The 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.
The SW summit of Virgina Peak, this peak is part of the fun ridge traverse
The main page describes how to get to the trailhead, and then the lake. The book, Beyond the Tetons by Marsh and Woods, has a good description of how to get to the trail, and the hike to the lake. The trail to the lake is easy to follow,but beyond there is no established route, only some trace and game trails.
a close-up of the SW summit
From the lake you need to go almost due east. You need to follow the basin that drains into the lake. I found some use trails that followed the slope above the lake into the level areas to the southeast. When you get to the upper meadow, you cross it and then begin to work your way up towards the ridgetop to the east. I found a nice game trail higher up that traversed nicely to the ridgetop, right above the rocky sections.
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.
another view of the SW summit
Good footwear helps, especially for the off trail hiking. Rain gear if the weather should change, and lots of water. Above the lake the only water was one snow patch, and a deer was living there, it was his private drinking stash.