V.9 is a Class 2+ ascent with one critical and unlikely appearing break in a short cliff band that keeps this climb on that level. V.9 by itself can be a short day climb from the South Mineral Creek trailhead if you have 4WD. If you have to start from the South Mineral Creek CG, you'll be adding at least five more miles round-trip to this hike. V.9 has a secondary summit to the west that we measure at 13,230 ft. Another route that utilizes the North ridge of the mountain goes at Class 3 according to one report we found.
Use this trailhead for: Rolling Mtn., The Twin Sisters, V.9, V.10, and as a secondary access to V.8 and Beattie.
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.
When you reach the campground, there will be trailhead parking on the right for the trail that accesses Ice Lake Basin and the Island Lake area. On the left will be the entrance to the CG. To continue to the South Fork of Mineral Creek TH, do not turn into the campground. Just continue straight and the road will bend to the left and will continue in a SW direction gaining elevation above the campground. The road will quickly change over to much rougher. This is where we recommend the 4WD. We have seen this road in better shape but it does receive a lot of day use during the summer months and that contributes to the wear and tear. This is FR585 on the San Juan NF map and Trails Illustrated. It usually has not been too rough or slow. Soon after exiting the trees, the road cuts across the open flank of Fuller Peak and the high tundra ridge that divides this drainage from Ice Lake Basin. Continue to the coordinates provided which will be just below the Bandora Mine and where the road divides. The right fork is closed but there's room for a couple vehicles to park. If there's no room, you may have to take the left fork down a bit to find a parking spot. Use this location if planning on doing V.9, V.8, Beattie or even V.10 (a very long haul form here.) Elevation is 10,700 ft.
If you're wanting to do Rolling Mountain or the Twin Sisters, drive on down the left fork, cross some mud puddles and make a low water crossing of the main creek The road cuts through a swath of willows then comes to an end in a beautiful meadow (or what was if beetle kill got into here). The Rico-Silverton Trail begins here. The coordinates are: n 37° 46' 49.53" W 107° 48' 10.72". There are some good campsites right here. Elevation is 10,685 ft.
All along FR585, once you turn off US550, 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 fierce competition on summer weekends for sites. This is a very popular area. There is no "allowed" camping at the trail head parking area.
Directions for South Mineral CG per San Juan NF: South Mineral Campground is accessed by turning off U.S. Highway 550, about 3 miles west of Silverton, onto Forest Rd. 585, which heads west along South Mineral Creek. The campground is 4 miles off the highway and has 26 mostly level sites. Several camping loops and well-spaced sites are mostly shaded, but some are sunny. A few are next to the creek, and some have large parking areas. The Ice Lake Basin Trail, a strenuous, steep, and popular hike, begins across the road from the campground. It leads up above timberline to high alpine lakes surrounded by meadows of wildflowers and rocky peaks. South Mineral Campground does not take reservations. All sites are first come first served. There are an assortment of designated areas along South Mineral Road where dispersed camping is allowed so there is plenty of camping in the canyon on all but the busiest days.
Picnic tables, composting vault toilets, fire grates, trash disposal, potable water. No electricity. Operated by concessionaire. The campground has 26 sites that are mostly level, at 9,800 feet. Some sites are handicapped accessible. Several camping loops and well-spaced sites offer plenty of privacy. Spruce and fir give lots of shade, but there are some sunny sites. A few sites are along the creek, and some have large parking areas.
Dispersed camping along Forest Rd. 585 is allowed only in designated camping areas. Please follow posted directions and instructions.
Where the South Mineral Creek road divides near the Bandora Mine, hike SW up the old fork that eventually leads to a pass where you can hike down to Hope Lake. This road has been closed to vehicles for some time and has become overgrown in places. The old roadbed climbs steadily and becomes increasingly faint. At a point about 3/4 mile up, the old road switchbacks. We were looking for this but somehow missed where the road continues up and switchbacks again to continue up valley. Because we missed this turn, we continued to contour up valley, but below the road, bushwhacking our way through forest, willows, tall corn lilies and grassy areas of wildflowers. Eventually, we broke out of the trees and continued up the basin toward an old mining cabin we could see in the distance. The flowers in this area were remarkable, especially a prolific variety of a pinkish/purple paintbrush.
From the cabin, walk southwest, across the vast meadow, climbing gently toward the steep slopes of the connecting V.9/Rolling ridge. Where the real steep work begins, we were about 1,000 feet below the saddle. We started out hiking over nice tundra with just a small amount of rock. As we hiked further, the slope steepened, the grass diminished and the rock increased. Things became noticeably looser. The last 200 or more vertical feet were a scramble over loose, sandy soil that presented us with one of those “one-step-forward, two-steps-back” kind of scenarios, except it was more like two steps forward and one back. This slope finally culminated at the base of a 100 ft. cliff, barring further progress to the saddle without breaking out a rope and helmet. We intersected this cliff at about its lowest point. When you are well below the cliff, watch for a route to the right that would make use of a vague ramp angling up that would grant access to the ridge without having to scale any cliffs.
The ramp was somewhat sloping, covered with loose sand and small rock and climbing up to the right from about the lowest point on the cliff band, just a little to the right of a very prominent couloir that broke the face of the cliff. There was really only one problem spot on it, where we had to gingerly step across a sloping face of rock for several feet with minimal holds. Once across this, it was just a scramble on very loose rock and sand up the remainder of the steep ramp and out onto the higher sloping face of the mountain. Once off the ramp, we even saw footprints and a few cairns indicating someone else had made use of this route before. In a few more minutes, we stood on the saddle of the ridge overlooking the huge basin at the head of Cascade Creek. Make your way northwest along the rocky but easy ridge to the summit of V.9. It did not even take a full 20 minutes from the saddle to complete the climb for us.
Enjoy a great view of Lake Hope, V.10, Grizzly, and Fuller & Vermillion Peaks to the north. There is also a good view of V.5, a lower 13er east of Clear Lake with a difficult, rocky little summit. REturn carefully as you came or it's possible to follow the SE ridge over to Rolling Mountain on a Class 3 route. The traverse to San Miguel to the west appeared to be rather gnarly. V.9 has a western summit that may appear as high but we measure it as being 13,230 ft. It's possible to make a "quick" trip over to it and back if you so desire, otherwise return as you came. Hopefully you clearly marked the head of the ramp that allows access up through the cliff!