A Weminuche Dozen, Part II: Grenadier Gluttony

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The bulk of the Grenadier Range (Silex, Storm King, the Trinity Peaks, and Vestal) seen from the summit of The Guardian.

…continued from Part I

As related in Part the First, we drove from Denver and hiked into Leviathan basin on day one, losing the way to the lake in the dark, but then managing a textbook traverse to Jagged pass in the predawn hours of day two, leading to the reward of the thrill and majesty of Jagged, subsequently fun slab scrambling on neighboring Leviathan, and concluding with the expansive views afforded from Vallecito.

Jagged and Leviathan from Vallecito.

Jagged and Leviathan from Vallecito.

After returning to camp from these three peaks early in the afternoon, we decided to move from the surprisingly flat spot on the hillside to a premier creekside location 150 feet lower and closer to the Peak Nine ridge line. This creek is shown on the topo map and it falls steeply into the northern part of Leviathan basin from the unnamed lake by peak Nine.

Day 3: Peak Seven, Peak Nine, Storm King Peak, and Peak Six

Friday morning, we awoke in the dark and began making our way west-northwest, under the unseen ramparts of Peak Nine as we followed the stream into the upper basin between peaks Nine, Eight, and Seven. We began south of the stream, climbing steep grass and weaving among scattered trees and willows, but found a relative flat spot to cross over to the north and enjoy easier grassy and talus slopes.

We’d planned to Peak Nine first, as it’s the most difficult, but opted for Peak Seven, since it was not yet dawn. We made our way up the talus guarding Seven’s upper slopes, and the red rays of the rising sun met us as we engaged the middle section.

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Sunrise and the silhouettes.

We summited between 6:35 and 6:40 am and took a few minutes to snack and enjoy the views. The dawn cast all the peaks in silhouette to our east, while the Needles sprawled before us to the south, and the capital “G”s of the Grenadiers – Vestal, Arrow, and the Trinities – were crowned by the newly-risen sun.

Peak 7 N to Jagged

Our research before the trip told us the ridge connecting Six and Seven was not feasible and this golden view confirmed it for us.

Summit of Peak Seven at sunrise.

Retracing our ascent route carefully but efficiently, we arrived at the pond between peaks Seven and Eight at 7:30. Eight is a craggy beast and would be troublesome for peakbaggers, were it ranked.

Eight sunhit

Eight’s intimidating west face.

Making our way around the pond, we descended toward the significant but unnamed lake west of Peak Nine. Hugging the talus slope beneath Eight, we soon began slogging up the jumble of rocks in the gully between peaks Eight and Nine. A rib splits the lower part of this gully. Once above the rib, we then bee-lined across the junk on a convenient use-path to the entrance to the lower ledge that transverses Peak Nine.

gully trav to 9 ledge

Approach to the entrance ledge on Nine.

This ramp begins a romp adorned with wildflowers, and it continues about three-quarters across Nine’s southern face. It seems that the route has been well-cairned in recent years, as we simply followed this ramp until we found easy access upward that was marked by a cairn. If you look for the cairns and go by the mantra that anything harder than class 3 is off-route, then you’ll stick to the route. With two sets of eyes, we stuck to the route fairly easily, making it to the summit at 9:35, about 1 hour and 25 minutes from gaining the lower ramp.

On the ramp.

One thing about the route: once it begins climbing, don’t try to gain the ridge too quickly. The route does an ascending traverse up various ledges, and after the ridge is gained, there are two intervals — one fairly lengthy — where you deviate to the north side. Most of this north-side terrain is class two, although there is one steep awkward step.

Way up to Nine ridge (cairn top right).

Way up to Nine ridge (cairn top right of center).

“Chute of Columbines” north of ridge that begins the class two breezeway on this side.

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Peak Nine summit block.

Nine summit

Ben’s happy to be on Nine’s summit; Storm King, Trinities & Vestal behind.

Storm King from Nine’s summit.

We spent very little time on the summit, as we didn’t want our memory of the route to fade, and that tactic paid off, as we reversed the route fluidly. As we made our way down the upper part of the lower ramp, we ran into 14er member D’Arcy, and his companion, Marianne

Reversing the ridge on Nine

Reversing the ridge on Nine.

Scrambling on Nine’s summit ridge.

After leaving Nine, we slogged the upper half of the Eight-Nine gully, which led to a small talus-choked basin. Ben walked straight across to the saddle facing us to the northwest, while I contoured right to avoid losing ground. From this saddle, we then descended a short, grungy talus-and-scree gully before wrapping around to walk on grass (grass!) between Storm King and the Eight.

I wished I’d researched Storm King better. I only had the one report from Derek and it had been ruined by a Camelback leakage. On our exit from the Weminuche, we ran into Roger Linfield, who described a class 3-4 route on Storm King’s west ridge. So we could have gone directly north from our Eight bypass to hit this ridge. As it was, we aimed eastward to Storm King’s south ridge. After steep annoying scree, we came to a notch and had to downclimb left, so we then ascended the descent gully. Between one-third and one-half of the way up, we made the poor choice to venture up ledges to the left. These ledges and ribs would present delightful scrambling to the summit, if they were not covered in kitty litter. We persevered, reached the top to enjoy the views, and visited with two Outward Bound guides who had climbed the technical route on the north face, summiting just a few minutes after us.

Storm King south gully

Storm King south gully.

Storm King’s south face with Peaks Eight and Nine in the background.

As we descended the gully, we still had not decided whether to continue to Silex and then Guardian, or Peak Six. The latter was farthest away, but we’d missed it the day prior. The former two made the most sense, but if weather moved in, they’d be harder to vacate. Reaching the Storm King-Nine saddle and looking over to the Silex-Nine saddle decided the matter: neither of us liked the prospect of crossing the steeply-sloped terrain above the cliff.

Silex from base of Storm King

Silex from base of Storm King.

So we went back around Peak Eight, and then, some much-needed refreshment in the lake south of Nine. It was too cold for swimming, but dousing feet and face felt invigorating, and we probably spent a half-hour enjoying the cold water and drying off on sun-drenched rocks. The sky was blue and it was the rare day where this type of indulgence could go unpunished.

Perfect in every way for a dip.

Leaving the lake, we headed due south, climbing a modest grassy slope and then staying as high as possible to contour to the southeast around Seven. Initially, the terrain remained flower-filled turf, but as we continued beneath the Six-Seven ridge, it turned to more of my favorite talus and boulder fields.

contour after lake to Six

Contouring from the lake to Six.

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The view back about 2/3 of the way from Nine lake to Six’s east face.

Turning the corner to climb the east slopes of Six revealed a face full of scree and talus. About one-third of the way up, the ledges of a broken cliff band gave a brief respite, but steep climbing up loose rock was the order of the day. Still, it wasn’t too bad: this slope took me 50 minutes (a few minutes less for Ben). Reaching Six at just before 5 (read that out loud), the westering sun treated us to the glories of the Weminuche, with lakes on three sides of us and rugged, aesthetic peaks all around us.

Ben's view east to Leviathan lake and peak as I reach the summit of Six.

Ben’s view east to Leviathan lake and peak as I reach the summit of Six.

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Peak Six summit with upper Noname basin to the right.

To descend, we headed down Six’s south ridge a little way before picking our way down an initially scree-filled gully that soon became choss-choked but still passable. Choss for the feet; splendor for the eyes: but a truly wonderful day in the Weminuche.

Day 4: Mt. Silex, The Guardian, and the pack up Vallecito

We awoke the morning of day four and made our way east, essentially paralleling the peekaboo Leviathan trail at a higher elevation beneath Peak Nine. En route, we found a trail (not appearing on the Trails Illustrated map) that leads to the basin east of Nine that gives access to the south faces of Silex and The Guardian. Not knowing where this trail led and thinking perhaps it was the main trail that we lost in the night on our approach, we abandoned it early to scamper up some ledges, only to find the cliff of Nine’s southeastern edge, necessitating a downclimb to talus. Follow the trail!

This talus slope marked the opening of the small basin south of Silex and Guardian, and led to more talus. Used to this by now, we continued up the basin, aiming for a low point on the west ridge of Silex. The slopes did not look too steep but my calves informed me that my eyes were mistaken. At least the the talus gave way to scree and dirt, with some occasional vegetation and broken ledges.

Silex Guardian basin

Silex/Guardian basin.

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Nearing Silex west ridge and view west to Nine.

Once on the ridge, the route is straightforward, with one tower to bypass on the right. While mostly class two, some class three scrambling presented itself. None of the summits in this range presents poor views. From Silex, Storm King presented a formidable, fantastic profile. Gazing west granted views of peaks from the prior two days, with the Pigeon/Animas group beyond; while gazing south presented the majesty of Sunlight and Windom.

Storm King from Silex.

Sunlight and Windom from Silex.

Sunlight (r) and Windom (l) from Silex.

After enjoying the views and the warmth of the early morning sun, we trekked down the north ridge, quickly deviating west from the ridge line to pick our way down ledges. We remembered from Derek’s (“Furthermore’s”) trip report that he’d dropped significantly below the ridge. We think we did not drop down as far, as we continually had to downclimb from one ledge to another, and it seems that Derek managed a more straightforward, linear traverse.

Dropping down ledges en route to The Guardian

Dropping down ledges en route to The Guardian.

Derek’s report also mentioned an ascent gully to the east of The Guardian’s summit. There are rows of ledges transversing the Guardian’s upper pitches and I wanted to launch for one of these, but Ben reminded me of my lesson from Nine yesterday: the taming of the POMRanian. There would be no seeking the path of most resistance on this trip. So we contoured well below these upper ledges, until the eastern came into view, and then found a suitable class three scramble to the top ridge, which we strolled to the summit. It was only five minutes of scrambling, followed by twelve minutes of walking to reach the summit at ten of ten.

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Nearing Guardian’s summit ridge.

The Guardian affords expansive views to all directions: besides the always-dramatic figures of the Needles and Grenadiers dominating our western views, the Oso group loomed prominently to the southeast, while we could see the lone giant figure of Rio Grande Pyramid due east, and northeast to White Dome and Hunchback Pass. Nature had smiled on us with another golden day, and we relaxed on the summit for the better part of an hour, as this was our final peak for the day.

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Guardian summit, view west to Storm King, Trinities.

The Leviathan basin from Guardian summit.

The Leviathan basin from Guardian summit.

We used the gully east of the summit to descend and eventually found slopes of intermingled rock and grass, and made our way for the trail leading from the bottom of this side basin into Leviathan. Ben’s tent having been victimized by a vicious marmot the day prior, we had packed up camp before the climb and now retrieved our packs from the trees that safeguarded them. Saying goodbye to Leviathan basin, our haunt of the past three nights, we packed out. The trail was troublesome even in daylight (not just hard to find with deadfall and high vegetation, but also criss-crossing the upper Leviathan creek where it froths in a ravine), so my advice to others doing a similar trip is to forget about trying to camp near Leviathan lake and simply aim for the northern edge of the basin. We hiked most of the way up the Vallecito, finding camp at a comfortable site just north of the waterfalls along the trail.

The next day, the last of our time in the Weminuche, made the perfect conclusion to our trip, which Ben will present in Part Three.

11 thoughts on “A Weminuche Dozen, Part II: Grenadier Gluttony

  1. Brian

    Conquests of the POMRanian. Maybe that should be your next dog Steve. This TR is a clinic on scree surfing. That view of Storm King from Silex looks badass. Now you guys get to look forward to more slogging up the rest of the peaks in No Name that were out of reach on this trip. Good peakbagging times.

  2. Floyd

    Congrats on a hugely successful trip! Peak Eight is soft ranked, so you may have to go back! Incredible beta in here for a future trip. I’m amazed at the number of people that you ran into on this trip and I’ve learned that there are surprise trails pretty much everywhere in this state. I guess the trick is to figure out where they lead before you take them. Congrats again and thanks for the TR!

    1. summithound

      Thanks, Floyd. Yeah, we had Leviathan to ourselves, but ran into the pair on Nine who were camping down by the Vallecito, then ran into a few groups packing in as we hiked up Vallecito for our last night.

  3. Ben

    Nice part II recap, Steve! I’m glad we’re breaking this thing up into three parts, as trying to fit it into anything smaller would be difficult. In hindsight we could have named them, “The Fellowship of the List”, “The Two Gapers”, and “Return of the POMRanian”, starring Frodo Peakbaggins and Samwise Grundle Chafe.
     
    Great pics and dialogue to go along with them. This was by far and away the most complex part of the trip so thanks for tackling it in such detail. And Brian, I agree we dealt with lots of talus but those peaks in there are sweet. And I look forward to a solid 3 day No Name trip to hit the others. An excuse to go on another trip to the Weminuche is never a bad thing 😉

    1. Brian

      “Raiders of the Lost Gaper”, “Temple of Basin Cleaning” and “The Last POMRanian”.
       
      Or “Live and Let Spray”, “Never Say Pepto Again”, “Thundershit”, “A View to a Sprint”, “The Toilet is Not Enough” and “Bowlstains are Forever” starring James Bomb (A Papillon Production)

    2. Ben

      Or “A New LOJ Account”, “The Marmot Strikes Back”, and “Return of the Mountain House Beef Stroganoff”, starring Luke Slopewalker and Han “I Bag More Peaks When Hiking Solo”…

  4. NatalieM

    You guys found an alternative route on Pk 9? That’s so cool. I’ve been very apprehensive of that peak after reading both Brian’s and Sarah’s reports. Silex and Guardian also sound doable. My only lament that you don’t include any maps with your sweet reports for easier orientation! 🙂 As for Storm King, I made sure to stay on the far right above the notch, due to the mentioned kitty litter. I was pretty stocked to spot a cairned trail from the saddle with Pk 8 as I was lacking any beta for the peak. Wemi is such a draw. Sweet climbs!
     
    p.s. Sorry to hear about the marmot damage to the tent, the same thing happened to my tent couple years ago. This time I brought mothballs and we even had coyote urine for Ruby basin. Not sure if it made any difference or was just pure dumb luck, but BA Fly Creek survived the trip.
     
    p.s. You’ve got the book. Now the movie coming out too? 🙂

  5. Sarah B.

    Makes we want to do a nice extended Weminuche trip again… I know Floyd’s got one on the docket in a couple years. Still can’t believe how much you guys accomplished in such a short time. I’d chalk it up to your youth but I think Steve’s around my age, so there goes that theory! Really nice writing, Steve. And a heck of a lot of good info here for when Papi and I venture in there.
     
    PS: Brian… ugh, flashbacks to Fire & Ice! (not that that’s a bad thing).

    1. summithound

      Thanks, Sarah! There is no fountain of youth, but I think that hiking with people a decade younger helps slow the aging process! Ben had me huffing and puffing, or groaning several yards to a quarter mile behind. But Weminuche is Ute for paradise, so I just enjoyed the surroundings (even while cursing choss).

  6. DKYarian (Zambo)

    Doin work! Great write up, Steve. I got to hear about all the exploits from Ben a bit already – nice to finally be able to sit down and see you recounting of the trip. You guys hit some good summits in there – congrats on some big and successful days. BTW….that shot of Storm King from Silex is awesome. Good stuff all around!

    1. summithound Post author

      Thanks, Zambo! I believe that shot is Ben’s; the photos are a good mix of his and mine. But heed my advice – look to tackle the King from the west ridge, or if weather makes speed the priority, just stick to that gully and stay away from any enticing ledges or ribs.

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