The Weminuche Traverse
We set out on an ambitious mission— to traverse the Weminuche Wilderness and attempt to climb and ski five Centennial summits along the way.
At 500,000 acres, the Weminuche Wilderness area in the San Juan mountains is Colorado’s largest and many of the peaks require exhaustive approaches (the Maroon Bells / Snowmass Wilderness is 181,000 acres just to compare). Compounding the access challenges is the fact that many of these mountains only offer complex, if not technical climbing routes. In summer these peaks present formidable challenges to climbers. Add snow, and the goal of skiing off summits and it all quickly becomes daunting in scale and variables.
Christy, Dav, Ian Fohrman, Sean Shean, and I started on this traverse knowing it would be a huge effort to both ski these rugged and remote mountains while at the same time progressing along the traverse route. The weather, snow conditions, and all the small details would have to go exactly according to plan if we hoped to have even a small chance of getting it all done.
So as is often the case, the mountains had the final say on how it would all proceed, and early on we were forced to adapt to adverse wind and weather. We adjusted our goals accordingly and five days after starting, we had traversed the heart of the Needle and Grenadier ranges of the Weminuche, and skied two Centennials along the way— Jupiter Mountain and Vestal Peak.
The five Centennial summits that reside in the heart of this vast wilderness define this ski project. Their remoteness combined with the technical challenges presented by a few of them are clearly the crux of the Centennial Skiers project.
Check out the conditions on the saddle between Pigeon and Turret. Weather was approaching and the winds that preceded it were too much to safely climb Pigeon and Turret. A pair of skis on a backpack would act like a sail and it was an obvious call not to go any higher.
We’re all still in awe. The experience was memorable and fun, and at times incredibly challenging. It left us all impressed and inspired. We’re excited to return for the remaining three summits— Pigeon, Turret, and Jagged— though that may not happen until next year. That’s OK with us. Any opportunity to return to this awesome area of Colorado is welcome.
Trip reports for Jupiter and Vestal will be up soon.