Trip Report
Linking and long days in the San Juans, a brief perspective.
Saturday August 22, 2015 4:08pm
You're right the rock isn't great but there are peaks galore over 13,000 ft., great scenery and, unlike the Sierra, few people.
Jay Smith and I have been doing long hikes and mountain linkups sometimes solo, sometimes together. It's a fantastic way to get great conditioning without the monotony of running along the side of a road. You get solitude in a wilderness setting with lots of up and down and, believe me, you can keep it real.
Yesterday we did the Wham Ridge on Vestal and a couple of weeks ago we linked 5 high 13ers in the Sneffles Range.

The linkage was five peaks between 13,568ft. and 13,819 ft.....Potosi, Coffeepot, Teakettle, Cirque and Kismet. Lots of steep scrambling, a bit of easy 5th class and a wee bit of SKETCHY down climbing. A long 11 hour day with lots of vertical under our belt.

A steep 3,500 vertical foot approach got us to Potosi with the weather looking a little sketchy.
Credit: Jay Smith

Looking back at Potosi with brewing weather. We had several brief periods of grapple and wet snow.
Credit: Jay Smith

There was a lot of walking but the linkage had a fair share of steep, exposed scrambling and some tricky down climbing.
Credit: Jay Smith

Teakettle Mountain has an interest "window" formation that gives it it"s name.
Credit: JaY Smith

Posing for Jay on summit #3 Teakettle with the appropriate number of fingers. Jay took all of the pictures, I can't seem to locate my camera unless i'm on an offshore trip.
Credit: Jay Smith

Number five Kismet has fallen to our skill an daring, now how do we get back down?
Credit: Kay Smith

It was a great outing in the mountains. Loads of up and down, a bit of route finding, unsettled weather and, best of all, a wee bit of spice.

Yesterday we did the classic Wham Ridge on Vestal car to car in 12 hours. A nice aerobic outing....21.25 miles and 7,000 vertical feet. The climbing is only 5.4 and easily soloed. We saw no one on the trail going in and no one on the climb. We did run into a few people on our way out coming in for the weekend.
summit of Vestal
summit of Vestal
Credit: Jay Smith

I wanted to tease you with this mini report. The San Juans are an amazing playground for moving fast and light in a beautiful wilderness where pikas abound but higher apes are largely absent.

  Trip Report Views: 4,624
About the Author
donini is a trad climber from Ouray, Colorado.


Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
  Aug 22, 2015 - 04:13pm PT
It's as#@&%es like you who make getting old that much harder with your damn high bars! Bad enough keeping up with Joanne without you out there roaming around.

The Good Places
  Aug 22, 2015 - 04:16pm PT
but the flowers really sucked this year ;-)


  Aug 22, 2015 - 04:38pm PT
Have always wanted to explore that part of the country. For such a big state, I always seem to be going around or over Colorado. Def on my short list of possible relocation areas though.

TFPU Mr. Donini

Trad climber
No. Tahoe
  Aug 22, 2015 - 04:41pm PT
Hard man of the mountains.

  Aug 22, 2015 - 04:47pm PT
Hard man of the mountains.

Indeed. I think he's actually an elemental spirit of the mountains, just wandering around, looking for a way back home.

Trad climber
Punter, Little Rock
  Aug 22, 2015 - 04:53pm PT
Wham ridge; cool.

Social climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Aug 22, 2015 - 05:08pm PT
21.25 miles?????? 7,000 vertical feet?????

OH fuk Donini, I can imagine it, but I can't do it.

Thanks for sharing.

Social climber
  Aug 22, 2015 - 05:12pm PT
The north side of Vestal is some fine mountain architecture and arguably the best stone in the San Juans. I admired it for years before making my way back there in the 90's. Did you start from the train or drop into the Animas valley from Molas Pass?

Thanks for sharing the stoke and setting the bar high for us youthful types. Trying to keep up with you, Jay and George Lowe is going to be the death of me as I ease toward 70. There will be a smile on my face when I go.

Social climber
Lida Junction
  Aug 22, 2015 - 06:28pm PT
Sounds like fun.
Larry Nelson

Social climber
  Aug 22, 2015 - 06:50pm PT
Mighty inspiring.
Thanks for posting.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Author's Reply  Aug 22, 2015 - 07:25pm PT
Gilroy, we went from Molas Pass. You drop down 1,800 ft. which you have to regain on the way back but the switchbacks have a pleasant gradient.

Boulder climber
  Aug 22, 2015 - 08:00pm PT
rockin' all that BD swag - -

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
  Aug 22, 2015 - 07:54pm PT
great jim.
you're aim is boundless, but focused.

by the way, tell jay smith
that his 'pigs on the wing'
at lovers leap
is once again boltless
(and pinless)
and has proven a wonderful outing.

Big Wall climber
Ridgway CO
  Aug 22, 2015 - 09:33pm PT
Oh damn, if only I was 20 years older...

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Aug 22, 2015 - 10:31pm PT
Wham Ridge car to car in 12 hours is an incredible effort . . . much respect.

Nice photos Jay.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
  Aug 22, 2015 - 11:00pm PT
Spice is right!

Condolences on your lost youth, though.

Thanks for the share.

Nice to see you finally learned to count, too.

Social climber
  Aug 22, 2015 - 11:10pm PT
It's no wonder why I can't keep up with you when we're hiking!

Trad climber
  Aug 23, 2015 - 12:57am PT
Thanks for sharing a cool spot.

I backpacked in the San Juans for a weekend once, one of the few times I got my ex-wife backpacking. Beautiful place, and for me it was remarkable how at 12,000 feet it can seem like a rolling hills prairie. Walked up the grassy backside of some peak over 13k, and fled a lightning storm on a plastic bag down a snow chute from another ridgeline (where my buddy and I were flying a kite), and really really steep grassy hills are what I remember. So much variety and beauty in the world- I owe more of a visit to this place.

i'm gumby dammit

Sport climber
da ow
  Aug 23, 2015 - 03:00am PT
Awesome accomplishment!! And of course I'm referring to your correct plurality of our beloved Sierra. The other stuff was okay too I guess. ;)

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
  Aug 23, 2015 - 04:56am PT

Looks like you will be in great shape for your Sept. trip!

It is obvious that Jay keeps in great shape as well. I'm heading back to the East Fork Valley in a week.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Aug 23, 2015 - 05:11am PT
A most impressive day indeed!!!
Wow!! All at 72? Years old!!

Balcarce, Argentina
  Aug 23, 2015 - 05:55am PT
I used to do some twelve hour days .... back when I was in my forties!
Three, four, two, GO donini!

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
  Aug 23, 2015 - 06:44am PT
Sweet treat, we will have to go there.
smith curry

  Aug 23, 2015 - 08:03am PT
old dudes rock

Trad climber
Mancos, CO & Bend, OR
  Aug 23, 2015 - 09:07am PT
Wham Ridge from Molas and back in 12 hours? Christ. I might be able to do it in two days.

Sport climber
  Aug 23, 2015 - 09:28am PT

A rockin' TR. If pantheistic thinking has got it right, Donini is God...

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Author's Reply  Aug 23, 2015 - 12:03pm PT
Steve...have a great time in the East Fork. No lamas this year?

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
  Aug 23, 2015 - 12:38pm PT

Nope. It was a last minute decision on my part to head West. Just had to get away.

4 Corners Area
  Aug 23, 2015 - 01:45pm PT
Bump for San Juans mountaineering

I'm goin' back up to do the Wham Ridge in a few weeks . . .

4 Corners Area
  Aug 23, 2015 - 01:52pm PT

Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
  Aug 23, 2015 - 06:34pm PT
good post as always

at the risk of being provocative, are there any aesthetic, well-defined ridge traverses in the range (along the lines of the Evolution Traverse in the High Sierra or the Grand Traverse in the Teton Range)? except for dicking around in the ice park and Silverton walk-ups, I haven't ventured into the range

Boulder climber
  Aug 23, 2015 - 07:39pm PT
That Teakettle "window" is certified wingsuiter porn.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Author's Reply  Aug 23, 2015 - 08:01pm PT
ms....nothing really comparable to either of those and I've done them both, but there are lots of really good enchainments to do. Nothing formalized so you make up your own set and have a go....kinda neat!
Mark Force

Trad climber
Ashland, Oregon
  Aug 23, 2015 - 08:03pm PT
Damn! I'm impressed. What's the secret of being such a badass at 72?! Do you drink a special kind of coffee? Sleep with your head in a certain cardinal direction? Eat Wheaties? Walk with The Ring of Power?
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
  Aug 23, 2015 - 09:07pm PT
Nice Jim! Almost as pretty as California.


Social climber
  Aug 24, 2015 - 06:25am PT
Watch out!! There's going to be a housing rush in Ouray if you keep posting this stuff up. Or.....maybe that's the plan. More potential partners for donini to run ragged.
rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
  Aug 24, 2015 - 09:08am PT
Ok Donini, great TR if you are a kid in the 40-50 year range. What i'd like to see is a TR on the regime that got you there, still functioning at near peak performance at your tender old age of the 70's. Come on, Jack Lalanne used to till us his secrets daily, time for you to impart your wisdom. Is it diet, excerise, a combination of both or is the luck of the genetic draw and the majority of us are sh#t out of luck?

Anchorage Alaska
  Aug 24, 2015 - 09:38am PT
Hey Jim ever cross over the pass towards Storm King, Silex, and The Guardian? Rex Wolters and I did a long 5.10ish rock route on the north side of Silex in the 90's. The Guardian has a nice looking alpine/mixed line on it's north side that looks pretty good. Never did get up it. I would think it's unclimbed? Anyway it was top of the list before I moved

Ice climber
Berkeley, CA
  Aug 24, 2015 - 11:10am PT
Note to Donini:

The Llama
by Ogden Nash

The one-l lama,
He's a priest.
The two-l llama,
He's a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn't any
Three-l lllama.

Just livin' the dream
  Aug 24, 2015 - 02:58pm PT
Great photos and fun commentary, Jim.
You somehow made 21.25 miles and 7k vert. ft. actually look like fun.

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Aug 24, 2015 - 06:54pm PT
Nice work Jim! Inspiration for sure.

Trad climber
Salt Lake City, UT
  Aug 24, 2015 - 08:02pm PT
Yes Jim!!!

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
  Aug 24, 2015 - 08:23pm PT
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
  Aug 24, 2015 - 11:12pm PT
great TR and food for thought!
(actually after last Friday, a slow incubation of a crazy idea! maybe a TR in the future)


Trad climber
Lake Tahoe
  Aug 25, 2015 - 01:39pm PT
Looks like a blast. Thanks for the stoke. Nothing makes me feel more alive than tromping through the mountains like that.

Given your fitness, no foot pain and good joints it's hard to believe you don't run those trails over there given the distance and amazing 3rd class terrain. It would be hard for me not to I love running mts so much.

The elevation is different though between here and there, probably a factor. :)

Power on, hardman!!

Trad climber
  Sep 1, 2015 - 11:16am PT
Hey Jim! I was in the Vestal Basin the week before! It was amazing. Here's a summit shot from Arrow, with the Wham behind.Arrow Peak is a good climb as well, with a cool ramp system that takes you up the northeast face.
What a terrific area!

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Sep 1, 2015 - 11:34am PT
There are some awesome shapes there!!

So nice SOMEONE takes some pictures when Donini is out and about!


Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Author's Reply  Sep 1, 2015 - 01:02pm PT
Funny that this got bumped now....just walked in the door from doing Sneffles (14,150 ft.) from the Blue Lakes Trailhead.
I'm leaving for the Caucasus tomorrow and I wanted a good workout so I could sleep on the plane.
Sneffles from Blue Lakes is a lot more challenging than the normal way....much longer (7 miles one way) and way more vertical gain (5,000 ft.). Good trail to a 13,000 pass and then 1,150 vertical of third class scrambling.
Two years ago, when I turned 70, I tagged the summit in a few minutes over 3 hrs. Today I had my mojo going and clocked in at 2 hrs 52 minutes.
There's a nice bottle of wine for anyone here over 60 who beats that time.

Sport climber
Golf Wall, CO
  Sep 1, 2015 - 10:48pm PT
OK, I'm inspired. I really gotta get out and play some more there - it is my backyard, after all. Thanks for the stoke.

Trad climber
Point Pleasant, NJ
  Sep 2, 2015 - 01:40pm PT
and while this is just on the edge of the San Juans this is a classic, if you survive!

Trad climber
  Sep 17, 2015 - 04:09pm PT
how nice is that wine,Jim ???? ops you got ten years on me,,the wind cries mary at any age,,,thanks buddy,,

Ice climber
  Sep 18, 2015 - 12:35pm PT
Very nice TR, sir. Have a nice flight and trip.

I'll keep that wine in mind.

This is it right?

Not this.