The Bruce Traverse

David did a big traverse with us in the Weminuche a month ago and decided he needed some more.  For round two we decided to go for 8 days, climb a peak and spend some time in the very remote Ten Mile basin.

Day 1: David and I took the train to Elk park and hiked up the Colorado trail to the beaver ponds at 10’000′.

Day 2: We left the Colorado trail, crossed Elk Creek and headed south into Vestal Basin on the rough climbers trail.

Day 3: Summit day.  We got up early and climbed Arrow Peak then headed back down to camp.  David upgraded from having “Mad Skills” to having “Crazy Mad Skills” on the climb.

Day 4: We headed back up to the upper bench then traversed over to Vestal lake and over the strenuous Vestal-West Trinity saddle.  Then descended to camp at the west side of Balsam Lake in Ten Mile Basin.

Day 5: Rest day at the seldom visited Balsam Lake.

Day 6: We continued the southern trend and hiked up and over the Peak 5/Peak 6 saddle into upper Noname Basin.  Then dropped down to the second tier of Noname to camp.

The “Bruce Traverse” is a high alpine traverse that runs from the Vestal/West Trinity saddle down into Ten Mile and then exits Ten Mile at the saddle between Peak 5 and Peak 6.  It’s named after a great explorer of the Weminuche.

Day 7: David and I hiked down Noname to a great campsite at the confluence of Noname creek and the Animas River.

Day 8: We finished the hike out along the Animas to Needleton and caught the north bound train to Silverton for lunch. Then caught the bus back to Durango, finishing off a great trip!

The blog post from our first adventure can be found HERE.

David it was great climbing, hiking, talking and joking with you!  Game for next summer?

BK

Best of the Weminuche Wilderness

Kevin, Larry and Jerry all came to do a backpacking trip dubbed the ‘Best of the Weminuche’.  I have spent a lot of time in the Weminuche Wilderness over the years, and I would have a very hard time coming up with an alternate 5 day backpacking trip that has the combination of great trails, amazing views, multiple basins and superb camping that this trip has.  To top off the great trip Kevin, Jerry and I climbed Windom Peak(14,082′) on the last day before running down to catch the train back to Durango.

Thanks for the great trip guys!  I hope to see you in the mountains again!

BK

Weminuche Traverse

David has been hiking in the Weminuche for years.  In fact this was his 9th trip to the area.

Day 1: David and I got dropped off in Cunningham Gulch and hiked up to the Highland Mary Lakes and camped near Verde Lake.  A group passed us with two lamas and a baby which is not something you see everyday in the high country.  That evening the fish were jumping like crazy in Verde Lake.

Day 2: The next day we walked over the Continental Divide and camped at the beautiful Kite Lake.

Day 3: From Kite Lake we hiked up and over Hunchback Pass(12,492′) and into the Vallecito creek drainage.  Then headed west into Stormy Gulch to camp for the night.  And as the name implies we got rained on that evening.

Day 4: It’s hard to beat the views in Stormy Gulch with Storm King, Silex and the Guardian to your south.  We hike in between Silex and Storm King then in between Peak 8 and Peak 7 to camp at a lake on the south side of Peak 8 for the night.

Day 5: A high traverse then over Jagged pass, put us in the top of Noname Basin.  We camped at 12,400′ with spectacular views of Monitor Peak, Peak 13 and Animas Mountain.

Day 6: A short day.  We hiked to lower Noname.

Day 7: We hiked the rest of the way down Noname creek to the Animas River then followed the Animas south to Needleton to catch the afternoon train back to Durango.

It was great time hanging out with David!  Although it’s hard to have a bad time when you are surrounded by and moving through that kind of terrain.  Hope to see you soon David!

BK

Alpine Leadership

Andy and Scott recently joined me on an 8 day Alpine Leadership course.

Day 1:  We started out at X-rock where we rock climbed in addition to learning climbing technique, belaying, rappeling, basic anchors and traditional gear placement.

Day 2: We climbed Snowdon via the West Buttress and descended the Northeast Ridge to the Northwest Couloir.  All in all a great day where we learned about the basics of short roping and the kiwi coil.  That afternoon we drove up to Silverton and hiked into Ice Lake Basin.

Day 3: We woke early and learned about self arresting, and cramponing technique, before climbing Fuller and Vermillion.

Day 4: We started out the day by climbing Golden Horn.  We then descended and learned about snow anchors, before heading back to camp and hiking out to the van.  Lunch in Silverton, then driving up the pass to camp at the trail head for Vestal Basin.

Day 5: We hiked in to Vestal Basin and set up camp. Then learned about/practiced knot tying, and cravasse rescue techniques.

Day 6: We climbed Vestal Peak via the Wham Ridge.  Then learned about navigation in the mountains.

Day 7: We hiked out to the van, and headed back to town to switch out some gear and take a shower.

Day 8: We drove up to Ouray and climbed an apline ridge just south of town called Lightline.  Andy and Scott got to practice the skills they had learned throughout the week, anchors, short roping, belaying, rappeling to name a few.

Great trip guys! I hope to climb with you both again in the future!

BK

5 Day Best of the Weminuche

The name of the trip claims a lot, but it’s truly nothing less then spectacular!

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Columbine Flowers

We started off in Durango on the 150-year-old narrow gauge railroad.  The train stops at Elk Park in the heart of the mountains where we began the 5-day hike.  The first night was spent near “the beaver ponds” where we were greeted by a mother moose and her calf.

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The Beaver Pond with Vestal and Arrow in the background.

The next day we hiked up and over the Continental Divide to Kite Lake, hard to beat the views especially with the wild flowers going off as they were.

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Morning dew on a spider web.

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Day three took us up and over Hunchback Pass and down the Vallecito drainage, to the base of Johnson Creek.

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Day four put us in Chicago Basin after hiking up and over Columbine Pass.  We were not in the Basin for more then 20 minutes before the mountain goats were coming to check us out.

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Mountain Goats in Chicago Basin

On the last day we decided to pass on climbing a peak and just head down toward Needleton where the train would pick us up and deliver us back to Durango.

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Wham-O!

Wham Ridge with Vestal Lake in the forground.

Wham Ridge with Vestal Lake in the foreground.

Durango locals, Alice and her son Paul S. along with Sean E. linked up with myself and fellow guide Ryan to hike into Vestal Basin for some peak climbing and relaxation. Paul and I climbed Vestal Peak, 13,864, via its North Face dubbed ‘The Wham Ridge.” The route maxes out its difficulty at 5.4 and is mostly 4th class to 5.0 climbing with breath-taking exposure. All on great quality rock! We made excellent time from camp to summit in 4 hours. The weather was absolutely magnificent and we spent almost an hour on the summit. Following our descent we met up with Alice and Sean at Vestal Lake for a refreshing dip in the lake. We decided it was the long lost “fountain of youth” as Sean and I felt like young boys again. We spent an hour or two here eating lunch and enjoying the amazing views.

The next day Paul and I again left camp early and cruised up Arrow Peak’s, 13,803, Northeast ramp. Again, the weather cooperated well and we had a leisurely descent enjoying the fact that we were first on the summit that day. After snacking and taking a nap, we packed up camp and moved it to the Animas River at 8,800 feet. Here were made a great camp along the railroad tracks and again swam in the refreshing Animas River. The next day we loaded up our gear on the train and took it to Silverton. Ryan had been talking about the BBQ beef sandwich at The Handlebar restaurant for the previous 3 days, and it worked, all 5 of us ordered it; it was AWESOME!

With such amazing weather and sociable people, this trip couldn’t have gone better. Successful peak climbs, lots of laughs, too many brain melting riddles and cold, cold water swimming. Thanks for a great time and hope to climb Sunlight Spire with you soon Paul!

MP

Paul about to rope up on The Wham Ridge

Paul about to rope up on The Wham Ridge

The 5.4 crux pitch. Paul walked it. Nice work.

The 5.4 crux pitch. Paul walked it. Nice work.

Looking South from Jagged Peak through Turret Peak. Come climb all these peaks with us!

Looking South from Jagged Peak through Turret Peak. Come climb all these peaks with us!

Summit Shot on Vestal

Summit Shot of Paul on Vestal

Arrow's summit. Looking east towards Vestal's beautiful Wham ridge. The Trinity Peaks in the background.

Arrow's summit. Looking east towards Vestal's beautiful Wham ridge. The Trinity Peaks in the background.

This is why we climb right? A bit further West than the last pano, Pigeon's impressive East face in view.

This is why we climb right? A bit further West than the last pano, Pigeon's impressive East face in view.

SWAG's 'Have you camera ready' trip!

Looking West back into Elk Creek Gorge

Looking West back into Elk Creek Gorge

Becky and Dan came out from Missouri last week to join us for our ‘Best of The Weminuche’ backpacking trip. This trip takes on almost 30 miles of trail with 7200 feet of elevation gain and 7600 feet of elevation loss over 5 days. Overall the weather treated us very well with the rain usually holding off until we were in the comfort and safety of our tents and sleeping bags each night. For wildlife along the trail, we saw deer on a regular occasion, caught a glimpse of an adult mother moose and her young calf, a plethora of mountain goats and lots of other hikers. The wildflowers were in the peak of their blooming and added lots of color to our photos. Becky and Dan hiked at a relatively brisk pace and forced me to hike until 5 PM at knife point each day! With making such great mileage each day we covered the entire in trip in just 4 days. Excellent work you two and see you next summer for some peaks.

(and yes, it was at least a dull knife…)

MP

Climbing out of Elk Creek towards the Continental Divide

Climbing out of Elk Creek towards the Continental Divide

All smiles on the friendly switchbacks

All smiles on the friendly switchbacks

The top of the continental divide @ 12,600 feet. This is also the Colorado Trail at this point.

The top of the continental divide @ 12,600 feet. This is also the Colorado Trail at this point.

Becky and Dan

Becky and Dan

Eldorado Lakes

Eldorado Lakes

Vallecito Lake with the Gaudian on the left and Mt. Silex on the right

Vallecito Lake with the Gaudian on the left and Mt. Silex on the right

Dan crossing Johnson Creek. He was game for anything.

Dan crossing Johnson Creek. He was game for anything.

January Mountaineering- Perfect Conditions

Allen, Doug and Steve happy on the summit of Engineer.

Allen, Doug and Steve happy on the summit of Engineer.

Family and friends came together from all over the country to participate in one of SWAG’s winter mountaineering courses over the last weekend of January. We spent the first day at Cascade Canyon ice climbing, rappelling, and building ice anchors. Day 2 was spent hiking into our base camp on Engineer Mountain at 11,500 ft and setting up camp. We dug an excellent cook tent as well as eating area. We then taught some new knots and in the end everyone was able to tie every knot known to man. Allen even brought Quint from Jaws to the table while remembering the bowline. Temperatures throughout the day were an amazing 40 degrees F and a minimal 12 degree F low that night. Very comfortable for us all.

Full packs and big smiles. Ready to hike to our base camp on Engineer.

Full packs and big smiles. Ready to hike to our base camp on Engineer.

Lisa and Todd above our dining room.

Lisa and Todd above our dining room.

On day 3 we hiked 20 minutes from camp to above tree line on Engineer’s eastern plateau and went over many new skills. First Ben taught avalanche awareness and beacon searches. Doug and Lisa made exceptional time finding two buried beacons, while everyone else dug them out immediately. Good work everyone! Next I taught travel technique and ice axe use. This led to everyone taking turns throwing themselves down a steep icy slope perfecting their ice axe arrests. Snow anchors were next on the itinerayr and the conditions were so varied we were able to place everything from in-line redundant deadmen to vertically oriented pickets. Last ly, we dug a snow pit in order to analyze the snow-pack. Steve demonstrated perfect wrist, elbow and shoulder techniques while performing his snow stability test. Ben and I capped the long day with warm drinks and chili and burritos.

On day 4 the wether held out just long enough for us to climb Engineer. Route conditions were perfect and the teams made great time pushing to the almost 13,000 foot summit. I know it was a day to remember for everyone. To wrap it up, Everyone learned a lot and did an excellent job applying their new skills throughout the four days. We hope to see everyone in the future!

Lisa rappelling into Cascade Canyon

Lisa rappelling into Cascade Canyon

Doug demonstrating great technique

Doug demonstrating great technique

Ben talking about circular probing to pinpoint a buried subject

Ben talking about circular probing to pinpoint a buried subject

Allen going for the headfirst ice axe arrest. Well done!

Allen going for the headfirst ice axe arrest. Well done!

Doug and Steve on the NE ridge of Engineer

Doug and Steve on the NE ridge of Engineer

MSP

10 Days in the Weminuche Wilderness

Earlier this summer we did an amazing 10 Day climbing trip in the Weminuche Wilderness.  During the course of the trip we climbed Centennial 13′ers Vestal Peak via the Wham Ridge, Jagged Mountain via the North Face, Pigeon Peak via the Southwest Slopes, Turret Peak via the Western Slopes, and Jupiter Mountain via the West Face.  A Centennial 13′er in Colorado is defined as any peak over 13,807 feet, and in addition to the 54 14′ers quest, the 100 highest peaks quest has become increasingly popular during the past few years.  Indeed, some of the best and most inspiring climbs in Colorado are on 13′ers.

The group on top of Jupiter Mountain

The group on top of Jupiter Mountain

From the maps below, you can get a sense of how we accomplished this feat over the course of 10 days.  Being out in the Weminuche for that length of time really gives you a sense of how remote and rugged this part of the San Juans really are.  The Weminuche is a true wilderness area, with plenty of route finding and navigation required to travel between the major drainages.

Part 1 of our route

Part 1 of our route

Part 2 of our routePart 2 of our route

We began the trip on the Colorado Trail and Elk Creek, and finished up on the Needle Creek trail.  Along the way we traveled through Vestal Basin and down to Balsam Lake, along the “high traverse” to Jagged Mountain (one of the best mountain days you’ll ever experience!), up and over Jagged Col and down into the remote No Name basin, then back up and over Ruby/No Name pass into the super rugged Ruby Creek drainage, then back up and over Ruby/No Name and Twin Thumbs pass for a finish in the popular Chicago Basin.

View of Monitor Peak from upper No Name

View of Monitor Peak from upper No Name

In short it was an amazing trip with great clients (thanks Charley, Phanie, Greg, Doug, and Chris!!), and a great guide and support staff (thanks Matt, Mike, Drew, Ryan, and Alec!).

On the summit of Jagged Mountain

On the summit of Jagged Mountain

This is simply one of the most amazing trips that you can do in Colorado or the entire mountain west.  We will be offering this trip again next year with some fixed date departures, so stay tuned to our website in the coming months for more information, dates, and costs!

Great pic of the group with Jagged Mountain in the background

Great pic of the group with Jagged Mountain in the background

Snow in the San Juans in July!

Snow in the San Juans in July!

Morning moon over Pigeon Peak

Morning moon over Pigeon Peak

Great shot near the top of Jagged Mountain

Great shot near the top of Jagged Mountain

ND

Snowdon Peak under winter conditions

Southwest Colorado’s combined cold spring and overall great snowpack during the 09/2010 winter have created long-lasting winter conditions in the high country. John flew in from Malaysia for a couple peak climbs during the end of April. On the 25th, Nate took him up Engineer and John admitted to being wide-eyed most of the day with constant winds and temps he has never experienced. The 26th allowed for a half rest day, half hike into camp at 11,500 feet on the western flank of Snowdon Peak. The trail was packed snow all the way from HW 550 to camp. Luckily the weather was much warmer, 40 degrees, than the previous day and the wind had died down. We arrived at camp around 3 PM and after a cat nap, we went over some basic avalanche pit analysis and tips and tricks on how to stay warm in the winter.. The low that night was 20 degrees and the warm water bottles kept John toasty all night.

The West buttress of Snowdon proved to be still holding a decent amount of snow and ice which made the climb mixed and exciting. We summited under warm blue skied at 10 AM and ate and rested on top for a leisurly 45 minutes. Once at the top of the NW coulouir we took to our bottoms and glissaded down 600 feet in a matter of minutes. Afterward, John told me he doesn’t get to do much sledding in Malayisa and he really enjoyed it.

Once back in camp we packed up our tent and sleeping bags and began hiking out. Looking forward to a warmer and softer night’s sleep, John set a quick pace for the car and we made it out in an hour and 15 minutes. From here we toured Silverton, CO so John could photograph the booming metropolis and then returned to Southwest Adventure Guides basecamp back in Durango, CO.

Snow in May, 20 degree nights with 40 degree days, 13,000 ft summits, 200 ft/ min glissading descents; sign up today for your story of a life time!. Excellent work John and way to keep a smile alive!

Leaving the trailhead and solid footing behind.

Leaving the trailhead and solid footing behind.

A frozen Andrew's Lake, the Naked Lady Couloir and the West Buttress on Snowdon Peak

A frozen Andrew's Lake, the Naked Lady Couloir and the West Buttress on Snowdon Peak

John very much excited about the blue bird day and lack of wind

John very much excited about the blue bird day and lack of wind

Summit Shot. 13,077 feet above Kuala Lumpur

Summit Shot. 13,077 feet above Kuala Lumpur

MP

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