San Juan County High Point Trip Report

Vermilion Pk on Ophir USGS quadrangle (13,894 ft)

Dates: July 5 and Oct 2-3, 1992
Author: David Olson

Sunday July 5, 1992 I tried climbing Vermilion Peak, elevation 13,894 ft, from the bottom, starting at 9:45 am, with 4,100 ft of gain. Along the way I met a fellow practicing for the Hard Rock 100 ultra-marathon. He is Tom Knutson, Northfield MN Class of 1969, same as my cousin Lyle, same hometown as me, just a few years older. It's a small world! He is a Honeywell representative in Minneapolis.

At 13,000 ft, at 1:00 p.m, I had had too much snow and turned back.

Friday October 2, 1992 I went to the trailhead and hiked up to Lower Ice Lake Basin. There was much less running water than in July. Because I wasn't confident about schedule I stayed at camp and read 50 pages of P.G. Wodehouse instead of attempting a peak.

Saturday October 3 Not much of a breakfast 'cause my stove didn't work. I went up and climbed Vermilion Peak (13,894 ft), Fuller Peak (13,761 ft), and Beattie Peak behind Fuller Pk (13,342 ft). The look of Golden Horn scared me off.

This time the route was nearly snow-free, except for a cornice stretching across nearly the whole Fuller-Vermilion saddle. Turning towards Vermilion I climbed/bypassed the first cliff-step, heading up its left side. At the second cliff-step climbers have a choice between a high route or a low route. I climbed up and took the high route. Then I passed the narrow spot where the routes rejoin and faced the last cliff, to the top. I climbed up it. At the top I saw with dismay that the top is only one foot across and then it cliffed down the other side. I shifted two feet to the right, where the top was wider and got up to the highest point of the very small summit. The survey party that made the first ascent wrote that the top is so small that they were obliged to crawl underneath their survey transit to take readings in all directions.

Fuller Peak is an easy subpeak of Vermilion Peak. I also went up Beattie Peak behind these two. The return trip was a disagreeable trudge. The scree on this side of Vermilion is looser than the scree above Ice Lake.

On one of my two trips, during my hike down, I conversed with a geologist who pointed out the view of the volcanic debris piled on top of sedimentary rock, and the fault that has raised all the rock much higher on one side than the other, visible in the basin below Lower Ice Lake.

I drove down to Silverton, ate in a really nice Mexican restaurant and spent the night on the southern edge of Silverton.


Colorado's High Thirteeners, by Bob Martin and Mike Garratt.
The San Juan Mountains, by Robert Rosebrough.
Hiking Colorado's Summits, by John Drew Mitchler and Dave Covill.