OverviewThe Southwest ridge of Virginia Peak is basically just a hike with some routefinding involved. It is a fun ridge walk, with lots of game trails that appear when you need them. The hardest part is getting around some of the clumps of krumholz pines that are right on the crest in some places. This is not a ridge to get caught on in bad weather. There is not much shelter from lightning without dropping down off of the ridge to lower elevations. The views are spectacular and there were some nice big buck deer that were living on the ridge near snow patches.
You should try to gain the ridge at about 9400 feet. The map shows a small knob at the 9400 level right on the ridge. This is right where the game trail reaches the crest. Begin to follow the broad forested crest NE until you can start to traverse more to your right. Soon you are in more open country, and you can see the ridge going to the SE towards the SW summit of the peak. I found it easier to stay below the crest on some game trails and go about a half a mile until you climb up the beginning of the SW ridge leading to the SW summit. There was a great game trail that took me right to the top of the ridge, right where you begin to go NE.
When you first see the rocky gray, SW peak ahead, you can see where you are heading to. It is a beautiful summit, a nice peak on its own, and it is easy to walk up and over.
Now you first go down maybe a hundred feet, and then you begin to ascend up the SW summit. It is easy scree and talus to the top. Enjoy the views as you go, and you might hear the occasional pika.
Descend the other side of the peak, and drop down a steep section and you come to a level saddle, which had a snowpatch in the middle of August. Past the saddle you start to almost go due north, you first walk up the foresummit, and then easy walking takes you to the main summit. There was no cairn, only a tree branch sticking up, wedged into the rocks. Don't forget to look down the very steep NE side of the peak.
Enjoy the spectacular views, and return the way you came, if your car is at the Strawberry Creek trailhead. I took a quick dip in the lake on my hike out, because the weather was still warm when I got there. Not far below the lake, you come close to the creek if you need to fill up on more water.