Peak(s):  Vermilion Pk  -  13,894 feet
Date Posted:  09/10/2016
Date Climbed:   09/09/2016
Author:  Bill Stafford
 Vermilion Peak 13894 from S Mineral Creek TH   

September 8-9, 2016

Vermilion Peak (13,894')

Trailhead: Upper 4WD, South Mineral Creek TH, 10,360'

Distance/Elevation Gain:
Day 1: ~2mi & 1050' (to Lower Ice Lake Basin)
Day 2: ~2.1mi & 2450' (from camp to summit)
Total: ~8.2mi & 3500' (roundtrip)

My dog Jax and I left Denver about 7:30am, stopping just a few times, arriving in Silverton about 2:30pm. I let Jax out to walk a bit, got a bite to eat, and proceeded to the upper (4WD) South Mineral Creek trailhead at 10,360, where there is room for only 3 or 4 vehicles to park. I loaded up my 40lb pack and we started up the trail at 4pm. I checked a few campsites along the way to Lower Ice Lakes Basin, and settled for one at about 11,500 feet, within view of the main trail. There are a lot of places to camp in this Lower basin. I slept very poorly, as I'd forgotten Jax's blanket in the car, and he wanted to try to fit inside my very tight mummy bag with me. It was a clear, starry night, with just a little wind.

We rose about 6am and were on the trail at 7:30am, under clear blue skies. We reached the 12,275' Ice Lake Basin around 8:45am. I've been to a number of high, alpine lakes, but this ranks near the top. I've never seen water more blue, framed by spectacular peaks, including Fuller Peak, Golden Horn and Pilot Knob. We continued the route described by Roach, to the small, 12,580' lake below Fuller Lake. I stopped to pump some filtered water into my Camelbak, snacked, and we then left the Fuller Lake trail, heading west for the grassy bench. There are sporadic cairns, and we would lose then find the "trail", but one can readily see the 13,500' saddle that is the next goal. Fortunately, the snow up the steep slope to this saddle had melted enough that the switchbacking trail was visible, and my ice ax I had left in the car was not needed. We arrived at this saddle at 10:10am, and again took a short break. The trail to the summit from here is fairly clear. There are a number of sections that were too technical for Jax, and I had to lift him up onto the largest steps along the way. He made his way through some fairly exposed spots, and up pretty well on a couple of very steep, loose gullies. The last 20' or so to the summit is a very narrow, very exposed ridge walk. I gained the summit (10:45am), turned around, wondering if Jax would risk the ridge walk. He apparently thought "screw this", turned around and started back down without me. Really? You're not going to wait? I was worried he would not find the right way back down, so I took a few quick photos, ignored the canister with the summit register, and headed back down to catch up with him. If I had known it was going to be this tough, I probably would not have brought him. He's simply too small and not athletic enough for this sort of climbing. (But a joy to be with in the backcountry.)

It was an absolute perfect bluebird day, perhaps 60F. After hanging out by Ice Lake for awhile, talking to a few day-hikers, Jax playing in the water with a couple other dogs, we headed back to camp, arriving there a little after 1:30pm, 6 hours after our start that morning. Although I had initially planned on spending another night here, I couldn't stomach another sleepless night with a cold, restless dog. I packed up the tent and things, and we arrived back at the car about 3:40pm. I considered car-camping, but instead decided to drive back to Denver, arriving home at 11pm.


Jax ain't to happy about this photo...


My campsite in Lower Ice Lake Basin...

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4

Comments or Questions

Gorgeous area
09/12/2016 09:04
One of the prettiest areas in the state. Thanks for reminding me that I need to get back there soon.

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