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Vallecito Trail Update

We have recently visited the Vallecito Trail in the Weminuche Wilderness from the trailhead near Kite Lake, across Hunchback Pass, down to where Sunlight Creek comes in, then up the Sunlight drainage. New and/or revised information has been posted for the Kite Lake/Hunchback trailhead and the associated approach segments including field-verified GPS waypoints for key campsites and the stream crossings to reach the upper basin of Sunlight Creek and Sunlight Lake. 

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#119 / 13,767' Ulysses S. Grant Peak

Range › San Juan Range
Quadrangle › Ophir
Summit Location › Peak Route Icon N 37° 49' 28.10", W 107° 48' 26.43" (Not Field Checked)
Neighboring Peaks › Peak Icon V 4 Peak Icon V 3 Peak Icon V 2

Peak Summary

Ulysses S. Grant Peak is another of the Ice Lake Basin group of summits that offers a sporting and entertaining route to the summit from its south ridge and saddle between it and V.4. Can be accomplished as a day climb from the South Mineral Campground trailhead and if approached from there, can be accessed by passenger vehicle. We give this peak a solid Class 3 ranking, perhaps even Class 4 to some because of one difficulty, but can be done without rope.  

US Grant South Ridge Route

Class 3
Long Day // Back for Dinner
RT From South Mineral Creek TH: 6.5 mi / 4,000'
  • Trailhead
    • South Mineral Creek TH

      From the Town of Silverton and the US 550 intersection on the west side of town, drive north on US 550 and in a little over 2 miles turn west onto FR585. If coming from Ouray, drive south on US 550 over Red Mountain Pass and watch for the FR585 turnoff on your right before reaching Silverton. Drive west on this graded dirt road to the campground and trailhead parking appx. 4.7 miles in. The last mile of road gets a little rougher but should still be navigable by passenger cars.

      Alternate TH: This should only be used if accessing peaks in the Ice Lake basin area. Do not follow these directions if trying to access peaks at the head of the South Fork of Mineral Creek.

      Follow directions from Silverton or Ouray as before, but before arriving at the campground, watch for a 4WD drive road that heads diagonally up the hillside on your right, a little more than .7 mile before the campground and lower TH parking area or about 3.9 to 4.0 miles in from the highway. The road you're looking for is called the "Clear Lake Road," #815. It does not show on the older USGS quad, but does show on the Forest Service map. It turns off at these coordinates: N 37° 48' 19.49" W 107° 45' 46.26". Drive about a mile up this road to the first switchback and park here for summits in Ice Lake Basin if a space is available (very limited parking and no camping here). Parking coordinates are: N 37° 48' 37.64" W 107° 46' 35.63" Elev. 10,335 ft. Beginning your hike here will not save overall mileage but will save about 400 feet of gain. 4WD with better clearance recommended. From the car park, a trail heads NW and quickly comes to a crossing of Clear Creek. Getting across when water volume is high can be problematic & even a bit risky. If you succeed, continue following the trail on the other side. It will shortly be joined by the main trail coming up from the trailhead at the parking area by the South Mineral Campground.

      This same road also continues to Clear Lake and the basin below South Lookout Peak. If in a lower clearance 2WD vehicle, you will not want to drive up this road any. Park wherever you can find a place to do so near where the road #815 turns off from FR585. If you have a good clearance, 4WD vehicle, you can drive all the way up to Clear Lake.


      Camping

      All along FR585, there are numerous at-large, primitive sites. Upon turning off US 550 and driving less than a mile, there's a large open area on the left with a vault toilet. There are usually a large number of RV's here. There is also the South Mineral Creek Campground and before arriving at the campground, you will see a number of other camp spots. Expect competition on the weekends for sites. This is a very popular area. There is no "allowed" camping at the trail head parking area.

    Peak Icon Route Map Photos

    Route Info US Grant South Ridge

    Route Description

    Year Climbed: 1995
    The route description we used for this climb in 1995 came from Mike Garratt and Bob Martin's book. Use either the lower trailhead that starts from the parking area across from the South Mineral Campground, or drive up to the higher trailhead on the Clear Lake road.

    From the lower trail head parking lot that can accommodate a large number of vehicles, begin hiking on the well-used and popular trail to Lower Ice Lake Basin. It's less than 2 miles into the lower basin area. The trail levels off some into the basin after a steep section of climbing on switchbacks. If backpacking into here, there are a number of good campsites in the lower basin. Not long after the trail levels in the lower basin, watch for a secondary trail turning off at these coordinates, on the right. N 37° 48' 45.33" W 107° 47' 29.55". This trail leads up first north, then west, then north again across mostly tundra to near Island Lake. Walk on over to the lake.

    Hike to the west end of Island Lake on the south side. Head NW up the basin to the saddle between US Grant and V 4. There will be a bench-like area at about 12,700 ft. In earlier season, you may have snow on this part of the ascent so ice axe and/or micro-spikes would be handy. Without snow present, you can gain this bench on mostly tundra. Above the bench, there will be an area of rock rubble to contend with, another smaller patch of tundra and then a loose scramble on talus and rubble to the saddle at 13,220 ft.

    from the saddle, we found a clear trail that leads up the south ridge. The trail climbs mostly on small, broken rock between projections of rock outcroppings. it's all easy going through here. Eventually, the trail will lead to a section of ridge that will narrow to just a few feet wide. On both sides, steep, rock-filled gullies drop away. In front of you will be a 12 foot wall, described by G&M. The rock here is quite yellow. A good crack takes you up the wall for 8 feet to a small shelf. The last 4 feet is just a small step up to a 4 foot wide ledge system. We had a short piece of rope with us for this one section, but did not use it. This is the only section that rates at least 3rd class climbing. Some rate this 4th class. The upper ledge we found ourselves on was sufficiently wide and comfortable. It cuts across the south side of the peak at about the 13,600 foot level. Follow it east briefly (about 20 yards) to a wide couloir that's mostly solid rock with smaller rubble laying on top that tends to roll underfoot. The couloir is not too steep. Once out of the couloir, regain the south ridge and follow it to the summit on Class 2+ terrain.

    Enjoy the splendid summit view in all directions. If you haven't climbed South Lookout Peak yet, take a hard look at that one. Descend this peak as you came. We would definitely suggest climbing V.4 from the US Grant-V.4 saddle. V.3 to the NW of US Grant is a much more difficult traverse. Derek Wolfe (Furthermore) describes attempting this traverse and says "it did not go." Best features of this hike: Some scrambling on US Grant and the amazing wildflowers of Lower Ice Lake Basin.


    Additional BETA

    Links to other information, routes & trip reports for this peak that may be helpful.
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