| Saved an easy one for last
Participants: cftbq, trishapajean, suzi (attempt)
RT: 5.5 mi
Time: ~ 7 hrs., incl. 45 min. on the summit
We had actually put off climbing this peak for quite some time, just for the purpose of saving an easy one for last. But, finally, the time came around. I had originally planned to take the route from the Grizzly Gulch TH, but decided at the last minute to climb with my crew instead of alone. This one was all about companionship and mountain camaraderie. So, throwing the 3,000 foot guideline to the wind, we drove around the mountain to the American Basin TH. The road there is rough, but, fortunately, it was dry.
My darling wife Suzi, who had not had the opportunity to climb above timberline for six years, tried to make this one for me, but was struck with altitude sickness near timberline, and had to turn back. When it became clear that she really couldn't go on, I almost aborted right there. But the three-way decision was that she would be OK heading back to the parking lot, and Trisha and I should continue on and claim our summit. As it would be Trisha's 53rd, and she needed it just as much as I did, we took off as fast as we could to get up and back down.
There are no important revelations or insights to convey about the route. The trail is unmistakeable and excellent; it doesn't get much easier than this. I do think one could quibble with the route being downgraded to Class 1, though. Most of it is, to be sure. But the section where the trail has been rerouted through the rocks near Sloan Lake will be a bit harder for inexperienced hikers. Even more to the point, the final pitch to the summit is a steep friction walk on a very hard packed surface, well lubricated with dust and pebbles. We encountered one first fourteener hiker on the way down who had turned an ankle, a possible confirmation of this gloomy assessment.
The basin is big, open, and beautiful, even before one rises high enough to take in the long-distance views this peak affords. Plus, most of the route is plainly visible, especially on the way down. All that, plus nearly flawless late summer weather, made for a very enjoyable day in the San Juans.
Shortly before hitting the top, we met up again with jmc5040 (Jordan) and aliciaf (alicia), who were already on their way down. Good job smoking us, guys!
On the top, we found a party in progress. News had (somehow) spread up the mountain that I was doing my finisher, and lots of people greeted us very enthusiastically. There were climbers there from all over the world, including two who had flown in from other continents within the previous 48 hours. There was also a bumper crop of folks enjoying their very first 14er, which was kind of a nice contrast.
We did not find a register, however, somewhat of a disappointment. So it goes, I guess, with very popular peaks.
I know I have to go back to Handies, if for no other reason than to try again to identify more of the scores of other mountains visible all around. But beautiful as it was, after about 45 minutes of partying, we knew we had to set off downhill. In contrast to some of our recent slow slogs,we cooked on the descent, making it down in barely an hour and a half. Suzi was waiting for us, and feeling much better, so we could spend the afternoon basking in the glow of a very rewarding climb. While I have been informed that there is some weird problem with getting there via link, pasting this URL into your browser should reveal the pictures (well, some of them...):
Long life and many peaks!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):