Sunday, August 13, 2017

V2 (Peak 13,309'), Ice Lake Basin Series

Essence: V2 is the northeast eminence of a series of sky-cleaving peaks encircling the Ice Lake Basin. Of all the mountains along the basin's arc, summiting V2 requires the least effort in distance and elevation gain, accessible for any strong trail hiker. Finish on a safe and pleasurable linear summit ridge overlooking spectacularly colorful lakes. Enjoy a lovely walk through aspen and conifer forests. High-basin flowers are among the best in Colorado. The only caveat is the slippery trail between Island Lake and Swamp Pass. Consider, runners do this by headlamp. Experience a few miles of the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run.
Travel: From Silverton drive north on US Route 550 toward Ouray for two miles. At the sign for the South Mineral Campground bear left onto a good dirt road. In 4.2 miles, park in a large lot on the right at the trailhead. There is an outhouse but no water.
Distance and Elevation Gain: 8.0 miles; 3,600 feet of climbing
Time: 4:30 to 6:30
Difficulty: Trail; navigation easy; mild exposure; slippery trail on approach to Swamp Pass
Map: Ophir, Colorado 7.5 USGS Quad
Latest Date Hiked: August 13, 2017
Historical Note: The San Juan Mountaineers, founded in 1912, assigned an alphanumeric designation to select unnamed peaks. "V" means the peak is on the old 15-minute Vermilion quad. "T" stands for Telluride, and "S" for Mount Sneffels. Reference The San Juan Mountaineers' Climber's Guide to Southwestern Colorado, out of print, published in 1932 by Dwight Lavender after whom Lavender Peak in the La Plata Mountains was named.
Quote: Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it. Goethe

From the summit of V2 look out over some of Colorado's most challenging and visually captivating mountains. Island Lake is directly below. Ice Lake's brilliance is partially seen beyond V4's southeast ridge.

Route: Walk on the Ice Lake Trail generally northwest. After 2.2 miles, take an unmarked footpath to Island Lake and Swamp Pass. Upon reaching the pass, walk east on a social trail to the summit ridge of V2.

The hike to Ice Lake has gone viral on the world stage. This shot was taken mid-day in 2014. On my most recent hike in 2017 vehicles overflowed onto the access road by 8:00 am. 

From the trailhead, elevation 9,840 feet, switchback up the generous path on an excellent surface. Flora is rich on the woodland floor of the subalpine fir and aspen forest. Hop across Clear Creek on its mad rush to South Mineral Creek at 0.5 mile. At 0.9 mile, leave the trail on a short spur to see the Clear Creek cascade.

Flowers take over in a clearing and then the track enters a thick stand of mature conifers at 1.6 miles. In this forest the Hardrock 100 course comes in from the left and joins our route to Island Lake. This hardcore footrace begins and ends in Silverton, linking Telluride, Ouray, and Lake City with 33,992 feet of climbing over 100 miles.

At 2.2 miles, the secondary trail to Island Lake takes off to the right  at 11,460 feet. This juncture is intermittently marked with a cairn and is easy to miss. It is located at the very beginning of Lower Ice Lake Basin. Pictured is the south-facing slope the trail climbs. 

In the west, the dramatic triumvirate that heads the Ice Lake Basin commands and holds attention through the remainder of the hike. Pictured are Fuller Peak, Vermilion Peak, and Golden Horn. Vermilion, 13,894', is ranked No. 74 in Colorado.

The track begins due north then turns briefly northeast to contour across a hillside under a cliff band. Once past this obstruction the thin treadway switches west. Mid-summer, the flowers are truly magnificent. Featured in this image are orange sneezeweed, sulfur and rosy paintbrush, alpine avens, bluebell, and American bistort. Bordering a rivulet are brookcress and Parry's primrose. As you approach Island Lake, handsome U S Grant, 13,767', consumes the sky.

Step across the outlet of a shallow pond. Just off the trail in the Island Lake Basin is a big boulder, 3.2 miles, 12,460 feet. It affords a nice view of the lake and V4, Point 13,540'. From here V2 is less than an hour away.

Pictured below is the trail to Swamp Pass as seen from the boulder. The pass is on the right side of the gendarme image-center. After passing through red scree the trail splits. Stay low on the proper switchback to mitigate further erosion.

There are wildcat trails in this area. Just before reaching the pass go right of this minor outcrop. The last couple hundred feet are steep and slick on resistant soil. Trekking poles are helpful.

Reach Swamp Pass at 3.5 miles, 12,900 feet. South Lookout is rimpled and serrated.

Once I did a thru-hike key exchange on the Hardrock 100 course. I went over Swamp Pass and down into Swamp Canyon. Plunge step about 500 feet, pictured, and locate a cairn marking the trail on an alluvial fan. Finish on the Ophir Pass Road at Iron Spring.

To reach V2, turn east on a slender social trail and pass by the Joel Zucker memorial. He was a Hardrock competitor up until his death in 1998. The Goethe quote cited above is etched on the plaque.

The footpath stays on the west side of ridge humps, little piles of red scree, pictured looking back. Mighty U S Grant rises to the west of Swamp Pass.

The ridge is simple, astonishing views continually unfold. Pictured is the east end of the summit ridge.

The actual highpoint on V2 is hard to peg. The linear crest is narrow but always wide enough to be comfortable.  Seamed rock stacks are playful and beautiful.

Find the summit cairn at 4.0 miles, 13,309 feet. The peak falls off precipitously on either side with sheer cliffs on the northface.

This image looks southwest into the Ice Lake Basin. Pilot Knob is the flat-topped technical peak to the right of Golden Horn. Island Lake beguiles directly below. Ice Lake scintillates. Fuller Lake dominates on high.

Clear Lake, a popular 4WD destination, hugs the base of the north cliffs. Visible on the eastern horizon are the fourteeners Wetterhorn, Uncompahgre, and Handies. Swirling around you can see Half Peak, the Grenadiers and Needle Mountains, Engineer Mountain, Rolling Mountain--it's endless. 

The descent from Swamp Pass is a Slip 'N Slide. On our last hike the electricity started at 11:15 and rain soon followed--pretty typical in the Ice Lake region. If the weather allows, follow up the peak hike with a loop to wondrous Ice Lake. Additional effort is minimal.

This image was shot in July, 2012 from U S Grant. V2 is image-left.

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