* I did these peaks with Arrow Peak as a weekend hike. CalTopo put the entire route at 41 miles, 10511′ of elevation gain, Strava gave me 30.9 miles and 15795′ of elevation gain. Either way, it was a good workout (see photos at end). Approach directions can be found here.
After hiking Arrow Peak I decided to get a look in the daylight at the approach to the Trinities. I continued southeast along the same trail I’d hiked in on until I came to the area where I was supposed to begin the ascent up to the Trinities
However, when I got there I noticed there wasn’t a place to set up camp, and the area had a lot of water. I couldn’t find a good place to cross the water without getting seriously wet. I did not want to start a hike early in the morning wet and cold.
I thought about the route for a minute, went through some pictures I’d taken earlier in the day from Arrow Peak, and decided to continue along the trail for a bit to see if I could find a better spot to set up camp, and a better entry point. This hike is a loop, so I just continued heading southeast. The trail became more and more faint as I hiked along
After hiking for a mile and a half I came to the area I intended to spend the night at 11,970’. There were waterfalls here, a creek, willows, and a few trees.
I set up a bivy under a tree, filtered some water, ate an early dinner, and jotted notes down in my journal.
There was a 20% chance of rain today, and wouldn’t you know it? It started to rain. Also, the clouds looked like they were going to attack me.
Luckily the rain stopped and I decided to head over to the creek again. This creek looked much easier to cross then the marshy area, but in the interest of not needing to change out of my hiking boots and into my sandals tomorrow morning (thus eliminating unnecessary gear) I decided to build a rock bridge over the creek. I put on my water sandals and got to work. It was my intention to hike up this side of the mountain and connect with the proper trail once in the basin. I wasn’t 100% sure the route ‘went’ but it seemed like a better option than ascending from below. I figured it this didn’t work I’d turn around and start with East Trinity instead, and get wet on my way out.
When I was done making the rock bridge it was still too early to go to sleep. There wasn’t much to do so I relaxed, enjoyed the view, and broke out the whiskey. Before the day was out I had about 16oz of whiskey (I knew because I’d placed it in a marked sports bottle. Also, I have a high tolerance for alcohol and don’t get hangovers so this isn’t out of character for me). I saw a group of hikers come over the pass and head towards me. They were doing Vestal tomorrow and were looking for a place to camp for the night. I told they they’d have better luck near the approach and they were off. Not long after that I went to bed. It was still early, but it had been a long day. Whiskey puts me to sleep.
I woke up well before my alarm. It was still dark out but there was a full moon and I could see the mountains clearly. I saw shooting stars and thought to myself how lucky I was to be here right now. I was actually warm (that’s rare for me when I backpack) and I didn’t want to get up. I also didn’t need to for a while. I watched clouds come in and started to worry: there was a 40% chance of rain after noon today and I didn’t want to get stuck in the rain while on the traverse. I’d heard from other hikers yesterday it took about 8 hours to complete. I did some math in my head and decided to get up and get going. The last time the weather had said 40% chance of rain after noon I got caught in a thunderstorm at 9:30am.
I’d prepped most of my gear last night, so this morning all I had to do was roll up my sleeping bag and put away my bivy sack and ground cover. I filtered some more water and I was off. (side note: I’ve had the same water filter since 1998, and wouldn’t you know it, they’ve improved since then? This week I bought a gravity bag water filter, and it’s AMAZING! I can fill my entire water bottle in 2 minutes, and since there’s a lot of water in the area I convinced myself to drink as much as possible this weekend. Normally I don’t drink while hiking, but this weekend I filled up my Nalgene 3 times!)
It was just beginning to get light out when I set off at 5am. I hiked straight up the side of the mountain, and when I reached the top I was thrilled to see my idea had worked: the route easily connected with the trail (there wasn’t a trail exactly, but the routes lined up and I was now going in the right direction).
There were several headlamps already shining on Wham Ridge. Looks like they got an even earlier start than I did. Smart. I was a little worried about the cloud cover. I could see rain in the distance and the clouds were forming fast. I told myself I’d keep going until I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t feel my real point of no return would come until I summited West Trinity and decided to either head back or continue on for the day.
I dipped down a bit into the basin and headed south towards the ridge. There seemed to be a couple of options to ascent the ridge. I chose the gully directly in front of me.
The gully started out with large boulders and ended with scree. I took it slow and kept an eye on the weather.
At the top of the gully I turned left and headed east to the saddle. This was a very simple trek that followed a faint trail behind the ridge.
The first part of this trek was simple and straightforward as I hiked up the ridge
Then it became more tricky. There were no cairns here. I stayed on the south side of the mountain and continued climbing east. I encountered a series of class 4 gullies and took them up. There were several gullies and they all seemed to ‘go’. (Side note: when I got home I pulled up 4 different GPX files of this route and none of them lined up in this area, so it seems there are several ways to climb this part).
The gullies eventually brought me to the ridge, which I followed to the summit
I summited West Trinity Peak at 8am
West Trinity Peak
The weather looked like it would hold so I made the decision to continue towards Trinity Peak (also, I didn’t want to downclimb those gullies! Definitely do this traverse west to east if you’re not a fan of downclimbing gullies, as the gullies don’t quit and you’d have to downclimb every one of them heading east to west).
I continued southeast towards the West Trinity/Trinity Saddle
Instead of following the ridge, take the gully down. It’s class 2 and leads you to the saddle. You won’t be losing any unnecessary elevation.
Interestingly, there were cairns between West Trinity and Trinity Peak. This is interesting because they would have been useful elsewhere, but were only present for this short section.
Don’t stick to the ridge, but follow the cairns as they skirt the south side of the mountain
The cairns (circled in red) were very helpful here
They led me to a class 4 chimney. Climbing today seemed extremely easy. It was really nice to just hike with a flimsy drawstring pack instead of my normal backpack. The difference in my climbing ability was amazing. I wasn’t off center and pulling myself up was a breeze.
At the top of the chimney you’ll want to keep heading right towards the ledge, but DON’T DO THIS!!! I did, and I can tell you that ledge is super scary (but doable if you hug the ridge: there’s less than a foot of space to walk on and not much room when the boulders bulge out). However, you’ll need to do it twice because it doesn’t go anywhere and cliffs out.
Instead, go left and you’ll once again find cairns that will lead you north and then east to the summit
I summited Trinity Peak at 9:25am. It took less than an hour and a half to get from the summit of West Trinity to Trinity.
Here’s a look over at East Trinity Peak
I took the gully down to the saddle of Trinity/East Trinity
The entire time I was descending I kept my eye on East Trinity, looking for the best way to ascend. It looked to me like the best option would be to keep towards the center until the end, where I wanted to summit towards the left to avoid any difficult traverse there may be if I topped out on the right (side note: there didn’t appear to be any difficulties if I’d chosen to summit to the right instead). You can’t see it in this picture, but at the very top there are two chimneys to the left. Take the one on the right (I cliffed out about 10 feet from the summit and had to retreat and find a different route).
At the saddle there was a gully to cross before heading up
Once inside the gully the rock was surprisingly stable, but there were a lot of large rocks that were easy to kick down, so if you’re hiking with a partner be careful not to dislodge rocks.
The only time I had trouble was when I got towards the top. Like I said before, stick to the left, and then choose the gully to the right.
This was class 4 climbing.
To my left I saw another ‘kissing camel’ formation. The cool thing about this one is it includes a heart
After taking the wrong route, cliffing out and backtracking, I headed a little more south and found an area I could climb and make it to the ridge
I was thrilled when I topped out and could see the summit an easy hike away!
I summited East Trinity Peak at 10:30am. It had taken me less than an hour to make it to East Trinity from Trinity.
East Trinity Peak
Here’s a look back at Trinity Peak. I was talking with someone on my hike out who told me she’d attempted the traverse a few years ago, but couldn’t find a way to summit Trinity Peak. They’d ‘missed the peak’. If you’re unable to find the access points, or want to keep this part of the hike class 2 (or easy class 3), just make your way to the Trinity/East Trinity saddle and hike back up the gully to summit Trinity Peak (shown below)
Time to head back down. The ridge down from East Trinity was straightforward.
With a couple of surprisingly steep sections
I made it to the saddle and scree-surfed down the gully to the lake
I skirted the right side of the lake and headed back down to my camping area
Here’s a look back at the route I took down from the East Trinity ridge
I made it to my stashed gear at 11:22am. The traverse had taken me just under 6.5 hours to complete. Notes on the traverse: It’s very committing, there’s a lot of route finding, and I felt in the route I took there were a lot of class 4 moves. I got a lot of good scrambling practice in, and honestly wish I would have attempted this traverse earlier: I felt like I leveled up in my class 4 climbing skills, and I was deliriously happy with this hike. And the weather had held! Woot!
I filtered some more water, took off my shoes to air out my feet, and ate a couple of sliced mangoes (my first food of the day: I get nauseous when I eat and hike but figured I needed some calories for the way out).
Time to head out. I found a stick that made a great trekking pole to replace the one I’d lost yesterday and headed out the same way I headed in, after about a mile of wading through willows and water to find the trail.
Connecting back up with the class 1 trail that would lead me to the beaver ponds, through the avalanche area, straddling the creek and bringing me back to the Animas River. I saw a ton of people on the trail, and talked to every one of them.
Once at the river I crossed the bridge and sat down for a while to rest before tackling the 4 miles and 1700’ of elevation gain back up to Molas Pass. I took off my shoes and soaked my feet in the river, filtered more water, and tried to eat a packet of tuna (I ate half). There were CT hikers across the river from me. They shouted and asked if I minded if they bathed. I’ve been there, and I didn’t care. They seemed overjoyed at the idea of a bath, and I wasn’t going to deny them that gift.
There were mosquitoes and fleas here so I didn’t stay long. I packed my gear back up and started switchbacking up the mountain to Molas Pass
I left my newfound trekking pole at the information sign and made it back to my truck at 6pm. It had taken me about an hour and 45 minutes to hike those 4 miles and 1700’ from the river. I got different mileages/elevations from Strava and CalTopo for my triup, so I’ll leave those here.
In the end, I was thrilled I’d decided to hike today! Sometimes it’s really difficult to get started, but once I’m going I’m really enjoying myself, and the sense of accomplishment I get from summiting peaks and challenging myself is amazing.
Also, I’ve done this approach as a day hike (with Vestal) and this time backpacking for Arrow and the Trinities. For me a day hike is absolutely the way to go: The extra weight made the trek in and out so much more tiring than it needed to be. Long days don’t bother me. Everyone’s different, but I much more enjoyed the hike in and out from Vestal than I did this time.