Peak(s):  Pilot Knob A  -  13,738 feet
Golden Horn  -  13,765 feet
Vermilion Pk  -  13,894 feet
Date Posted:  07/19/2008
Modified:  05/19/2012
Date Climbed:   07/15/2008
Author:  Furthermore
 Ice Basin Cirque Part 1  

Pilot Knob 13,738
Golden Horn 13,765
Vermilion 13,894
US Grant Peak 13767
"V2" 13,309
"V4" 13,540

July 15-16, 2008
~17.1 Miles, ~7,900 Gain.
TH: 4WD Junction off of Clear Lake Road.

I usually do not do trip reports, but I figured these peaks could use a bit more online beta, so here goes my first stab at a trip report.

As for my work schedule, it changes every month and this month I have almost every T- W-Th off, and those days are usually not very conducive for finding a climbing partners. Originally, I was planning on climbing in the Elk or Cristo range; (my thirteeners in those ranges have been lacking severely, but that's ok, I will hopefully make up for it later this month). However, my partner in crime for the month (every month I get a new person), mentioned he wanted to do some climbing. He had previously done a school sponsored trip to Mt Elbrus and Kilimanjaro along with some other climbing in the San Juan's. I was happy to hear this since we both had the same days off this month, and that he had some climbing experience. The best part about my work partner, Tony, is that he lives in Durango and commutes to work in Denver (we both work for an airline and get free travel). Now I have a place to stay in the San Juan's and 4WD vehicle to use! I can't beat that, especially when I can fly into Durango for free! I'm guessing it would cost me 200 bucks round trip to drive.

We finished our day trip in Denver on Monday and caught a 5:30ish flight to Durango. After getting side tracked for a bit in Durango, we arrived at the 4WD trailhead around 11 PM and set up a tent.

I set an alarm for 5:30 AM which came to soon, and by 6:00 AM we were off hiking. My plan was to bring a camp pack and camp in Upper Ice Basin, and then continue on to climb Pilot Knob, Golden Horn and Vermillion. Tony was planning on climbing Golden Horn and Pilot Knob since he had already summited Vermillion a few years back. At this point, I turned off my phone, and lost track of time.

We continued up the valley, set up a tent near Ice Lake, ditched supplies and continued up into the basin. The valley splits into two, and we headed toward pilot knob (photo 1). We aimed for the scree field just below the summit (photo 2), and ascended up the border of the grey scree, and red scree (right of the snow field in the first photo). Once we reached the saddle just north of the summit massive, we saw a fox (photo 4). Crazy eh?

At this point, we traversed the west side of the summit massive for about 200 yards, and looked for the gully to the summit ridge Nevertheless, after a few minutes we found the correct gully marked by a giant rock pile. We ascended the gully which was easy class 3 for about 50- 100 feet (photo 5) which didn't quite take us to the summit ridge. After this quick class 3 scramble, we did a class 3 traverse (photo 6-7) to the north which took us to the summit ridge. I have to say the summit ridge of the peak, is definitely one of the coolest I have seen (photo 8 looking south, photo 9 looking north to the summit which cannot be seen).

Once we arrived on the summit ridge, Tony decided he didn't want to continue even though we brought a rope. He seemed pretty happy where he was since it was his first climb of the year. I went ahead and soloed the rest of the ridge which had two crux towers. The first tower (Photo 9) I just climbed directly up and over, and the second tower I traversed carefully below and to the west. I thought the traverse below the second tower was the crux, and if your were to slip, well... Anyhow, after bypassing the two towers, the summit was a short class 3 scramble (photo 12). Photo 10 shows the two towers as seen from the summit, and photo 11 was my route around them. The views of Golden Horn and Vermillion were excellent (photo 13), as were the views of Grant (photo 14).

After descending Pilot Knob we traversed over to Golden Horn via the west side of the Pilot Knob massive which sucked. There was lose talus everywhere, and was somewhat time consuming. Once we reached the saddle of Golden Horn and Pilot Knob the hiking went much better. At this point, I was going to bolt ahead so I could climb Golden Horn and Vermillion while Tony was going to take his time to climb Golden Horn. From the Golden Horn/Pilot knob saddle I traversed to Golden Horn on the west side, and again, it was a time consuming scree hike. After the traverse I climbed the class 2 (I know Roach says 2+, but I don't think there is middle ground between Class 2 and Class 3), ledges to Golden Horn's summit (photo 17). I quickly descended Golden Horn and ascended the NE ridge of Vermillion. Roach's description was spot on. I met Tony at the Vermillion/Golden Horn saddle where we descended back camp.

My plan for Day 2 was to climb V2, V3, Grant and V4. Continued on Ice Basin Cirque Part 2.

Heading toward Pilot Knob.

Starting up the scree gully towards Pilot Knob.

San Juan scree at its finest!


Starting up the class 3 gully towards Pilot Knobs Ridge.

Looking up and North on the class 3 traverse to gain Pilot Knobs summit ridge.

Looking down and South on the class 3 traverse on Pilot Knob. The class 3 up climb can be seen behind Tony.

Pilot Knob's summit ridge looking south from the summit of tower 1. Vermillion is in the background.

Looking North on the summit ridge of Pilot Knob to Tower 1.

Two Towers from Pilot Knobs summit, looking south.

My route around the Two Towers from the summit of Pilot Knob.

The summit of Pilot Knob from below the second tower.

Vermillion and Golden Horn from the summit of Pilot Knob.

Grant and V3 from the summit of Pilot Knob.

Pilot Knob from the Pilot Knob/Golden Horn Saddle.

Golden Horn from Pilot Knob/Golden Horn Saddle.

Summit ledges of Golden Horn.

Vermillion from Golden Horn's summit.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

07/21/2008 11:54
Thanks for the beta.


08/28/2008 00:37
Thought there would be a bit more snow left back in there. Nice write up on these lesser climbed peaks.


this weekend
07/08/2009 01:20
im going up there. thanks for the write-up.

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