Vermilion Peak is best described as a straightforward, relatively quick scramble that starts ascending almost immediately. There is no warm up here, just right down to business. The drawback with this type of climb is that there is no break in it; it is just straight upward with no levelling off until you reach the summit.
Elevation Gain: 1207 m
GPS: N51 09 35.6 W116 09 09.0
Elevation: 1419 m
Vermilion Peak Summit:
GPS: N51 09 37.3 W116 07 00.5
Elevation: 2586 m
Trailhead: From the Castle Mountain junction on the Trans-Canada Highway follow Hwy. 93 (Banff–Radium Highway) 21 km south to 4.1 km south of the Marble Canyon parking lot and 1.5 km south of the Paint Pots parking lot. The trailhead is unmarked but you can recognize it by an opening in the forest creating a bit of a meadow on the east (left) side of the highway. It’s your choice whether to park your vehicle here and leave it alone or park instead in the Paint Pots parking lot and walk the 1.5 km to the trailhead.
Cross this sometimes muddy field and follow the small slope up to the remnants of the old highway. Turn south (right) here and walk for about 75 to 100 m, reaching a wide opening in the forest on your left. This obvious, broad gap makes its way up to the gully, which you will remain in for the better part of this scramble. In fact, this gully is visible from the highway and is clearly the only choice up this side of the mountain.
This avalanche channel has two easy obstacles to manoeuvre. Two small rock walls in quick succession require a little bit of handwork for about 15 to 20 m. Beyond the rock walls, continue up the path and you will eventually encounter a fork. Both trails will bring you to the same place. The right-hand one is shorter but steeper. Regardless which one you choose, you will arrive below the summit ridge. Continue ascending but begin to traverse to the right until you reach a reasonable approach that will get you to the summit ridge.
Once up on the ridge, most of the work is done and the rest is an easy walk on a well-trodden path that straddles the ridge to the summit. About 100 m shy of the cairn-marked true summit is the well-marked “popular” summit where most scramblers seem to stop due to exposure and sudden drops down either side. It is up to you. Assess your confidence and comfort and do not just go on pride.
Stanley Peak is unmistakable to the east at an impressive 3155 m, while the less impressive Mount Haffner is slightly south (right) at 2514 m.
Vermilion Peak history
Vermilion Peak derives its name from the river and valley of the same name. Vermilion is one of the brilliant colours of the pigment the Ktunaxa (Kootenay) First Nations discovered in this area. The Ktunaxa would extract the stuff from the region’s ochre beds and heat it over large fires to smelt out the pigmented powder. They would then mix this with animal grease and use it for colouring their clothing, painting their bodies and making pictures on rocks. The most common colours were red (vermilion) and yellow.