July 11, 2003
Having spent the 4th of July weekend back home in Teton and Wind River country of Wyoming, it was time to catch up and climb some 14ers. We departed Boulder around 2:30 p.m. Friday afternoon and made the long drive down to Lake City via Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, and Hotchkiss. It was a very beautiful drive but I think this route was much longer than going through Leadville to Salida and Gunnision. We finally arrived at the Silver Creek Trailhead at 10 p.m. We set up camp in back of the 4runner and quickly fell asleep under a very bright moon.
Jul1 12, 2003
The alarm at 5:15 a.m. once again came all too early. After some motivation that came in the form of Amy setting off the alarm on the 4runner, I was up and out of my sleeping bag very quickly. I'm sure everyone at the trailhead loved us but at least most of them were already stirring about. We had some breakfast and got hiking a little before 6 a.m. The trail heads up a closed 4wd drive road for a little bit and then turns to a trail as it ascends the valley below.
It was a very warm morning and our spirits were high as we charged up the valley, crossing the remains of an avalanche debris zone at one point. After a couple miles the valley opens up into the large basin shown below. The route in yellow shows the path to the saddle east of Redcloud Peak.
We kept leap-frogging 3 older gentlemen that were on the trail. One of them was extremely fit, we would pass them and get about 5 minutes in front of them, and before we knew it he was on our heels. Then he would stop and let his 2 buddies catch up and allow us another 5 minute lead, then catch up to us like we were standing still, and we don't get passed on the trail very often. We gained the saddle and could see the rest of the route to the summit shown below.
The route steepened a little bit from this point to the summit but we made good time and arrived on the summit at 8:30 taking us 2.5 hours for the ascent. The summit was very cool and resembled a mountain on Mars more than Earth. Uncompahgre is the peak just to the right of Amy.
The weather was beautiful but there was some smoke in the air from a nearby fire making the views a little hazy. We sat down and signed the registered, this was our first 14er of the summer that actually had one, and took in the views. The three older gentlemen completely disappeared not to be seen again for the rest of the day. Maybe we imagined them in a state of oxygen deprivation. The photo below is Wetterhorn Peak and Uncompahgre from the summit of Redcloud.
The photo below shows the 1.5 miles of ridge in between Redcloud and Sunshine Peak.
After about 30 minutes on the summit of Redcloud we took off for our 2nd 14er of the day. It was a very easy stroll over to Sunshine Peak and we arrived on the summit in about 40 minutes or so. Redcloud Peak can be seen to the left of me in the photo below.
Another summit register, before this hike we were 0 for 5, now we were 2 for 2 on the day since both peaks had summit registers. The weather was still beautiful as we enjoyed having the summit to ourselves again. After spending 20 minutes or so on the summit another couple arrived ascending Sunshine from the west side. We decided to depart back to the saddle between Sunshine and Redcloud and descend Sunshine's north slopes show in red in the photo below.
The north slopes of Sunshine were a little loose but nothing too bad compared to what we experienced between Mt. Harvard and Mt. Columbia. The loose slope is fairly short too and can be descended quickly although the forest service recommends hikers return back over Redcloud and descend Redcloud's east side. The photo below is Amy(circled in yellow) making her way down Sunshine's north slopes.
After descending the steeper parts of the slope we started to make our way across what Roach refers to as a "rock glacier" and it was pretty much that. One of the larger rock piles I've seen in my days in the mountains. It wasn't long though before we reached a nice trail that descended through the forest passing the remains of an old log cabin. We arrived back at Silver Creek and crossed the stream to gain the main trail again. The photo below shows why they decided to call the stream Silver Creek, it was very beautiful, but at the same time, very unnatural looking. Once you see it, you'll understand.
It was a quick 1.5 miles back to the trailhead and we arrived right about 12:30 p.m. bringing our total hiking time to 6.5 hours. We took off our packs and had lunch as we contemplated what to do with the rest of the day and if we wanted to tackle Handies Peak or wait until tomorrow. We didn't know if our bodies could take another 7.6 miles up Handies east side and another 3,600 feet of elevation. It wasn't until 2 older ladies in a Dodge Intrepid stopped to ask directions to American Basin that we realized it was only 3 more miles down the road. I thought we had to cross Cinammon Pass to access the American Basin. Now knowing that the "easy" way up Handies was only a short distance down the road, the race was on.
We quickly packed everything up and took off down the road. We arrived at the American Basin Trailhead around 2 p.m. and took off for the summit.
The flowers were out in full bloom and the basin was blanketed in Columbines and Indian Paintbrush(Wyoming's state flower).
We were charging up the slopes at a furious pace passing many parties on the descent. Most of them wanted to know if we were heading for the summit, and they probably though we were idiots who knew nothing about the afternoon thunderstorms that frequent the high country. We shot down any thoughts of being novices by telling them this would be our 3rd 14er of the day as we didn't break stride blazing past them. The trail continues up the basin towards the ridge immediately in front of you and then heads left towards Handies Peak and the upper portion of Handies can be seen in the photo below.
Looking back towards the ridge from the upper flanks of Handies Peak we didn't even realize we had passed near the beautiful alpine lake shown in the photo below.
The weather was still holding out and as we neared the summit of Handies Peak we began running on fumes. We were only a hundred or so vertical feet from the summit so we began pumping ourselves up with motivational quotes. I had Apollo Creed's words from Rocky III echoing in my brain, "There is no tomorrow Rocky, there is no tomorrow!!!" We made it to the summit in what felt like an eternity but in all reality it was 3:30 p.m., taking us only 1.5 hours to reach the summit. Roach's books notes that if society is pressing in on your too much, climb Handies Peak. The sea of San Juan summits that panned out in front of us were incredible and we were delighted with our acheivement. Nearly 7450 vertical feet in 1 day, another 50 feet and that would be equivalent to day hiking the Grand Teton. I have to plug Wyoming Mountains whenever I can, they are serious business. We took some summit photos and began our descent after about 10 minutes on the summit.
We took our time descending, stopping to take advantage of the photo opportunities that were all around us.
We arrived back at the truck around 5:30 taking us a total of 3.5 hours to climb Handies Peak. It was a very tiring day, but at the same time, very rewarding. It's amazing what the human body is capable of and you'd be suprised how far your limits are once you start pushing yourself. We said goodbye to the American Basin and the San Juans and began our trip home. We stopped in Gunnison to eat at Mario's and decided to camp out on top of Monarch Pass. We had no trouble falling asleep as the moon once again shed its light upon us. This was our 8th 14er in a month and my count stands at 32, Amy is up to 8.