| Handies (East Slopes II) - Redcloud/Sunshine
Peaks Climbed: Handies, Redcloud, Sunshine
Partners in Crime: Dan, Grant
Made the long drive from Fort Collins to Silver Creek-Grizzly Gulch Trailhead on Friday evening (5/25). The road to the trailhead is in reasonable condition... it was somewhat difficult for my Dodge Intrepid, but my car has some of the lowest clearance of any vehicle I've ever seen.
We were up around 5:30 AM and headed up the Grizzly Gulch Trail towards Handies Peak around 6:15 AM. The trail to approximately 12000 feet is mostly snow-free, although there were a few pesky patches of snow left. In addition, the trail was quite muddy. Upon reaching 12000 feet, we became very thankful that we had brought our snowshoes and ice axes. After a few hundred vertical feet of a mixture of snow and dirt climbing, we began to climb a moderate snow field that led to a 13,460 foot saddle just to the south of Point 13,577 (following route 28.11 in Gerry Roach's book). The snow was still pretty hard-packed, and I think it would have been somewhat easier with crampons than snowshoes, but I had nicely left my crampons in the car! The climb up the snow field was moderate, although there was a somewhat steeper pitch of about 50 vertical feet just before the ridgeline. After reaching the ridgeline, the last 0.4 miles on Handies' north ridge is virtually snow-free.
The views from the top of Handies were phenomenal. Uncompaghre and Wetterhorn were particularly stunning in the distance.
The ascent up Handies took us about 3 hours. The ascent can certainly be done quite a bit faster once the snow is gone.
The descent from Handies was a blast! The snow had softened up considerably by the time we returned to the saddle between Handies and Point 13,577, and we were able to glissade several hundred vertical feet down the snow field that we had climbed a couple of hours earlier. The rest of the descent went smoothly, and we arrived back at the parking lot around noon.
The weather was really nice (ie., no afternoon convection), so we decided to climb Redcloud and Sunshine in the afternoon. After about an hour-long lunch break, we headed up the trail.
If you are climbing Redcloud and Sunshine from the Silver Creek-Grizzly Gulch Trailhead (Route 28.1 in Gerry Roach's book), you can leave your snow gear at home if you don‘t mind doing a little postholing. If you despise postholing, I would recommend bringing snowshoes, as there are still a couple of snow fields on the route.
Our legs were definitely feeling somewhat fatigued as we began the climb up the Silver Creek Trail. The views along the trail definitely spurred us along, as we could easily see the route we had ascended on Handies hours earlier as well as striking views of Sun dog (a 13er just NW of Sunshine). The climb into the basin north of Redcloud went smoothly, with occasional postholing through a few small snowfields being the only slowdowns. A few small snowfields obscure the last few hundred vertical feet to the pass northeast of Redcloud, so be sure to stay north of where the ridge begins ascending toward Redcloud.
The rest of the ascent up Redcloud was in good condition. It took us a little over 3 hours to summit Redcloud from the trailhead. Views from the top of Redcloud were spectacular.
The traverse between the two peaks is also virtually snow-free. The trail stays to the right of the snow directly on the ridgeline. It took us about 45 minutes to complete the traverse to Sunshine. After taking some quick pictures on Sunshine, we traversed back over to Redcloud.
At this point, we were all in "headed for the barn" mode, so we descended at a good clip down Redcloud and were back to the trailhead around 8pm. It was a fun but tiring day... definitely a great way to start 14er season 2006.