| Weminuche Warm-Up
Golden Horn Peak – 13,780 (116)
Vermillion Peak – 13,894 (74)
Fuller Peak – 13,761 (NR)
Beattie Peak – 13,342 (358 )
V8 – 13,300 (402)
Friday August 29, 2008: Golden Horn to V8 traverse: ~ 14 miles, 5,500 feet gained.
Since Colin's work schedule was not cooperating with our Weminuche backpack plans, I had an extra day to burn in the San Juans – oh darn. I found out Wednesday night that Colin would not be available until Friday night, instead of Thursday afternoon, so I looked at my "to-do" list and decided to give Vermillion a try Friday while I waited for him to make the trip down that evening. When I looked at Roach's guide I realized there were more possibilities to be had – I would earn a lot of extra credit on this one.
I hit the trail at 4 and the initial push up the switchbacks went pretty smoothly, but once in the lower basin I was presented with a maze of game trails, spur trails, and even a dried out creek bed that led me astray for about 10 minutes. I finally arrived at Ice Lake right at sunrise – around 6:30. I wish pictures could do this magical place justice, but there really is no hope. Ice Lake is a wonderful blue and the peaks that rise out of the basin are extremely jagged.
Fuller, Vermillion, and Golden Horn from Ice Lakes Basin
I set off for my first objective – Golden Horn. I approached the base of the saddle between Vermilion and GH and consulted Roach's guide for the easiest route… "Do not climb directly to the saddle." Well, Gerry, it's a little late for that (guess I overlooked that in my cram session for this route). I picked a "workable" route to the saddle that really wasn't that bad and from there it's a quick scramble to the exposed summit. I sat on my high perch at 7:30 and enjoyed some breakfast and soaked in the views. Sneffels dominated the northern skyline and east was Uncompagre/Wetterhorn and my home for the next week, the Weminuche. I was amazed at how close the Wilson Group was to the west and thought about how it was almost 1 year to the day that I had to battle about 4 dozen people for a half an hour to gain the summit and there I was, just a couple of miles away, in a more aesthetic valley (IMO) on a wonderful mountain and hadn't seen anyone all day. I mentioned that the Elks were my favorite range in my Pyramid/Bells Trip Report - I forgot how amazing the San Juans are… tough call and the next week may swing my vote.
Vermillion from Golden Horn
Fuller Lake from Golden Horn
Pilot Knob from Golden Horn
Ulysses S. Grant Peak over Ice Lake
Pilot Knob, Golden Horn, Ulysses S. Grant Peak
When you are on Golden Horn's summit, you are essentially the farthest you could possibly be away from Vermillion's summit if snow isn't an option. You must traverse across Vermillion's east face, gain the Verm-Fuller saddle and take the standard route up. The traverse was across a snow covered ledge and one step on the snow to gain it proved that I did not want to be anywhere near sloping snow. Luckily, the bench you cross is very flat, but I had to ascend a bit to avoid any potential danger on the snow. Vermillion's exposed ledges turned out to be an exciting Class 2 climb, but very loose – it kind of reminded me of the Bells, just much tamer. I summitted without incident at 8:15. The issue arose on the summit. I took out my camera and… dead batteries. Luckily this didn't happen the 1st day of an extended backpack trip. Oh well, it definitely will cut down on my summit time for the day. Plus, people need to see the area for themselves.
I set off for Fuller's summit around 8:30, descended to the saddle and quickly gained the summit at 9:15. This was my favorite view yet – the angle on Golden Horn with Pilot Knob and US Grant Peak in the background and Sneffels in the far backdrop was something else.
With no photo capabilities, I had a quick turnaround and started the incredibly tedious traverse over to Beattie Peak. I backtracked to the Verm-Fuller saddle and there is a use trail of sorts that leads the way. The "trail" side-hills on nastily loose talus all the way to the Beattie/Fuller saddle – the cairns were more like landmines that crumbled down the side of my leg as I walked by - and I welcomed the sight of the ridge up to Beattie's summit. The ridge dumps you about 20 feet west of Beattie's summit, but that was gained easily at 10:00. I pretty much walked right over the summit and kept going since clouds were starting to roll in and I was pretty far from any viable escape that I knew of.
The ridge to V8 was by far the highlight of the day. The ridge is a class 2 walk with significant exposure on either side. Nothing sheer, but you wouldn't want to take a tumble. The ridge holds large, solid rocks that made for a very enjoyable time. Staying on the ridge was key, as anytime I dropped, I ended up on dangerously loose talus. Just before the final push for V8, there is a notch in the ridge that is best avoided to the west, but aside from that I walked the ridge the whole way. The slope to V8's summit is steeper than it looks, but not quite as loose as I expected. I gained V8's summit at 11:00 to complete the traverse, amazingly, never exceeding a class 2 move. (As a disclaimer, even though it was only Class 2, this endeavor requires the climber to be comfortable making exposed moves on very loose rock and if there is anyone on the mountain with you, bring your helmet.) I toyed with the thought of adding on V9, but the clouds weren't looking too kind. Rolling Mountain's north face reminded me a bit of Capital from that angle, but with what only seems to be only a Class 2 or 3 route over V9. The basin east of Hope Pass was filled with wildflowers and begged of a future camping trip. I will be back.
I noticed a trail on Roach's map, which, oddly, he doesn't describe as a route. I was skeptical but it was the key to my improvised loop route. I put a lot of faith that it would be in good shape and amazingly, there are actually 2 trails/old mining roads that descend Hope Pass to choose from. Hope Lake, by the way, is just as blue and spectacular as Ice Lake. I opted out of a ridge descent and chose the steep, incredibly loose gully off of V8's summit to the SE. I have no idea why, it looked like the quickest way down and I guess I hate my knees. I reached the upper trail in the basin at 11:30 – a quick descent, but portions went a bit faster than I would have liked, if you get my drift. I did see some footprints along the way, so it seems there is more than one idiot in the world.
The hike back to the car was gradual, pleasant and filled with eye candy – cascading creeks, waterfalls, pine forests, wildflowers, etc. I followed the old mining road for about an hour before it joined a 4WD road that goes south from South Mineral to South Park. Here would be the first people I would see all day, a few mountain bikers and a couple of ATV riders. I made it back to the car shortly before 2 pm after the long hike along the gentle road – I can't believe one of my schemes actually went off without a hitch. I guess it was because I didn't have enough planning time to screw it up.
After a quick change and some Gatorade, I left for Silverton. I needed one last check-in with the family and a real meal before it's on to the freeze-dried stuff for the next week – bacon cheeseburger and a beer at the Black Bear Café, which definitely didn't disappoint. Oh yeah, and I picked up some batteries.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):