Peak(s):  Vermilion Pk  -  13,894 feet
Fuller Pk  -  13,761 feet
Date Posted:  08/13/2014
Modified:  06/27/2017
Date Climbed:   08/09/2014
Author:  Jon Frohlich
 A spectacular day in Ice Lake Basin   

Vermilion Peak (13,894')
Fuller Peak (13,761')

Start Time: 5:15am
Ice Lake: 6:30am
Vermilion: 8:30am
Fuller: 9:15am (approximate)


From Upper TH at 10,360'
Class 2+
Myself and dog


My trip to the San Juans didn't start off very well. I usually take I-70 to Grand Junction and then down to Silverton because it seems faster even though the mileage is longer. It seems though lately getting out of Denver is a real chore. I got stuck in a traffic jam heading up I-70 due to an accident and after 90 minutes of not getting very far at all I turned around and almost decided to go back home. It seems like this has been a recurring theme this summer. Accidents everywhere and major headaches almost every time I've tried to climb. Instead of going home I decided to take a deep breath and drive down to 285 and see if I could make it after all.

We ended up making good time once on 285 and found a spot to sleep in the car near the TH at about 11pm. An early alarm got me and the dog up and ready to go at the TH just after 5am. I didn't sleep great but felt decent as we started out. I'd been up into the lower basin once before so I had a good idea of how at least the first part of the hike would go. A little over an hour into the hike we reached Ice Lake where some campers were getting ready to start their day as well.

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First light on the peaks

We followed an obvious trail to Fuller Lake and then started angling towards the saddle. It turns out that I must have missed a cairn or two along the way and we wound up off trail for a bit until intersecting the trail again closer to the saddle. We ended up losing it again and I made the mistake of trying to stay too high to intersect the trail up to the saddle. We had to descend a bit of loose talus to get back onto the proper route but it didn't cost us much time and we started our way up to the saddle.

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The trail wasn't great but it provides somewhat better footing than the surroundings. The snow at the saddle was almost completely gone and it was obvious leaving the ice axe in the car had been a good decision. After a while we found ourselves at the saddle and got a look at the remaining route. I was truly enjoying the surrounding views and Maya appeared to having a great time.

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Maya thinks I'm slow

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We started up from the saddle and didn't have any trouble following the route. The rock was loose but there's a decent path the whole way. My SO and I have had Maya now for a little under 2 years and she's probably about 3 1/2 years old now. When we first got her I was sure she had never hiked before. I remember some of her first hikes that she had trouble figuring out how to get over small rock ledges on the trail. Now she's like a mountain goat. She led the whole way up Vermilion like she was born to it. I was more nervous than she was during a few sections but we made it up the last loose gully and to the summit with no problem and soaked in the view. There was barely enough room for the two of us and after a minute I managed to get her to sit down as I was a bit nervous about her moving around too much.

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Our remaining climb

As I've narrowed down my remaining list of centennials I've thought quite a lot about lists and the logic behind them. The arguments have been made on the forum repeatedly and I'm not sure I've come to any conclusion that is any more enlightening than the debates I've seen go back and forth for years. This time though I was glad that Vermilion was part of a list and that I'd driven across the state specifically for this climb. My anger at the drive from the day before vanished and the summit felt immensely rewarding.

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So dad, we barely fit up here....

I also had a discussion with a fellow climber a few weeks back about my injury in April. He said I don't seem to be quite the same climber. Even though the injury wasn't all that serious in the long run the reality of how quickly I got hurt has been with me ever since. I always thought of myself as a careful climber but I think I've gotten even a bit more cautious than I used to be. I also think I've lost a bit of confidence in my movement. Not to the point of being a problem but not the same as I was before. In some ways that's not a bad thing, more careful moves and slowing down a bit isn't necessarily bad.

After enjoying the summit for a while we headed back down. The loose gully was the only section that really required care and after that we cruised down to the saddle.

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Back down to the gully

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Narrow summit ridge

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Looking back up from just below the loose gully

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We met a group of 3 coming up and after a brief conversation with them I decided that since the weather was great and I had the energy that we might as well cruise up Fuller too. That went quickly and after 15 minutes or so we found ourselves on top of our second summit. More spectacular views. We spent some time on top of Fuller just relaxing before deciding to head down.

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Vermilion and Golden Horn from Fuller

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Vermilion from the saddle

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This is one way to make a cairn

We headed down from the saddle where I think I ran into Todd who also posted a trip report from Saturday. We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the basin, taking pictures, and talking to various hikers.

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Beautiful Ice Lake

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Eventually I decided the day had to end and I was getting hungry so we headed back to the car and arrived at about 12:30pm. I would happily do this hike again just to go to the lake or for any of the other surrounding peaks.

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Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Brian Thomas

a spectacular trip report of a spectacular day
08/13/2014 17:51
Such a beautiful area of our state and your pics document it well. And 4 hours to summit both peaks sounds like you are recovering well. Nice work and thanks for posting!


Jay521

Ditto what Brian wrote...
08/13/2014 18:29
Gorgeous pics.


Derek

Caution
08/13/2014 18:41
Ever since I had a falling ”incident” a few years back, I too changed in my approach to mountains. I don't think its a bad thing at all. I think the absolute simplicity of an accident was always amazing. It doesn't take much, and its never when/where you would expect it.

Great photos, great report!

--D


Rainier_Wolfcastle

So that's what it looks like!
08/13/2014 18:43
I'm sorry we missed out on climbing it together, but you certainly got the more scenic of the two. I'm glad you made it down and had such a great day up there!


SurfNTurf

A favorite hike
08/13/2014 19:55
I did this with my girlfriend and dog last Fourth of July, definitely a favorite. Nice work. Your photos document it so much better than mine, though.


JosephG
What a beautiful place.
08/14/2014 02:21
Glad to see you back out there. Vermillion et al. really preside over a fantastic series of lakes and meadows. You can actually see the trail up to the saddle when the snow's gone!


dave alex
Terrific effort
08/15/2014 02:51
Your perseverance despite snarled traffic and injury yips really paid off. The views from Ice Lake and the summit of Vermillion are among the best in the state. I'm glad you had such a perfect day and were reminded of why we climb.


DanR

Looks like a great day!
08/15/2014 13:12
Nice pics and report - thanks for sharing!


SnowAlien

Looks like a nice day
04/02/2015 19:45
in my favorite part of the state. Congrats on another Cent, Jon. Nice photos. The snow has melted...


HikingSibes

Great report
08/15/2017 15:11
I really love that you bring your pup along : )) Makes me smile.



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