| V-8, Beattie, Vermillion, Pilot Knob, South Yellow
Just under 9 miles...
Just under 7000‘
must have been solo!
Well, this was a traverse I would not have even thought of until on the job with legs and lungs screaming for more...
A little too much to drink Friday night, and I didn‘t roll out of bed until 7:30am, out the door at a leisurely 9:00am, and parked at the Hope Lake trailhead at 9:30am. I wanted Pilot knob, but not necessarily alone, so I opted for V-8 and Beattie Pk... two of Colorado‘s "Quints". I had the 12,445‘ pass West of V-8 in an hour and a half, and began the steep slog up the last 850‘ arriving on the summit 45 minutes later. A quick snack, and I began the traverse to Beattie. It looked dicey, but was very straight forward, and never exceeded class 2+. I arrived on the summit at 12:45pm. I just wasn‘t even tired yet, so a plan began to form. Maybe I could drop to the Fuller/Beattie saddle, and ascend to the Fuller/Vermillion saddle, cross the East Face of Vermillion to the Vermillion/Golden Horn Saddle, then cross the West Face of Golden Horn to the Golden Horn/Pilot Knob saddle, then encircle the summit ridge of Pilot Knob to the West and climb Pilot Knob. That should make for a full day... Let‘s go!
When I arrived at the Fuller/Vermillion saddle, one look across the East face of Vermillion revealed a not so desirable route, so I refigured my plan of attack... Some years after climbing Vermillion, which was back in ‘95, Gerry‘s 13‘er book came out, revealing a snow route on Vermillion which he called the Vermillion Dollar couloir. Maybe it would now be snow free, and I could skri down it toward the Vermillion/Golden Horn saddle. Matter settled, I headed up Vermillion for the second time in my life. Signing in my first register for the day, I departed the summit at 2:30pm. There was still ice in the top of the couloir, so I gingerly downclimbed into the mostly dry couloir. Only sixty feet down, I came to the offer of a nice ledge that traversed to Vermillion‘s NorthEast ridge... I accepted! The ridge had huge expsure to the NorthWest, but I was able to stay inside nice short dihedrals between ridgesteps that were well protected, and the difficulty never exceeded class 3+.
I lost a fair amount of time contouring beneath the West face of Golden Horn on loose scree and talous, but eventually reached the ridge somewhere above the saddle on the Golden Horn side. Descending to the saddle, I made my way North, and to the West side of Pilot Knob. I had no bearing on the summit ridge right below it, as I would have had I come up from the West, so naturally, I had difficulty nailing down the proper gully of ascent. In the end I climbed 3 different as well as incorrect chutes to the ridge above, all too close to the center, and all too far from the Northern summit block. I took my last sip of water prior to the third attempt. I was able to spot cairns on the proper route from my third effort, and thankfully get back on route from my position on the summit ridge. At the summit pitch I realized I was both tired and dehydrated. Too close to quit, I pushed on, making the "AIRY" summit bid at 5:00pm. I signed in, waited for the wind to die out, and daintily retreated toward the notch with the proper ascent/descent gully. Once down, I caught my breath and considered my future.
Ol‘ South Yellow Mountain isn‘t too far from here, maybe I have time for that one too, so I scurried off to the North. It was all good to the 13,177‘ summit at 6:00pm, but I could tell that retreat to Poverty Gulch was not going to be easy, and I was getting really tired and thirsty now. Many cliffs and steep rotten gullies line the retreat, and in my sorry state, I had about one chance of hitting the right one, so I contoured West from the Pilot Knob/Yellow saddle beneath Pilot knob, hoping to get back on the Pilot Knob Route, which I was completely unfamiliar with. I topped two gullies and found the West face of Pilot Knob to be a formidable looking opponent, so down the last gully it was. Loose and steep, I began to pray for a safe exit. down low, I found one left out into the ‘main drain‘, where I contoured left over to the grassy Poverty Gulch saddle, probably somewhere near 12,000‘. Once in back into Poverty Gulch, the sun set, but it was smooth sailing down a faint trail toward the Hope Lake Trail. I made the trail before dusk, and found the truck at 8:15pm, just before dark.
That was an unexpectedly large day!