Peak(s):  Vestal Pk  -  13,864 feet
Post Date:  09/01/2012
Date Climbed:   08/29/2012
Posted By:  sue personett

 A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes...   

Vestal Peak via Wham Ridge and Arrow Peak via the back side (west) route

Approach: Elk Park TH from the Durango & Silverton NGR
Distance: 12 miles RT + an extra mile or more for Arrow Peak
Altitude Gain: 5244 feet + 943 feet for Arrow Peak
Participants: Sue Personett and Tyler from Southwest Adventure Guides in Durango
Pictures:Click here

I've been yearning to climb Wham Ridge ever since I finished the 14ers (59 of them ) back in 2006. I steadily worked my way through the Centennial Peaks but they seemed to take much longer than the 14ers and I kept getting older. When 14erWorld shut down in May my prospects for hiking partners seemed to shut down too. One piece of good advice that I can offer you is, "Always have a back up plan".

Wham Ridge is not a climb to take lightly. I needed a strong lead. I've never used a guide service before but the good people at Southwest Adventure Guides in Durango were first class! We caught the 8:30 AM train from Durango on Tuesday 8/28/12 and started hiking east on the good Colorado Trail at about 11:40 AM. The weather held until we reached the beaver pond about 3 miles in, then we stood under the trees and waited out a downpour for about an hour while watching a female moose gorge herself on pond weeds. The rain relented and up we went headed south on a steeper, fainter trail in Elk Creek Gorge a "U" shaped valley to Lower Vestal Basin and our campsite at the far southeast end of the basin. This was a wonderful area with fantastic scenery!!! Our campsite was sheltered by tall trees and we had running water only short steps away.

Wednesday, summit day and we were up at 4 AM and hiking by 4:50 AM. We reached Upper Vestal Basin about 40 minutes ahead of time (I hike faster with a light day pack.), took a break and stashed our poles. Soon we were hiking the grassy ledges up to the start of Wham where we took another short break and waited for sunrise. Again, we were ahead of schedule, that's always nice. At sunrise Tyler inspected the rock and pronounced it dry and in great condition, "Rope up and let's start climbing." My heart almost leaped out of my chest!!! We did alpine climbing on a short rope. Tyler led and I followed doing many short pitches in a row. IT WAS A BLAST!!!! The rock was solid and I never felt worried or concerned during the entire climb. IT WAS SOOOO MUCH FUN!!! I can't truly express what I felt. I WAS DOING IT!! I WAS LIVING MY DREAM!!! We reached the summit of Vestal at about 8:40 AM and spent only about 10 or 15 minutes on the summit. Then we were off down the back side and over to the Vestal/Arrow saddle to climb Arrow Peak. Tyler knew of a route around the back side (west side) of Arrow so we followed a faint trail with a few cairns around the west side and over a small rib or ridge where the trail seemed to end. Tyler said this was as good a place as any to start climbing up. He just wanted to do more alpine climbing. Up we went on looser rock to the summit of Arrow Peak with a eye to the southwest and building clouds. We reached the summit of Arrow at about 11:30 AM and stayed for 5 or 10 minutes then descended a different route down a steep loose gully staying up against one side to avoid the rocks and scree in the middle that were poised to roll. We saw a few cairns and rappelled from 2 rappel stations that were already set up with slings. We carefully down climbed our way back to the faint trail below and headed over to the saddle.

At the Vestal/Arrow saddle we felt our first drops of rain. The sky was dark and it looked nasty but it only rained lightly all the way down the scree slope to the large cairn where we retrieved our hiking poles. Then it rained just slightly harder as we hiked past the waterfall, across the stream and over to our campsite where I crashed in the tent for a while. It soon cleared and later that evening we had great views of Vestal and Arrow draped in pinkish orange on their west facing sides as the sun set.

We slept in on Thursday until 7 AM then ate, broke camp and were hiking by 8:30 AM. We had great weather on the way out! We took a break at the beaver pond but didn't see the moose and we reached the train stop at 12 noon. We had a long wait for the train which doesn't arrive until about 2:40 PM but at least we weren't late. All in all this was a trip of a lifetime!!! I highly recommend Southwest Adventure Guides. Tyler made the climb up Wham and Arrow safe, easy and fun. Wham Ridge is the most awesome climb I've done in my life!!!


  • Comments or Questions
Brian C

Nice work Sue!     09/01/2012 21:03
So glad you made it! Great photos!!


Congrats!     09/01/2012 22:35
Way to stay focused on your goal and find a way to get it done.

You go, girl!

“You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!


Great job Sue!     09/02/2012 02:32
What an accomplishment! Beautiful pictures as well, keep it up.


Woo Hoo !     09/02/2012 13:43
Awesome job Sue ! Way to get it done ! Can't wait to see Arrow and Vestal for myself someday.


One can only say     09/02/2012 16:00
...super congrats! (Can it be done w/o ropes??) Some very nice photos, too.

sue personett

Depends     09/02/2012 17:21
That depends on your climbing ability. The crux is only 5.4.The rock on Wham Ridge is very solid with tons of hand holds and foot holds. The rope was just a confidence builder. I never really depended on it on Wham Ridge but it was nice to have. However the rope really helped on Arrow Peak which has looser rock than Vestal at least on the route that we climbed which was around the back side.The Ramp on Arrow is supposed to be class 3 so if you go on that route you won't need a rope. Remember that you are far out in the middle of nowhere and if something happens to you while climbing it would take a long time to be rescued. Better safe than sorry.

Jim Davies

Congratulations, Sue     09/03/2012 18:46
...on a nice climb! You must be closing in on finishing the Centennials, right?


Way to go Sue!     09/04/2012 16:22
Sorry you weren't able to find a partner for this climb but it sounds like the guide was a good choice.

sue personett

Finishing     09/04/2012 20:08
Dear Jim,
I have 3 Centennials left to hike/climb. I hope to do 2 more this weekend. Then I'll probably finish on Jagged next summer. Although Trinity isn't a Centennial, I'd like to climb it too.

sue personett

Guide     09/04/2012 20:14
Yes Ryan, the guide was a good choice. I really didn't want to climb those peaks alone and my guide, Tyler knew about the route around the back side of Arrow. I never heard of it but he said it was the best way to do both of them together. That route saved us a lot of time and altitude and gave us a little bit more alpine climbing. It was fun.


Congratulations, Sue!     09/06/2012 20:57
Happy to hear that things finally went well for you this summer!
Our Jagged trip went off without a hitch; Richard completed his centennials, then Matt and I went over and climbed Turret and Pigeon. Ruby Basin is just gorgeous in good weather! Sorry you couldn't make it.
Good luck on finishing next year.

sue personett

Thanks.     09/06/2012 21:18
Thanks Mike.

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