We've been planning this trip for awhile now and we couldn't have asked for a better time. The goal was to backpack in on Friday to the junction of the Northeast and Northwest routes. Mtn_Climber1 and I left Denver Friday morning about 9am for the Lake City area to the Silver Creek Trailhead. After a few stops, we reached the trailhead (10,400 ft.) at about 4pm. The road to Silver Creek required some 4WD moves, but when dry just about any car could make it with slow, careful driving. After final preperations we were on the trail at 4:25pm. The trail up was soft and well defined. We eventually were walking side by side with Silver Creek and it was beautiful. The creek had several white rock sections which made the river appear white:
We reached the junction, which is 1.5 miles and 900 feet elevation gain, in about an hour. We found an existing campsite with fire ring by following a faint trail on our left up the "Red River", a small creek flowing through red rocks, almost looking like blood (walking toward the creek away from the campsite in this pic):
Mtnbikir and Daisy the Dog caught up with us an hour later, and we made dinner and camp. After a long day of driving and a long day of hiking ahead of us, we went to bed early.
We woke up at 5am and it was still cold so we layered appropriatley. After breakfast and filtering all the water we needed, we were on the trail at 6:15am. The trail all the way up to Redcloud was very well defined and had terrific views of Handies behind us. Although the skies were beautiful without a cloud in the sky, the weather continued to hover around 30 degrees with sustained winds guessed at 50mph (big thanks to Mtn_Climber1 for letting me borrow his fleece pants!). We hit treeline in about an hour and direct sunlight about a hour after that.
Me on the trail shortly after getting into the direct sun with Redcloud behind me:
Mtn_Climber1 had the turbo burst on in the morning and reached the summit (14,034') at 8:45am. Mtnbikir and I reached at 9:15am. Mtn_Climber1 shared the summit with two others, but by the time Mtnbikir and I joined him, we had it all to ourselves. The views from the top of Redcloud were stunning. First of all the red rocks and dirt made it seem like we were on top of some martian planet. On top of that, Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn could easily be seen to the North and Mt. Sneffels (as well as Sunshine) to the South. It was still pretty windy at the top but starting to warm up.
Mtnbikir celebrating on the summit:
Me on the summit:
Daisy the Dog with Sunshine behind her:
We left Redcloud at 9:45am and headed down to the saddle between it and Sunshine. Once we hit the saddle, the trail which had mostly been clean, turned to talus. The wind also died once we hit the saddle, and the temperature became very comfortable. Even with the talus, the trail was still defined and not too difficult.
Me on the way up Sunshine's talus near the homestretch (Mtnbikir behind):
We reached Sunshine's summit (14,001') at 11:15am and had it to ourselves.
Mtn_Climber1 celebrating the summit:
Me just chillin' at the summit:
Mtnbikir on Sunshine's summit:
There still wasn't a cloud to be seen and the temperature was extremely comfortable. We enjoyed the sunshine, solitude and views. The scenery in every direction continued to amaze.
Point 13,432 aka "Sundog" from Sunshine:
Redcloud from Sunshine:
As we were preparing to leave Sunshine, we met Dave and Walt from Wyoming who were cool and we exchanged picture taking duties. At noon we started decending Sunshine's east ridge toward "Sundog." It was shortly thereafter that we saw our first cloud at 12:15pm (it was small, white and fluffy). With no threat of storms or lightning we continued on. The terrain was still talus and was difficult to navigate. Once we reached the saddle between Sunshine and "Sundog" we realized it would be no walk in the park. The route up "Sundog's" talus involved Class 3 climbing and careful route finding as the trail was not easily found. We reached the summit (13,432') at 2:15pm.
Sundog's summit with Sunshine behind it:
One member of my party (I won't single out who) got a bit of altitude sickness (or "The Madness" as we called it), so the other member and I hiked back to help him reach the summit. Again we ran into Dave and Walt who took our picture on top of "Sundog" with Sunshine behind on the right:
We left Sundog at 3:15pm and started our decent down to our campsite. We encountered more steep talus, and the trail was difficult to find. We imagined it would be very diffucult to accend this way. We finally reached our campsite at 5pm. After a full day of nothing but granola bars and energy goo shots, we were glad to have a big, hot meal. The sunset that night was spectacular:
After another cold night, we woke up on Sunday and were back on the trail at 8:45am. We reached our cars at Silver Creek Trailhead at 9:30am.
Friday: 1.5 miles 900 ft. Time: 1 hr.
Saturday: 7 miles 4,450 ft. Time: 10 hr. 45 min. (9 hr. above treeline)
Sunday: 1.5 miles Time: 45 min.
Overall, it was an amazing trip. The San Juan mountain range was extremely beautiful. I was especially impressed with the views of Uncompahgre from the summits, as well as the martian summit of Redcloud. We couldn't have asked for better weather the entire time, gotta love this September weather! Great trip, great mountains, great times.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):