jul 26, 2002
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

You & This Route

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This route is the north face of Vestal. Walk up the low angle bottom part until you get to a large, grassy ledge that diagonals up and right. This is where I roped up, but there is a large ledge with boulders sitting on it 2.5 pitches up that is visible from here that would also provide a good spot to rope up. There are many possible routes, this is the one that I took. The first 3 or 4 pitches are very easy. Head up toward the blocks that are visible above that are to the right of a large right facing dihedral. On the fourth pitch, the face begins to become more blocky and steeper. The fifth and sixth pitches are the hardest (maybe spots of 5.5) and the most fun as the face transitions to low angle and smooth to steep and blocky. Pitches 7-9 continue up a sort of bowl in the upper part of the face with ledges separated by steps and end on a false summit. From here, follow a trail south and up to the summit. It isn't necessary to stay roped up, but there is still exposure. All pitches were full 60 meter pitches, basically climb until you run out of rope and find an anchor.


Bring a set of stoppers, a few larger hexes (I brought Metolius #7-9 and used them a lot) and some finger to hand sized cams. I used the #0.5-2 Camalots I had many times, but only used the #3 once or twice. A couple more finger sized cams would have been helpful. The only fixed gear I saw were two old pitons, one about halfway up, and one near the top. Good anchors were difficult to find at first, but after the first few pitches they were easier to find. I placed very little gear except for anchors, since I wanted to save the cams I had for the anchors, and placing passive pro was usually time consuming and difficult.


George Bell
Boulder, CO
George Bell   Boulder, CO
FA: Rit Burrows, Werner Schnackenberg and Jim Patterson, 7/18/1941. Garry Roach's 13er guide has a detailed description of this route, and claims that the rather right (west) you go on the ridge (face, really) the easier it is. Aug 20, 2002
I did a line on the Wham Ridge sometime in the mid 1980's over a July 4th weekend. It was very "Flatiron"-like: lower angle down low, steeper higher. I recall the roped climbing to be easy, but I do remember a big slab of old ice cutting loose and crashing into many pieces just a few hundred feet right of our line. The descent off the backside was steep 4th class, but uneventful. We also did a nice line, slightly harder, on the east side of Arrow Peak right next door. This is a beautiful valley for camping and alpine rambling off the beaten track. Aug 23, 2002
Kevin Craig  
We did this route on 7/1/03. Vestal and Arrow were totally bare of snow unlike many other north-facing slopes we could see. The Trinities had snow left in their east-facing gullies. The route info in the Roach & Roach 13'er book is right on! Hike up to the highest grassy ramp, traverse all the way to the right edge of the face, hike up low angle rock to a broken ledge on the right edge of the face, rope up, climb a 60m pitch up an obvious crack system (excellent pro) to another big ledge, climb another crack (crux) with excellent pro to another big ledge - 60m, if you choose, climb another pitch of 100' or so to yet another big ledge where the broken upper face begins. From here solo or short-rope/simulclimb to the summit up an obvious broken gully and face.

The 5.4 route is definitely not an "s" climb unless you rope up *way* early (and maybe not even then).Experienced teams competent at the grade will likely feel the desire for a rope/belay only for the middle (crux) pitch I've described (we had a relative newbie to technical alpine rock along). Anchors were all slung blocks/boulders. My rack: 1 set of nuts, tri-cams (pink thru 2nd blue), Aliens (green - orange), Friends (2.5, 3, 3.5), 5 shoulder-length slings with 'biners, 5 double-length slings with 'biners.This was more than enough. No really big or small gear needed. A 60m rope is very advisable to get to the good belays. Have fun! I'll post pictures soon.

Definitely not an "s" climb. Excellent pro. Jul 7, 2003
Did the 5.4 route 8/19/03 with a team of three. This was our first multi-pitch trad route and it was amazing. Never had trouble finding ample protection. The route has a lot of class 4 moves, so felt comfortable with long runouts, though could have easily put pieces in. Route finding was relatively easy... after the solid pitches, you get to 1 pitch with lots of loose rock. Pro is still easy, just mind the rockfall. At the top of this, you go through kind of a keyhole, out onto the grassy ledges. We weren't entirely comfortable going unroped straight up the ledges (after the bottom ledge is a huge drop) so we switch-backed up and to the right, and then roped in again for one final pitch. We had two sets of stoppers, could have gotten by with one. Tri-cams from 0.5 to 3, and doubles on the smaller sizes, and then friends 2X1, 2 and 3, and I don't think we used the 3. Haven't really gotten comfortable using hexes yet; we brought BD 8, 9 and 10, but only used the 8. I think we had about 4 triple and 3 double slings for slinging boulders. There were only three places where we had to extend a piece of pro longer than a quickdraw. We had a 50m rope, but a 60 really would have helped as we had a couple of pitches cut short. We did the class 2 route down the south side. From the summit to the south is the class 4 route. Walk towards it and then a little to the left, you should see a cairn over the ridge on the left leading to the class 2 gully. All-in-all, a great climb, highly recommended. Oh yeah, and if you see my #11 stopper stuck at about the third belay, can you grab it for me? Aug 27, 2003
Myself, Karen B, and Joel A, climbed this route 8/21/03. This was an incredible route, very nice, solid rock, beautiful views, good pro.

We started the route at 8:00 am and roped up at the top of the grassy ledges. We simulclimbed/shortroped most of the route, except for three fast pitches around the route's crux (5.4). Even on those three pitches, both seconds simulclimbed with a belay and about 15' between them. All the climbing was easy, ranging from low angle friction to buckets. We had some difficulties on the upper section finding a nice clean line, but never encountered anything there harder than upper 4th class. The pro was generally excellent, though I didn't feel the need to place often. We reached the summit just after noon, enjoyed lunch and the view, then headed down the Southeast gully route. The descent route is a little scary in places, be especially careful on the "dues collector" scree slope between Arrow and Vestal.

Rack: 1 60 m rope, 1 set nuts, cams from small TCUs to #3 Camalot, Tricams .5-3, 2 quickdraws, 2 2' runners, 3 4' runners, webbing & cordalette for anchors. This was more than enough gear. Oh, and we found your #11 nut -- used it but couldn't get it out either.

Another climber reported climbing the route the day before--he says he soloed it in one hour. Sep 11, 2003
Matt Juth
Matt Juth   Evergreen
Been a while, but I do remember it being a wonderful route in an amazing place. There are also a couple other good lines up the North Face Aug 19, 2005
Fun mountain in a great setting. We hiked in a short (80ft.) rope and some nuts but ended up just soloing it. Super fun! I'd call it 5.6, at least the way we went. I couldn't have been too far off route, because I passed a fixed pin near the top.

I lost my gps on the approach (somewhere in between Elk Creek and Vestal Basin), so if you find a gps summit, lemme know! Jan 30, 2007
Craig Childre
Lubbock, Texas
Craig Childre   Lubbock, Texas
My uncle Mark took this route on back in the late 80s. Waffle stompers, with a touch of rain to keep it interesting, and no rope. Together with Lance, they opted for the most direct line straight up the middle of the face. It was fun to watch from camp, when the clouds lifted enough. Mar 12, 2008
Los Alamos, NM
scotthsu   Los Alamos, NM
Trip report from our climb on July 2, 2005. Oct 10, 2008
Encountered some scary rockfall on the unstable screefield at the end of the descent. It's hard to imagine not sending a lot of large, loose stuff down, no matter how careful you are.

Does anyone have any experience with hugging the base of the cliff for this part of the descent? Our afterthought was that that might be a better way to go.

Apart from this part of the descent, fantastic climb. The view from the top is extraordinary. Jul 30, 2009
Tim and I just got back from the Vestal yesterday, June 25th, 2010. We climbed Wham on June 21st. We did go by the piton as well as a cam. The weather couldn't have been better. From the video, you'll see we started on the right cracks. Also we have a shot of our gear. It was good to read Roach beforehand. Wish it was an easier downhill climb back to Vestal. It took us almost 14 hours from camp back to camp. We climbed in heavy hiking boots. The slide show is below. It was a fantastic alpine trad climb on great quartzite. Very much worth the hike.

just Sam

youtube.com/watch?v=4FRQ3_q… Jun 26, 2010
Matt Thorum
Urbana, IL
Matt Thorum   Urbana, IL
Had the route to ourselves last week. Fun climbing with good pro when you want it, pretty run out over the easy ground, the actual 5th class sections are short. Classic for its appearance and setting. Got off route climber's right up high and had to make a few more moderate 5th class moves before downclimbing left off a ridge into the 4th class "bowl" that heads up to the top. Jul 20, 2010
Matt Payne
Colorado Springs, CO
Matt Payne   Colorado Springs, CO
Loved this climb. Here is my trip report.

100summits.com/trip-reports… Jul 29, 2010
Santa Monica, Ca.
YDPL8S   Santa Monica, Ca.
Matt, that is the finest group of pictures of that area that I have ever seen. It took me right back there, my brain had started to lose the memory of the grandeur of that magical place.

An old climbing buddy of mine and Outward Bound instructor (mid to late '70s), John Lafferty, used to take groups of students up that thing in K-mart flip flops that he had altered into "climbing flops" by putting Vibram soles on the bottom and Astro Turf on the top! Jul 30, 2010
Matt Payne
Colorado Springs, CO
Matt Payne   Colorado Springs, CO
Thanks for the kind words. Sounds like he was making the first version of Chacos haha. :-) Aug 2, 2010
Chris Wenker
Santa Fe
Chris Wenker   Santa Fe
The direct start from the lower right-hand side of the face adds several hundred feet of fun slab leading directly up to the main grassy ledge. Mostly 3rd, a little 4th class; easy solo. Nowhere near 5.3, as reported by Roach. Sep 20, 2010
Laurel Arndt
Laurel Arndt   Phoenix
Have wanted to do this route for 3-4 years in a one day push, but only one crazy partner who never seemed available. Finally got the ok this past Aug. 2010. Despite very bad weather, we headed to CO and somehow we got a window. All went well except for getting onto the trail above the train tracks, other than it goes fast. Got spit on at the base of the climb, we waiting and miraculously it dried up (gotta love granite and sunshine). Hiked off the back (chose the 4th class descent, doh), but nonetheless made it back out.

What a beautiful trip....a one day push is the ultimate way to go..fast and light Jan 12, 2011
e Dixon
Durango, Colorado
  Easy 5th
e Dixon   Durango, Colorado
  Easy 5th
Did it in a day from Molas Pass...not bad at all, and definitely the way to go. Bring a small pack with some food, clothes, and a little water (plenty along the way). Can't imagine humping all that gear in for this thing, it's mostly 4th class. Outstanding outing. Jun 19, 2011
Kyle Christie
Davis, CA
Kyle Christie   Davis, CA
Why does this route warrant the R rating? Not much discussion whether it's actually an R climb. Thanks. Feb 19, 2012
Santa Monica, Ca.
YDPL8S   Santa Monica, Ca.
Maybe because it's so easy and fun, and steepens so gradually, that complacency lulls you into not placing protection until you get to your belay. I know that happened to me. Feb 22, 2012
Ray Hellinger
Gunnison, CO
Ray Hellinger   Gunnison, CO
The only way you could give this route and R, is if you are roping up. If you fall without a rope in some spots, it's an X. However, no one uses a rope as it's not really needed if you have some climbing experience. A non-climber "peak bagger" could get hosed on this route. Someone died here a few yrs ago. Anyway, I seriously don't know where the 5.4 rating comes from. It's just "easy fifth class" (is there any such thing as 5.4? haha). Jul 3, 2012
flagstaff, AZ
markguycan   flagstaff, AZ
Uhhhh - awesome climb!!
Actually about 16 mi round trip and 5000ft gain.
3mi hike on good trail from D&SNGRR drop off at Elk Park ($95), then 2.5mi up steep climber's trail to Vestal Basin (waterfall camp). Continue up climber's trail to terminal moraine field between Arrow and Vestal Peaks. Access the grassy diagonal ramp on Wham from the left. Begin easy 5th class climb on the far right. Many ways to go, we ended up doing a short 5.8 crux which could have been avoided. Descend south from the true summit down a well-travelled but unmarked steep and loose gully. Watch for cairns (about 400 vertical feet) to tell you when to head right toward the Arrow saddle. Descend nasty talus slope from saddle (about 300ft) then access "golden" medial moraine ridge and follow cairned path of least resistance (1mi) to terminal moraine and descend to meadow camp.

We did this as a simul-climb in 4 or 5 pushes. We used 90 ft of rope, a few nuts and 6 small cams largest being a #1 Camalot. The descent is the hardest part.
see: track map Oct 3, 2014
Forrest Williams
Forrest Williams   Denver
Regarding the descent: after following the cairn that appears on your right as you descend the initial gully, I found myself at steep chimney with bail slings (not a confidence inspiring placement). I lowered my partner off a gear anchor and downclimbed the loose chimney. After talking to a guide, it seems the appropriate descent is more or less down one of the small gullies below the initial scree slope. Perhaps this descent should be better marked by someone in the know and the cairn to the downclimb we followed knocked down. Aug 20, 2015
Arch Richardson
Grand Junction
Arch Richardson   Grand Junction
The best descent scrambles SW from the summit to an elevation of 13300, then heads NW following the strata (and cairns) to the Arrow-Vestal saddle at 13000. Ignore the cairn visible on the skyline to the right (W) at about 13500; it leads to very difficult terrain as noted in the previous post and should be removed. Aug 22, 2015
Climbed 8/13/16. We brought a full set stoppers and micros, BD cams #0.5-#3 (doubles #0.75-#2) and the four smallest Metolius tri-cams. Only used stoppers 5-11, and cams #1, #2, #3, three smallest Metolius. I think you could get away with just stoppers and hexes on this route. My partner used climbing shoes, I stayed in approach shoes. I agree best descent is straight S to SW to 13,300', find the faint path back W to NW to the saddle. Peak to saddle is ledgy 4th with lots of loose stuff, saddle to the col is a scree nightmare full of ankle biters. If approaching from Molas, about 10 miles road to buttress below Vestal, about 4,200' gain/loss dropping to Animas River and climbing to Vestal Basin - one way. Aug 15, 2016
Denver, CO currently
A-K   Denver, CO currently
Was happy to have a rope on this one. Though, I see how/why so many people solo it.

We brought thin 30m rope and a rack of nuts and BD #0.4, 0.5 x2, 0.75 x2, 1 x2, and a #2 which was more than enough. We climbed it in 4 long simul pitches, and it was super cruiser. I would highly recommend this way for the confident but non-soloing types.

Off the back side, we found the left side gullies a little more stable, then hang hard right when you reach flatter ground towards arrow - not bad at all in the light.

Props to people who do this in a day, because the hills on the hike in & out are brutal! Pack light! Sep 7, 2016