Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ice Lakes Basin - Part 2

EA2014 - Day 2

Golden Horn, Vermillion Peak, US Grant Peak.
First Reflections

The reward of an early rising
Old mining camp ruins from a prior era
Vermillion center, Golden Horn right

Vermillion peak at right

Vermillion Peak (L) and Golden Horn (R)

We are heading for the saddle in the middle.
The "crux" of Golden horn wasn't much of one.

Looking at the face of Vermillion Peak

Heading up Golden Horn. It was easier than it looks.

Pretty easy climbing to the summit.

(Camera a little foggy) Bypassing a spire on the ridge

US Grant Peak center-right

Looking over at Vermillion

The Summit of Golden Horn

Looking west from GH

Show me your horns!

A surprisingly pleasant trail up the back side of Vermillion

Now we just have to get on top of that

Ice Lake is distant left

The Mt. Wilson massif, featuring 2 1/2  14ers

It's goofy but I had to
Lake Hope from the summit of Vermillion

coming down Vermillion- not sure why the pic turned out this way

A hundred years ago someone was relying on these rocks for shelter from wind, ice and snow

Scott and Golden Horn

Fuller Lake

Ulysses S. Grant Peak (US Grant) center

Alpine marsh above Ice Lake

So photogenic though

We got back at our tent around 1030 AM. We decided that the weather looked OK and we were going to head for the Island Lake basin to bag more peaks. I ate some mountain house cajun beans and rice and then we got our water and packs ready for the next adventure. We left about 12:30 PM.

This is Island Lake

The climb to the saddle above Island lake was steep, and the top portion was quite unstable.

You can see the saddle center-right here. You climb steeply up to this saddle and then trun and climb the ridge.

Clouds are gathering

So I guess at this point I need to mention what happened. Scott and I had a disagreement about what to do here. I wanted to climb US Grant Peak, and he did not. I think between the possibly sketchy weather and the unknown route, he was not up for it. But I was. We had an argument, I went left, he went right. In hindsight what I did was pretty stupid. The route up this ridge is not that great: It's loose, pretty much unmarked and untraveled; and the crux was really crappy. Let me tell you about this crux; imagine if you will a narrow ledge, above this is outward sloping rock with no good handholds. Below this is a steep drop-off to the sloped side of the mountain. Covering this narrow ledge are pizza sized oddly shaped UNSTABLE rocks and dirt. It was the stuff of nightmares. I (and my family) am lucky I survived. Somehow taking pics of everything was not my top priority so I only have a few photos of the way up and down US Grant. I did reach the summit, but it was probably a fool's errand for me.

The initial route is not exactly encouraging

I just love the colors. Smooth and grassy on one side, loose and rocky on the other.

This is the crux. It's the worst thing I've ever done, although a fall might have been survivable

And we are skipping to the summit of US Grant Peak

Looking back to Ice Lake basin, Ice Lake is hidden behind the ridge at the bottom.

Since I was solo, this is a summit selfie

Island Lake from above

 Mt. Wilson, Gladstone Peak, and Wilson Peak (L to R)

A loose-looking sub-peak NW of US Grant

Relaxing, Colorado style at Island Lake

We got back to our tent and packed up as quickly as we could, drinking a beer as we hastily stuffed our gear. By this point we were quite tired, and we knew there was more stuff to come. We wanted to get down because we were so cold and tired the night before, and thought retreating to a lower altitude would be nice.

Relaxing, Colorado-Style at Ice Lake. Those puppies are barking.

Massive rocks and little waterfalls

Not too many pictures on the way down. We were tired and had been up since 4:30 AM. We hustled back to the car, drove to Montrose, ate some Qdoba, and then drove 6 hours home, getting back right at midnight. This was one of the most "action packed" days I've ever done! Scaling 3 13ers hiking and driving back all the way from the middle of the San Juans.

Ice Lakes Basin - Part 1

"Epic Adventure" 2014

Ice Lakes Basin, San Juan Mountains, Colorado 28-29 August 2014 

Golden Horn, Vermillion Peak, US Grant Peak

From "Secret" shortcut parking area

Every year for the last 4 years Scott and I have embarked on an "Epic Adventure" in the summer. This usually (always) involves climbing mountains in the San Juan area- since it's the best. This year we decided to go after some 13ers near Ice Lake, since it looked so appealing. Being who we are, we couldn't just go somewhere for enjoyment, we had to have a mission. So our mission was to climb Golden Horn and Vermillion Peak, and see what else we felt motivated to climb.

Cool waterfall right at the start

Why so serious?

Looking down from the hidden waterfall
It only takes a couple minutes to traverse the "Shortcut" trail, and it seems to cut off some considerable elevation gain. While the missed trail I'm sure is nice, most of the beauty of this route happens above the junction. I will say that this trail is excellent from start to finish in terms of views.

Another Waterfall
I love the black-stained rock you sometimes see in this area

This is certainly Handies Peak

In the lower basin area, working our way up to those mountains. Vermillion and Golden Horn are visible.

Another cool waterfall in a narrow rock gulch

Sideways waterfall

Looking out over the lower Ice Lake basin. San Juans at their finest.

Upper Ice Lake Basin

Vermillion is directly in the middle, Golden Horn hidden at the right.

Ice Lake

"The Feast" Subway Sandwhich, Mouse's Chocolates Scrap Cookie, and Maui Coconut Porter

So good
The water really does look like this, due to white minerals in the water.
The water calmed down a little for a more pronounced reflection. The lighting wasn't right though.
I like the contrail
It was cool and breezy enough that capturing the beauty of the Ice blue lake in stillness was nearly impossible. No crystal clear reflections would grace us this day.

That's our little slice of nirvana
The sun brushes the tips of the mountains as it retreats for the day

A palette of pastel hues electrify the crags

Scott and I stayed up until 10PM to shoot pictures of the stars. I hauled a cheap tripod up the mountain to go with my DX format DSLR camera. This time I had a remote release, although I think my star photos didn't really turn out. It was a fun experience. It was a small crecent moon and we waited for moonset before going out. It was very, very dark, and the visual humming of the stars sparkling in the sky reminded me of crikets in the summer. So quiet and peaceful, with a million stars winking down at us. A peaceful and awe-inspiring end to a day with so much to offer, and the promise of more to come in the morning.

Milky Way

Milky way over the mountains

So many stars
The vastness of the Universe unfolded above us in this desolate place. Pinpoints of light, piercing the veil of infinite darkness. So far from the humming and thrumming of the civilized world, unaware of such wonders. Clinging to the cold, dark side of a massive rock spinning through space and time, I was filled with wonder. Such amazing things exist, but hidden from view; to be a part of such a journey felt like a privilege.