Peak(s):  Trinity Peak  -  13,805 feet
"West Trinity"  -  13,765 feet
"East Trinity"  -  13,745 feet
Date Posted:  08/06/2022
Date Climbed:   07/22/2022
Author:  TheHikingTexan
 Trinity Traverse Centennial Finisher...again   

I thought I completed the Colorado Centennials on Jagged Mountain in July of 2017. Recent LiDAR updates changed that and the Trinities became a top priority for the 2022 hiking season. This hike had my full attention and I spent too much time doing research about the traverse. Like I had done a decade earlier for Vestal and Arrow, a start at Molas Pass was the plan. I left after work on Wednesday and made the drive down to Durango, arriving just before midnight for an overnight in the back of the car. After a bite to eat in Durango Thursday morning I made the drive up 550 to the Molas Pass trailhead for a 9:30 departure. The great trail starts out gentle for the first mile then drops most of the 1,700' of elevation loss down to the Animas River. I took me 1:10 to cover the first 3.7 miles. There is a creek for water filtration just before the bridge that crosses the river, I pulled a couple of liters on the way out. The elevation regain starts after a brief walk along the train tracks...


I started up the Elk Creek trail knowing that a temporary trail closure was coming at some point. I had been warned by a forest service worker near Molas that they were doing some dynamite blasting of the avalache debris from a few years back. I was met by another forest service worker at the trail register, the closure spot. I ending up waiting just over 30 minutes and heard two detonations while there. Once I reached the blast area below the beaver ponds I saw several more forest service workers who have done an amazing job getting the trail cleared. The Elk Creek trail had been beautiful up to this point, wet and full of flowers...


After the closure delay I finally arrived at the beaver ponds junction just before 1pm. This was a great spot to fuel up and filter some water for the more difficult hiking up into Vestal Basin. I ended up taking a long break here on the push out as well. The spot to leave the Elk Creek trail was clearly marked but if having trouble just stay close to the water after turning at the large boulder...


I passed some really nice camp spots just after crossing the pond and before dropping down to the creek and gaining the Vestal Basin trail. I had no problems with trail finding through this area or at any point as it climbs to the basin. My biggest issue other than the heavy pack and steepness were the downed trees. Up and over and under...


I had forgotten just how hot the mountains can be in July, gaining the basin was the hardest part of the day. I just kept my head down and feet moving in the forest, taking short breaks whenever I felt like I might combust. Eventually the views opened up and after almost 8 miles of hiking, the basin was getting close...


The last mile into Vestal Basin was stunning. You still have a few hundred feet elevation to gain with several ups and downs along the way, but the distraction of the scenery around you makes it a pleasant stroll...



I arrived at the end of the basin at 11,400 just after 3pm. I set up camp in the trees just before the trail starts the climb to the upper basin. I spent the late afternoon getting camp together, filtering water and enjoying the wildflowers. The weather showed no signs of any afternoon storm activity, the norm every other time I hiked in the region. The one concerning thing was a helicopter that started circling around the basin soon after I arrived. I wouldn't find out about the missing hiker in the area until I got back home. I ate dinner and ending up retreating to the tent before 8pm, the insects were intense! It had been a great day...





I woke up Friday morning and was on the trail by 6am. I reached the next level basin around 11,700' where I left the trail and headed up toward the high basin between Vestal and West Trinity Peaks. My boots got pretty wet from all of the ground cover but I had no trouble route finding in this area...


The high basin between the two peaks was rocky with several short ups and downs to navigate. The views of the Wham face were awesome. I was getting excited at this point...


I gained the ridge and made may way down to the saddle. The first part of the ridge up West Trinity is straight forward on mostly solid rock...


The upper sections of the ridge got steeper but the rock became more solid. These class 3+ sections were super fun and a great warm-up for the rest of the traverse...


I reached the summit of West Trinity just before 9am. Bicentennial #169...


The ridge to Trinity had my attention now so I didn't linger long on West. The down climb to the saddle was steep but on solid rock. From the saddle, rock cairns are helpful leading to the traverse below the ridge proper. If you are unsure, stop, look around, try to find a cairn, sometimes they are above your head. The class 4 section was very short and on very solid rock...




It took 1:15 to get to the summit of Trinity, my new Centennial Finisher and Bicentennial #170! The view toward Balsam Lake and at past and future hikes was amazing...


Again, I didn't linger long on Trinity. The down climb to the East Trinity saddle was a section of the traverse I was very anxious about. I had read about one side of the gulley being harder than the other. In the end, I just went straight down and never felt uncomfortable. It was steep and loose, but I found hugging the wall at times to really help. Looking down and back up the Trinity ridge...


The gulley to access East Trinity was fast and fun. I didn't even stop for a picture until the top, no more than a 30 minute climb. The view back toward Trinity was great, I stayed in the white gulley on the right...


My third and final summit of the day, East Trinity. Bicentennial #171...


Coming down the ridge to access the basin was no joke in a few spots and still required focus. I tried to go fast as weather was starting to build up around me...


I reached the unnamed lake back in the upper basin and admired the peaks I had just been up. During my short break at the lake a helicopter came right over me, I gave them a wave, unsure what was going on. They landed at the far end of the lake and picked up a few people before taking back off. (I later read about the search effort for the missing person in the area and that due to incoming weather, this ground team was being pulled out at the time.) I knew something bad was going on and was thankful for safe passage...


I dropped down to camp just as a light mist started. My original plan was to stay in the basin for another night but the draw of hot food and cold beer in Durango pushed me on. I broke down camp and proceeded to make my way back to the car, 9 miles away. The elevation regain to Molas Pass was not fun, but you have to pay the exit toll...


The quest for the highest 100 was a great adventure. Thanks to all of those who post conditions updates, trail access information and trip reports. All of the information on this site has definitely helped me be successful and safe along the way! Hike/climb on!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
08/07/2022 09:02
Nice finish and photos!!

08/08/2022 09:30
...on (again) completing the centennials. Regardless of the LIDAR data, the Trinities traverse makes for a great day.

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