Peak(s):  Vermilion Peak  -  13,894 feet
Date Posted:  09/05/2013
Date Climbed:   09/01/2013
Author:  geojed
 A Nickel of Cents in the San Juans - Part 2: Vermilion Peak - From Hope Lake   

Morning Alpenglow on Wilson Group

TH/Route: Hope Lake TH, West Slopes and SE Ridge from Hope Lake,
Climbers: Solo. Saw Bez on the summit
Distance/Elev: 7.3mi RT w/ 3500' elevation gain
Weather: Normal Monsoon conditions, clear in morning storms by afternoon

Trip report for Part 1 is here.

As I tried to sleep at the Hope Lake TH I kept hearing this scratching and tapping noise beneath my car. I got out several times to see what it was
but I couldn't see anything. Finally, one time I got out and listened for a couple minutes and discovered that the noise was coming from the
plastic shell on my bumper. So I started banging on it with my hand and out peaks the head of a squirrel! I banged on the bumper a couple
more times and he ran away into the night.

I got up at 5:30am again in order to beat the afternoon storms and after I had cooked my breakfast and was packing up two huge pickup trucks
pulled up to the TH. 4 Guys got out decked out in camouflage gear and holding their compound hunting bows.

"Elk hunting?" I inquired
"Yep" they replied.

I was thinking, "Oh crap, I hope they don't mistake me for an elk and shoot me!" I hadn't even thought about elk season and did not have
bright clothing on. Oops!

Anyways, I set off from the TH around 6:45AM in order to catch the sunrise on the Wilson Group across the valley. The sunrise did not disappoint in the least.

Alpenglow on San Miguel Peak (C) and other peaks above Hope Lake

Zoom in on Wilson Group

I cruised up the very nice Hope Lake Trail and began to climb the nicely graded switchbacks. Once I got above tree line the trail approached
the creek one last time before switchbacking again. I left the trail here and headed cross county across the basin towards the pass between Fuller and Beatie Peak.

Looking towards saddle shortly after leaving Hope Lake Trail

After weaving my way across a talus cone up some tundra and past a small pond I came to the first talus bench. Here I stayed in the middle of the drainage
and hopped my way up to the next bench as the rising sun began to illuminate the colorful peaks around me.

1st Talus Bench

Vermilion Peak

Looking back across basin at San Miguel Peak (c). Hope Lake barely visible.

Above the 1st Talus Bench I crossed a little bit of tundra and then reached the 2nd talus bench. Past this bench it is just more talus hopping up to the 13,000' pass.

2nd Talus Bench

Last talus slope up to pass.

At pass looking East into Mineral Creek drainage.

I rested and refueled on the pass for 15min or so. I then headed about 50' up Fuller's SW ridge where a noticeable use trail headed left and did an upward traverse
across Fuller's west slopes. The trail is fairly easy to follow. There is a section where it kind of disappears for 50' or so but I just kept angling up
and I found it again.

Looking up Fuller Peak. Traverse trail starts 1/3 way up photo and goes left.

Looking across traverse of Fuller Peak to Vermilion Peak.

Traverse trail.

Looking back across Hope Lake Basin

As I neared the Fuller-Vermilion saddle the trail sort of split and I took the right one. It looked like it had a more constant angle.

Almost to Fuller-Vermilion Saddle. I took trail on right.

From the saddle I got my first view of the supernal Ice Lakes Basin, Golden Horn Peak, and Pilot Knob. WOW!

West Panorama from Vermilion Peak Saddle

East Panorama from Vermilion Peak Saddle

Ice Lake Basin

Sweet View of Vermilion Peak (L), Pilot Knob (C), Golden Horn (R)

After soaking in the views I headed up the SE ridge route on Vermilion. It's pretty easy to follow as it is well used and has some cairns to follow too.

Vermilion Peak from saddle

Route stays left below cool tower.

Golden Horn and Ice Lakes

When I could finally see the final stretch I noticed another climber just about to make it to the summit. I yelled and waved and he waved back.

Last stretch of route. Route heads up gully and then angles back left and up

When I finally reached the summit I immediately recognized Bez and said "Hey Bez! How's it going?" We chatted and enjoyed the summit
and the amazing views together. He even took a summit shot of the both of us as my phone couldn't connect to the data network. (He had AT&T, I have Verizon).

Album Cover?

Thanks Bez!

Looking NE towards colorful Golden Horn, Pilot Knob,

For my descent I had been eyeing a couloir that bisects Vermilion's west face. Mad Mike had climbed it w/ snow and during my approach it definitely looked doable.
So after climbing down from the summit block I headed 1400' straight down the gully surfing and skiing on the nice and loose talus.

Looking down descent gully. Scree/Talus Ski-o-rama!

Looking back up the gully

Colorful Vermilion Peak. The gully I descended is at right and is "bow" shaped with some gray rock coming out the

Once I finally reached the tundra below I stopped to take my boots off and shake out all the rocks. I headed back across the basin towards the Hope Lake Trail
frequently turning around to gaze at the bright red Vermilion Peak. Ahead, I could see the numerous people hiking up and down the Hope Lake Trail.
I didn't realize that it would be so busy.

Looking at the Wilsons.

I wonder why it's called Vermilion Peak. Such a mystery!

They regarded me as a "curiosity" wondering where I had been. I then hiked the short distance up to the lake and was BLOWN AWAY by its beauty.
I took panorama after panorama with my IPhone 5 in order to get the lighting and positioning just right.

Hope Lake Panorama

After 15min or so I could hear thunder rumbling to the west so I figured I should try to get to the TH before the rain hit. I headed down the pleasant switchbacks
and noticed a beautiful cascade I hadn't seen on my way up.

Pretty cascade along Hope Lake Trail

Just as I reached the TH, the first drops of rain hit and I quickly loaded up and headed down the road. I was thanking my lucky stars I wasn't up by Hope Lake
right then, and at the same time, feeling sorry for all the people that were!

Big storm just about to hit Hope Lake Basin

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Comments or Questions
Unique route
09/06/2013 17:49
Certainly gives a different perspective on this popular centennial!

Looks like Fun
09/16/2013 01:08
Great photos & looks like an awesome weather day as well : )

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