Wham Ridge

Wham Ridge is super-classic – the best alpine route in the San Juans.  While high and wild, the San Juan Mountains of SW Colorado are mainly giant gravel piles, consisting of massive talus slopes below crumbling ridges.  Wham Ridge is the opposite, being composed of beautiful, hard quartzite.  It is the north face of Vestal Peak, in the heart of the Grenadier Range, which is the heart of the San Juans.  It’s rated 5.4, and usually done in 6–10 roped pitches.

What really makes it classic, is it’s location in the middle of the Weminuche Wilderness, the largest in Colorado.  There are three approaches:

• Follow the train tracks along the Animas River down from Silverton to Elk Park, then up Elk Creek.

• Take the train from Silverton, which is very cool as it’s an authentic 19th century steam locomotive – get off at Elk Park, then continue the approach up Elk Creek.

• Start from the Highway on Molas Pass (10,900′), descend 1,800′ to cross the Animas at Elk Park, then continue the 3,000′ crank up to the base of the climb itself.

Option #1 is interesting but I’ve never heard of anyone doing it.  #2 is very cool, but would require camping due to the train schedule.  #3 is the longest, but since Peter Bakwin and I are too old and lazy to camp, that’s the easiest.  We would run in from the car, solo it w/o ropes, and be back for lunch.

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