Chicago Basin 14ersOctober 24, 2016
Jagged MountainOctober 25, 2016
Vestal Peak via The Wham Ridge
One of our most popular trips in the summer is our 3 Day Vestal Peak via Wham Ridge. Vestal Peak (13,864 ft.) is one of Colorado’s most sought after Centennial 13’er climbs, and the Wham Ridge (III, 5.4) is quite possibly the best route in the entire Grenadier Range. The rock is of a much higher quality than the rest of the San Juans, and offers wonderful climbing at altitude.
The trip takes us into the beautiful Vestal Basin, where ideal campsites and amazing scenery typify the area. The Trinity Peaks and Arrow Peak also dominate the scenery of this high alpine basin, though nothing quite compares to the aesthetic Wham Ridge on Vestal Peak. This is a great trip to get out in the San Juan backcountry for a classic climb in a short period of time.
An added bonus is the opportunity to climb neighboring Arrow Peak (13,805′) on the 3rd day of the itinerary if weather and participants would like to nab the summit of another sought after Grenadier Range peak.
Fri – Sun or Mon – Wed
We offer two itinerary options; Friday through Sunday itineraries give you the opportunity to maximize the convenience of your travel schedule so that you can fit in other great trips on your travels. Monday through Wednesday itineraries typically provide a slightly quieter experience in Chicago Basin and take advantage of the fact that in summer, your travel plans or work schedule might be a bit more relaxed and flexible. Either way, we offer plenty of fixed date trip options to get you out into Colorado’s finest wilderness area!
Wilderness Access Via the D&SNGRR
By virtue of the Durango – Silverton Narrow Guage Railroad (D&SNGRR), we can limit the length of our approach to Vestal Basin to a mere 6 miles. A relic of the mining trade of the 1880’s – 1930’s, the train is world famous as it is one of the few narrow gauge railroads left in existence. This unique experience adds an interesting start and finish to this trip. We take care of all the details, so that you can focus on admiring the beauty of Vestal Basin, and the climbs to the top of the Wham Ridge.
Vestal Peak via Wham Ridge Itinerary
Itinerary Note: This trip may originate out of Durango or Ouray. From Durango we use the DSNGRR to access the trailhead. From Ouray we access via Molas Pass.
Arrive in Durango or Ouray the day before the trip begins and check in to your hotel. Ideally you would want to arrive in the late morning or early afternoon to help aid in your adjustment to the altitude. Stay in a hotel.
In the morning we’ll board the D&SNGRR train in Durango for the ride to Elk Park and the start of the hike/approach into Vestal Basin. After approximately 6 miles and 2800′ of elevation gain over 5 hourse we reach our camp at treeline in upper Vestal Basin. Or coming from Ouray we will hike to Elk Park from Molas Pass, about 3 miles and 1,500 ft. down to the Animas River. Then hike up to Vestal Basin. Camp out.
Rising early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms, we’ll approach Vestal Peak and the Wham Ridge (III, 5.4). One of the most aesthetic climbs in the range finishes at a spectacular summit and great views of the entire San Juan range and the nearby Needle Mountains. Descent is accomplished via passage through the Vestal/Arrow col. We’ll be back at camp around 1 pm, where some relaxation and even a nap can ensue! Camp out.
We have a few options on this day. First, a leisurely morning allows us to pack our camp and head back to the train pick up at a reasonable pace. The train will pick us up at 2:00 and we’ll arrive back to Durango around 4:30 with plenty of time to catch a shower and enjoy a celebratory dinner! This is also an alternate summit day in case of poor weather. Second, ambitious participants may also choose to climb/summit Arrow Peak (13,803′) on this day. Third, the group can also pack up camp early and catch the early train into Silverton where you can enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, then take the bus back to Durango. If returning to Ouray the team will hike back to Molas Pass. Stay in a hotel or depart.
The majority of the time spent on the Vestal Peak – Wham Ridge trip takes place at or above 10,000′ in elevation. If you live at sea level, it may be best to arrive in Durango or Ouray a day earlier to allow for an easier adjustment to the altitude and thus a greater chance for success on the climbs.
Ice Climbing Equipment List
|Osprey’s Variant 52 is the ultimate pack for expedition and high alpine climbers. Designed to carry specialized mountain gear such as skis, wands, ice protection, and ice tools, this pack can be easily stripped down to minimize weight for a summit push.|
|Coffee is the lifeblood of champions. We highly encourage the consumption of coffee on our programs. The darker the better.|
|Water Bottles||Description||Guide's Pick|
|We recommend wide mouth Nalgene (or similar) water bottles for the majority of our programs. Two 1 liter bottles is the standard for days in the mountains.|
|Bottle Insulators||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Insulating water bottle parkas are recommended in the winter months, for ice climbing or cold weather alpine trips.|
|Stuff Sacks||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Stuff sacks are a great way to organize your gear in your pack and help to keep things tidy in a variety of ways. A great addition to any of our programs.|
|Personal Food||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Lunch begins when breakfast ends and ends when dinner begins. Bring what you like to eat and consider the length, relative difficulty, weight, and other factors when deciding what to bring in the mountains with you. A variety is always best. Don't be afraid of Mr. T.|
|A good pair of wrap around sunglasses are an essential item for all of our trips. When the sun shines brightly on fresh snow in the mountains your eyes will thank you for a quality pair of shades. Looking good is important too.|
|Essential for all of our programs. SPF 30 would be our minimum recommendation. Typically a 4 oz. bottle will suffice but consider trip length when deciding how much to pack. |
|Lip Balm||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Lip balm is important to bring on all trips. SPF 15 or higher is recommended.|
|A headlamp is recommended for all of our programs and is an essential piece of equipment you will use in a variety of circumstances. Most LED type headlamps will do but we recommend the Black Diamond Storm for its versatility.|
|First Aid Kit||Description||Guide's Pick|
|An excellent investment for all of our programs. Our guides always carry a comprehensive medical kit but it's nice to have your own as well.|
|Small Knife||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A small knife is an indispensable tool to carry with you in the mountains. We like the Spatha knife for its size, weight, versatility, and ability to clip onto a harness.|
|Digital Camera||Description||Guide's Pick|
|While phones these days offer excellent quality, nothing beats the reliability of a dedicated digital camera. You'll be glad you brought it and your guide will make sure to help capture the moment of you being awesome.|
|Hand Warmers||Description||Guide's Pick|
|An optional item, but nice to have on cold weather climbs and courses. Consider having a few stowed away in your pack and you can break them out if you feel you need them.|
|Synthetic socks area must for all outdoor activities. Select a pair that fits well, is warm, and is comfortable. Bring 2-3 pairs depending on the type of trip.|
|Base Layer Top||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Choosing the right base layer really makes a difference in comfort, moisture-wicking, and the balance between cool and warm at the right time and in the right places. The Outdoor Research Echo Hoody also offers good sun protection.|
|Base Layer Bottom||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Similar to the base layer top. These are wear all the time in all conditions base layer pants. A must have for alpine and ice climbing trips and objectives.|
|Mid Weight Top||Description||Guide's Pick|
|One of the best mid-weight layers we've ever worn. The Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody combines all the best features of a mid-layer into one supremely well-fitting piece of technical hybrid inner/outwear. The layer does so many things so well it's one of the few pieces we wear throughout the year.|
|Soft Shell Jacket||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Our most ruggedly built Ferrosi piece is an alpine focused style that can really take a beating. Using Cordura® fabric in the main body, this hooded jacket provides additional abrasion-resistance while shrugging off wind and light rain. The Halo Hood™ seals out bad weather without limiting peripheral vision.|
|Soft Shell Pants||Description||Guide's Pick|
|The Cirque Pants are a durable, heavy-weight technical soft shell pant built for high-energy climbing, mountaineering and ice climbing. The highly breathable, wind and weather-resistant double-weave stretch fabric excels in high-mountain conditions. The zippered thigh pocket ensures energy bars and maps remain easily accessible.|
|Insulated Parka||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Pack it for those days where you need just a touch of down insulation, or on those cold days on the chairlift when an extra layer might be crucial. Our new hooded version of the Filament has the same design as the popular hood-less version and a DWR-treated shell of ultralight 10D Pertex® Quantum GL keeps moisture away from premium 800-fill down inside.|
|Insulated Vest||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Same spirit, same guts, and same award-winning hybrid-mapped design of the Cathode Hooded Jacket, minus the sleeves and hood. An insulated vest is an optional item on our programs but we do think vests offer excellent flexible layering options in a variety of circumstances, weather conditions, and trip types.|
|Shell Jacket||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Our Outside Magazine and Men’s Journal “Gear of the Year” award-winning storm shell is engineered for fast-and-light alpine climbs and all-day backcountry tours. You need at minimum either a soft shell jacket or hard shell jacket for local Ouray based winter courses and programs.|
|Built for flash-storm protection, the 100% waterproof, super-breathable Helium II weighs an incredibly light 6.4 ounces. An ultra-compressible piece you’ll never leave behind, it’s so light and packs down so small you’ll forget it’s clipped to your harness until you throw it on to ward off a sudden mid-route downpour.|
|Shell Pants||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Waterproof, breathable and lightweight, the GORE-TEX® Foray Pants provide dependable rain protection and shrug off the wear-and-tear of the trail and cityscape alike.|
|Warm Hat||Description||Guide's Pick|
|The Booster’s reversible design lets you choose. The soft yarn blend will provide a cozy sanctuary throughout winter’s chill.|
|Baseball Cap||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A required item on the majority of our programs, a baseball cap helps to keep harmful sun off your face. The Radar Pocket cap is packable, durable, and looks great!|
|Lightweight Gloves||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Updated for touchscreen compatibility, the StormTracker Sensor Gloves are equally at home alpine climbing, ski touring or ice climbing. Low-profile GORE® WINDSTOPPER®. Soft Shell fabric deflects biting gusts, and a tricot lining retains valuable heat.|
|Midweight Gloves||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Built to handle cold mornings on the up-track and powder turns all the way back down, these versatile gloves feature a new stretch nylon shell outer, a goat leather palm with textured fingertips, and a warm, quick-drying wool blend lining.|
|Balaclava or Buff||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Simple, effective and infinitely adaptable, Original BUFF® headwear is the product that started the multifunctional headwear revolution. At its core is a moisture-managing microfiber fabric that is wind resistant and able to control odor. We recommend the BUFF for all of our programs as a multi-purpose insulation piece and trendy headgear!|
|Belay Device||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A belay device is a required item on any of our technical climbing or mountaineering courses. While not necessary to have the Guide ATC specifically, we think owning one of these offers additional versatility as you progress and gain additional knowledge about the various levels of functionality provided by a device of this type. |
|The BD Aspect Harness is a great all around performer for all types of climbing - ice, rock, alpine etc. The adjustable leg loops and integrated ice clipper loops make this a solid investment as your do-all harness.|
|Locking Carabiners||Description||Guide's Pick|
|We recommend at minimum 2 - 3 personal locking carabiners on our climbing courses and any technical private guided program. We prefer classic screw gate carabiners over other types of locking mechanisms.|
|Climbing Helmet||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A versatile, hybrid-shell helmet for lightweight protection in any discipline, the Vector features excellent ventilation and a ratcheting adjuster.|
|Non Locking Carabiners||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A selection of non-locking carabiners is recommended on all of our technical climbing programs. Consider at least 4 - 6 and we prefer wire gate carabiners over more traditional gate carabiners. Many options exist so just consider a variety when putting your carabiner rack together!|
|Climbing Boots||Description||Guide's Pick|
|Light and fast this boot makes you feel like a wood nymph bounding through the mountains. All synthetic and designed for spider like alpine climbing performance; it is waterproof and ready for a semi-automatic crampon. The Vibram® Mulaz outsole, has an edging platform and sticky Supertrek Rubber. The 3D Flex™ ankle provides supreme ankle maneuverability for technical routes.|
|Adjustable Trekking Poles||Description||Guide's Pick|
|This is an optional item on our programs. However, a good pair of trekking poles is a worthy piece of gear to have with you for long approaches or treks through the mountains. There are many added benefits to trekking poles. The new BD Distance series poles are light, collapsible, and adjustable.|
|Accessory cord or cordelette material is essential equipment that offer great versatility in use and application. Consider getting a few for your climbing rack.|
|Climbing slings or runners are an excellent compliment to your climbing gear. Versatile in their use and applicability, consider having a few of each length on your rack.|
|Sleeping Pad||Description||Guide's Pick|
|The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir All Season mattress is lightweight, durable, extremely warm, and the ultimate solution to year-round backcountry comfort. Stable construction and 2.5-inch thickness offer greater comfort for a full night of sleep, so you won't feel the uneven, rough terrain beneath you.|
|Sleeping Bag||Description||Guide's Pick|
|The Western Mountaineering MegaLite 30 Degree Sleeping Bag large cut sleeping bag for bigger folks or those seeking plenty of space. Have a fear of being closed in or perhaps a wide set of shoulders? This 850+ down fill sleeping bag has a 64" shoulder girth and 39" foot girth. Lay back and enjoy being wrapped in soft, fluffy down on nights down to 30°F.|
|Mountain Crampons||Description||Guide's Pick|
|A classic 10-point crampon for mountaineering and glacier travel, the Contact features a durable stainless steel construction and a stable, lightweight design. Available in a Strap or Clip version.|
Training & Follow Up Climbs
As always, being in excellent physical shape is an important component of our our programs. A good mixture of cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, and especially core strength will help you to maximize the potential rewards that are possible on a great climbing trip.
Before Your Trip
TheVestal Peak/Wham Ridge 13’er climb is a strenuous trip conducted at altitudes above 10,000 feet. Therefore, previous experience hiking in the mountains and/or multi-day backpacking experience will be very helpful to you on this program. Though the actual climbing level required for this trip is not difficult, the best training regimen would include a mixture of cardiovascular fitness training (running, biking, hiking etc.), and muscular/core fitness exercises. The addition of some Yoga/stretching exercises will help to insure that you maintain good muscular flexibility as well.
For the Vestal Peak climb you should be ready for:
- Hiking approximately 6-7 miles per day with up to a 40 lb pack at altitudes between 8,000′ – 11,000
- Climbing up to 5.4 in alpine boots
- 6 – 8 hour summit days with a lighter “day pack”
- Wilderness travel and camping
Follow Up Climbs
Durango, Colorado: Getting Here
Durango is located in the SW corner of Colorado, at the intersection of the sandstone towers of the desert, and the jagged, San Juan Mountains. A mecca for climbing, hiking, cycling, and foodies; make sure you plan to spend some time in town before and after your SJMG trip. The SJMG Durango office is located at 1111 Camino Del Rio, Durango, CO 81301.
The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Durango – La Plata County Airport. Multiple airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, Phoenix, or Dallas. The airport is a 20 minute drive from our office. Many hotels offer a free shuttle pickup. Buckhorn Limousine offers a shuttle as well.
Below are some approximate driving times if you’d like to drive to Durango.
- Ouray, CO: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Albuquerque, NM: 3.5 hours
- Denver, CO: 6 hours
Durango has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suite you best for this trip! Below are just a few options catering to different lodging styles and preferences.
Registration & Cancellation
Advance Registration is required for this program. You have the option to either call our office and register via phone or utilize our secure Online Reservation System. All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.
- Guiding and trip leadership
- D&SNGRR Train Tickets
- Breakfasts and dinners on the mountain
- Group camping and cooking equipment (tents, stoves, etc.)
- Group climbing equipment (ropes, etc.)
- Harness, helmet
- Transportation to Durango, CO
- Hotel costs before, during, or after the program
- Guide gratuity
- Lunch food or snacks
- Personal hiking/climbing clothing
- Trip Cancellation Insurance (recommended)
- Costs associated with weather delays or other variables beyond the control of San Juan Mountain Guides
Book This Trip!
We Offer Online Registration
- Click on Book This Trip
- Select your Program dates
- Enter your Info and Payment
Or, call 800.642.5389 to register