Vermilion Peak, 13,894 feet
Parter: Cheryl Benson
Hope Lake TH
Distance: 7.5 miles roundtrip with approximately 3700 feet of gain
I have had a long “give and take” relationship with Vermilion Peak. I’ve given it several attempts, and it has taken me to the cleaners on every one. I’ve been shut down in several ways. I’ve had bad weather in the summer, good weather in the winter and a dog that just refused to climb on. I had made a weak attempt as recently as last Sunday, when a gnarly snowstorm turned us back.
Cheryl and I decided to give it a go in better conditions on Saturday. The weather forecast looked perfect and proved to be correct for once. I wore a sleeveless shirt all the way to the Fuller saddle.
The day started on a sour note. My alarm failed to go off and I overslept for a few extra hours. I thought our chances were doomed from the get go. I think we got to the TH at about 9:30. We had made it to the base of the upper basin on last weeks trip. The snow was still a problem in the trees last week. This trip, we just took off up the path of least resistance to reach the first pass into the Fuller/Vermilion Basin. Up in the basin, we simply aimed for the Fuller/Vermilion saddle. After a brief snow climb, we picked up cairns that were visible for most of the remainder to the saddle and up to the base of Vermilion’s summit block.
The trip got interesting here as an axe became necessary for the last section of the traverse. We were under what we thought was the summit block, when Cheryl suggested just going up a chimney to the top. It looked like a fun jaunt of climbing, but I would put it as a 5.0, so I knew it wasn’t the standard way. Without blinking, Cheryl took off up the weakness in the summit block. This climb was cool, but immediately put the true summit in view. I was struck by the thought: “I’m freakin’ glad I don’t have to down climb that.”
Five more talus hoping minutes put us on the summit. There were awesome views in perfect weather. We studied the register and found that the couple we spoke with briefly on the trail were the first registered climbers of the year. If only my alarm would have went off.......
We took the easier route down, by traversing around to the visible Hope Lake trail. We had seen several hikers and figured it must be passable. It turned out to be a much easier choice.