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Vestal Peak

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Vestal Peak Rock Climbing 

Photos:  Recent | Best | Popular
Elevation: 13,664'
Location: 37.6894, -107.602 View Map  Incorrect?
Page Views: 38,592
Administrators: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Jared Brown on Aug 16, 2002
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Arrow Peak, Vestal's neighbor to the west, after t...


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.

Climbing Season

Weather station 8.4 miles from here

3 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',2],['3 Stars',1],['2 Stars',0],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',0]

Classic Climbing Routes in Vestal Peak

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Vestal Peak:
Wham Ridge   5.4 4a 12 IV 10 VD 3c R     Trad, Alpine, 10 pitches, 2000'   
Center Shift on Wham Ridge    5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R     Trad, Alpine, 6 pitches, 1000'   
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Vestal Peak

Featured Route For Vestal Peak
Rock Climbing Photo: View of the start we took on "Center Shift.&q...

Center Shift on Wham Ridge 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Colorado : Alpine Rock : ... : Vestal Peak
Fun alpine climbing on Grenadier quartzite. Exposed, but you won't find the climb to be difficult if you're in climbing shape, have mountain experience, and come prepared to be in the mountains (this is still remote alpine climbing).Instead of climbing the "casual" route, which is the true ridge line of Wham Ridge - i.e., sticking to the right-most ridge line (arete) - climb straight up the middle/center of the Wham face. Again, the climbing's not difficult, but a little harder than the 5.3-5.4 ...[more]   Browse More Classics in Colorado

Photos of Vestal Peak Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Profile of Vestal Peak from Arrow Peak.
BETA PHOTO: Profile of Vestal Peak from Arrow Peak.
Rock Climbing Photo: Vestal from East Trinity.
Vestal from East Trinity.
Rock Climbing Photo: Vestal from Peak Two.
Vestal from Peak Two.
Rock Climbing Photo: Wham Ridge in profile as viewed from the east.
Wham Ridge in profile as viewed from the east.
Rock Climbing Photo: Beautiful.
Rock Climbing Photo: Friendly....
Rock Climbing Photo: Vestal in the clouds.
Vestal in the clouds.
Rock Climbing Photo: The CO State Columbine with Vestal behind.  Taken ...
The CO State Columbine with Vestal behind. Taken ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking east to Storm King, et al.
Looking east to Storm King, et al.
Rock Climbing Photo: From Elk Creek.
From Elk Creek.
Rock Climbing Photo: Emily Deitz nearing the top on Vestal, 2002.
Emily Deitz nearing the top on Vestal, 2002.
Rock Climbing Photo: The west face of Vestal. Wham Ridge is on the left...
The west face of Vestal. Wham Ridge is on the left...
Rock Climbing Photo: Vestal Peak.
Vestal Peak.
Rock Climbing Photo: Almost there....
Almost there....
Rock Climbing Photo: Getting ready to guide....
Getting ready to guide....
Rock Climbing Photo: Wham Ridge
BETA PHOTO: Wham Ridge
Rock Climbing Photo: Awesome morning at sunrise…. Great to solo the ri...
Awesome morning at sunrise…. Great to solo the ri...
Rock Climbing Photo: Wham Ridge from Vestal Basin.
Wham Ridge from Vestal Basin.

Comments on Vestal Peak Add Comment
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By Ben Bruestle
From: Pueblo, CO
Aug 26, 2002
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.
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 26, 2002
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?
By Jared Brown
Aug 30, 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.
By Jared Brown
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.
By Anonymous Coward
Oct 29, 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 .
By Jared Brown
Dec 3, 2004
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.
By Phil Lauffen
From: The Bubble
Aug 7, 2008
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.
By Martin le Roux
From: Superior, CO
Jul 27, 2009
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.
By John Korfmacher
From: Fort Collins, CO
Aug 31, 2009
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.

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