The Grenadiers

12 May 2001 - by Paul Wilson (view roster page)

First let me say the Steve was correct. For the climb below I was probably in the best fitness I have been ever. And I had done a bunch of summits prior and and done the ride the rockies the week before. So my aerobic system had over 1000 miles on the bike and a half a dozen summits behind me at the time, plus dozens of Mt Morrison with a watch and heart monitor. But that is another story.

I consulted my mid June solo climb notes and here are some highlights. I used Garratt & Martin 13er book as a reference. But I am pretty aloof regarding routes. I make my own choices for good or for bad and I make the best of what I find.

To allow this to be a complete report here is what Chris said. He is correct.

Chris Cavallaro wrote:

Hike from molas pass or take the train to Elk Park trailhead (about five miles from Molas Pass) From elk park take the trail heading easterly, (i believe this is the Colorado trail)

Hike the main trail from Elk park about 4-5 miles or so, till the trail gradually levels out and you will come upon some small beaver ponds. Behind the beaver ponds, looking kind of SW, you'll see the Massive WHAM ridge on the left, and Arrow peak on the right. Camp here! There are great spots on the opposite side of these beaver ponds. From here, take the trail down to a river, the crossing of this river can be pretty hard, and it is tough to keep the trail. You may want to forge it, but we found a log FAR upstream to get across. Make your way up the main valley keeping the two peaks in sight, about 2-3 miles, but steep hiking (having a heavy pack would make this long going) until you are directly under the wham ridge (what a sight.) From this main drainage valley, head directly towards the wham up a short, but very steep hill. There are great 'vegetable' holds here, and needed, this is steep. Now you are in heaven, looking up at the wham ridge. The bottom of the wham is very choppy, meaning many grassy ledges. Keep hiking directly up the wham, until you hit solid rock. The pitch of the rock at the beginning is very small, so you can probably scramble up a few hundred feet until it begins to steepen out (we did easily). Keep in mind, you are on solid rock the whole way, so you may want to do a running belay from the beginning of the solid rock. Putting on harness etc., mid way up the solid rock with no anchors can be pretty sketchy.

Paul Wilson continues:

I found a trail near the drainage that started from the 11400 contour line in the flat area Chris mentions. After the marginal stream crossing and a few feet of bushwhacking I found the trail. From here the route gets really hard with some steep scree and delivered me to a camp place at 12200. From my camp Wham was on my left and Arrow was on my right. Sounds like the same place Chris camped. The small stream provided good water. Marmots were a major issue so enything edible has to be elevated and every place I used the woods was excavated by the marmots almost before I departed. Very aggressive animals. I noted that most others had camped at the base of Wham at the E. edge of a big meadow.

The route up Arrow is straight forward and follows some 3rd class+? ramps and lead you to the false summit. A short retreat will get you to the real summit. A short hike and no gear is required. A good scramble.

For Vestal-Wham I had several aborted starts due to the flour on the rock for my early season climb. Finally, I found some purchase and got on the thing. I had extensive discussions with other climbers and routes all over the Wham had been done with little concern. (The left is for rock climbers, the rest is for experienced climbers and can be done without a big rack). But, on my climb I elected to keep right to take advantage of better purchace for my mountain boots. And I avoided the water rivlets flowing from the ice melt above me. In fact I pretty much was on the W side - with signifant exposure part of the time. Great rock but the climbing was probably only 5.2/3 or so. This route is probably comparable the harder version, say, middle of Wham but not as hard as the left based on my discussions with others. The climb was uneventful and I did not need any pro, although I carried a hang belay setup in case I need to rest at a hard place. After the summit I headed SE over the next bump and found huge snow field. I found the rap station and removed the marmot eaten sling (the bolt remains) and decided my rope was too short (2-60m would be a good choice then one could get to the gentle slopes below). So I continued toward Vestal Pass and down the slopes toward Vestal Lake and to camp.

The Trinity climb was eventful. I had been warned about the bad rock at or near the summit and I grabbed a hold above me and It went South with a huge rock fall. I bailed W and went down about 10' and climbed back up to watch the boulders bouncing to the edge of the forest next to Balsam Lake. Wow, what a deal.

The route across and down the coulior required me to consult the book but it went OK from there. UNTIL, I found my way blocked by deep soft snow. No way I am going to retreat - Big mistake. I hadnt seen anybody since the car and there would be no help if required and I was booked for a 3 week adventure. No summiters since the fall. Anyway, I skirted the snow and raped down 2 or 3 times with the short rope across some unclimbable icy rock. I arrived at about 13K above Trinity lake and had to get up ~60 ft to the saddle. The rock was bad shale at a 60 or 70 degree angle but I carefully crept up and over a wimpy cornice. Fortunately the shale was interlocked so pieces could be removed to allow a toe hold This was at least an 8 as I never has a hand hold, I just pressed against the rock and reached down to make a place for each toe!!!. The exposure was signifant, however, I had no choice as I didnt think I could retreat because the raps were done to get past ice which was now melting fast and was pretty slick and a fall would be on rock. Why, you say, well, below me was a snow field which went all the way to Trinity lake so I guessed if I fell I would have a hell of a fun slide. But I was pretty pumped up by then and had visions of my ice axe and crampons still in my tent and wishing I had them on my pack. I was still wondering why I was traveling so light. Then I had to go down the shady side of the snow slope and I was on the edge of slipping for several hundred yards before I could walk with ease.

I had evaluated the snow field from Vestal Pass (S. and E.) to get to the Storm King area. I had found that even at night the snow was to soft to deal with and I didnt have my snowshoes. So I aborted continuing my adventure and had to struggle up the Molas hill with all my leftover food and fuel. Really a hard hike.

I will go back again and pick up some loose ends as I would like to do Electric & Greystone so the Molas hill is still on my agenda.

Well now my adventure is revealed. Up until now only a couple of my buddies had heard of this adventure.

I had a diaper sling, 2 lockers, 2 regular biners, 4 small stoppers, 60ft 1/4" goldline (now retired) and 4 runners. And an ice axe & crampons for ballast!! And a 70 pound pack :-)


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