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Vermilion Peak

Summit Elevation (m): 2636
Elevation Gain (m): 1300
Round Trip Time (hr): 7
Total Trip Distance (km): 10
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 2/3 – you fall, you sprain or break something. Unless you’re caught in an avalanche – then you could die.
Difficulty Notes: Winter ascent includes serious avalanche risks. Learn how to manage these risks and perform avalanche burial rescues before attempting this trip.
Technical Rating: OT3; YDS (Skiing)
Map: Google Maps


On Saturday, March 6 2010 I was joined by Scott Berry, JW and Janice to ski Vermillion Peak. We had a gorgeous day and sublime mountain views but on hindsight we probably should not have chosen this particular peak for an 8 degree day. The route up was clearly marked with a very hard packed track. The snow pack had about 2 inches of solid ice crust on top with facets underneath which did not inspire confidence in either the ongoing slope stability in the warm temps or for the ski back down. We followed the up track ’til there was a split just before the pass.

Vermilion Peak Route Map

Scott and I chose to follow the ‘shortcut’ track that traversed just under the south end of the ridge and then cut back up steeply to gain it. JW and Janice weren’t planning on the summit since JW had already done it and Janice was supposed to be learning the joys of backcountry skiing.

An amazing view of Stanley, Beatrice, Ball and Haffner at left with Scott on the lower ridge and the Vermilion Range at right.

The ridge was easy except for the last 200 meters or so. With a very suspect cornice on the right and a steep slope with rock, shale and snow on our left we had to be very careful on this stretch. Scott led most of the ridge and we made it to the summit about 3 hours after leaving the car as the first summit party of 2010. We took in the amazing views for a few minutes before hastening down the softening ridge. We were a bit nervous about the slopes just under the ridge. They had settled a bit on me on the way up.

The summit ridge isn’t easy or straightforward in winter conditions. Amazing views to the Rockwall and Goodsirs at left now.
A crazy panorama from Whymper (L) to Castle, Storm, Stanley, Ball, Haffner, Assiniboine, Hawk Ridge, Verendrye, Foster, Numa, Tumbling, Drysdale, Limestone, Goodsirs, Sharp, Hungabee, Deltaform, Quadra and many others.
Looking north across hwy 93 up the Tokumm Creek Valley towards the Fay Glacier and peaks including, Hungabee, Deltaform, Allan and Quadra at right.

The ski run down was good for about 1000 feet before conditions deteriorated and the bottom fell out of the snow pack. Even in the trees we felt that some slopes were close to sliding. Scott set off a very small slide but it was enough to keep us off steep rolls on the way down. It was some of the worst skiing of my life! How’s that for a ringing endorsement?

More incredible views towards the Goodsirs include Sentry, Limestone, South Goodsir, North Goodsir and Sharp Mountain.

The funniest moment was when I ran straight into a 2 foot diameter tree – head on!! My one wrist is sprained but that’s about all the damage… 😉 Again, I would only recommend this peak if you’re comfortable with an exposed and corniced ridge and can assess the avi hazards just before gaining the ridge. Also save it for a cooler day – those burnt trees can give you a real lesson in survival skiing if you catch them in bad snow conditions.

Looking up at Vermilion Peak from the parking lot. Doesn't look that far!
Looking up at Vermilion Peak from the parking lot. Doesn't look that far!
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Skiing up the Vermilion Peak burn.
Haffner Peak shows up as we get closer to the pass.
Haffner Peak shows up as we get closer to the pass.
Another view towards Haffner - this time on the slope just under the ridge.
Another view towards Haffner - this time on the slope just under the ridge.
Scott follows up the slope just under the ridge.
Scott follows up the slope just under the ridge.
Mount Gray.
Mount Gray.
The Goodsirs.
The Goodsirs.
Limestone, Goodsirs and Sharp.
Limestone, Goodsirs and Sharp.
Scott follows up the slope just under the ridge.
Scott follows up the slope just under the ridge.
Now I'm on the ridge and Scott is following up, just below it.
Now I'm on the ridge and Scott is following up, just below it.
Views south to Mount Assiniboine.
Views south to Mount Assiniboine.
Scott on the south ridge.
Scott on the south ridge.
Scott is enjoying this beautiful day.
Scott is enjoying this beautiful day.
An amazing view of Storm, Stanley, Ball and Haffner with Scott on the lower ridge.
An amazing view of Storm, Stanley, Ball and Haffner with Scott on the lower ridge.
The final summit ridge is tricky in winter conditions.
The final summit ridge is tricky in winter conditions.
Scott leads the tricky final 200m to the summit. Not for the faint of heart with cliffs to the left and cornices on the right!
Scott leads the tricky final 200m to the summit. Not for the faint of heart with cliffs to the left and cornices on the right!
Scott on the summit ridge.
Scott on the summit ridge.
Scott approaches the summit of Vermilion Peak.
Scott approaches the summit of Vermilion Peak.
Views up Tokumm Creek to the Fay Glacier include Hungabee, Deltaform, Allan, Perren and more.
Views up Tokumm Creek to the Fay Glacier include Hungabee, Deltaform, Allan, Perren and more.
Whymper, Bell, Chickadee and Quadra.
Whymper, Bell, Chickadee and Quadra.
Hungabee and Deltaform.
Hungabee and Deltaform.
Hungabee and Deltaform.
Hungabee and Deltaform.
Quadra and Bident.
Quadra and Bident.
Whymper (L) to Castle, Storm, Stanley, Ball, Haffner, Assiniboine, Hawk Ridge, Verendrye, Foster, Numa, Tumbling, Drysdale, Limestone, Goodsirs, Sharp, Hungabee, Deltaform, Quadra
Whymper (L) to Castle, Storm, Stanley, Ball, Haffner, Assiniboine, Hawk Ridge, Verendrye, Foster, Numa, Tumbling, Drysdale, Limestone, Goodsirs, Sharp, Hungabee, Deltaform, Quadra
Tokumm Creek Valley.
Tokumm Creek Valley.
Storm, Stanley, Beatrice and Mount Ball.
Storm, Stanley, Beatrice and Mount Ball.
Mount Storm.
Mount Storm.
The entire Castle Mountain massif with Pulsatilla at left and Bonnet at distant right.
The entire Castle Mountain massif with Pulsatilla at left and Bonnet at distant right.
Mount Whymper with Boom Mountain.
Mount Whymper with Boom Mountain.
Chickadee Peak in front of Quadra.
Chickadee Peak in front of Quadra.
Sentry, Limestone, Goodsir South, North and Sharp Mountain.
Sentry, Limestone, Goodsir South, North and Sharp Mountain.
Tumbling, Gray and Drysdale.
Tumbling, Gray and Drysdale.
Hewitt and Tumbling.
Hewitt and Tumbling.
The Goodsirs and Sharp Mountain.
The Goodsirs and Sharp Mountain.
Ochre Creek at left, Tokumm at right. Ochre Peak at center foreground.
Ochre Creek at left, Tokumm at right. Ochre Peak at center foreground.
Mount Gray.
Mount Gray.
Mount Biddle, Hungabee and Deltaform.
Mount Biddle, Hungabee and Deltaform.
Looking south down the Vermilion River Valley.
Looking south down the Vermilion River Valley.
Mount Assiniboine.
Mount Assiniboine.
Mount Assiniboine.
Mount Assiniboine.
Scott at the summit.
Scott at the summit.

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