| Handies, Sunshine, and Redcloud
Redcloud, Sunshine, and Handies were the 14er peaks Rob and I tried to summit and ski this Memorial Day weekend.
Rob came and picked me up Friday night after I got out of work. It was around midnight when he was able to get to my house after a long baseball game between the Colorado Rockies, and the New York Mets, Rockies won! I packed my gear in his car and we were ready to headed to Silverthorne for the night, and head to the San Juan's the next morning.
The following morning we cooked a hardy breakfast consisting of lots of bacon and eggs. We had to set the pace right in order to have the energy to summit and ski three 14er's. The drive was amazing, with snowy caped mountains all around it made the drive very picturesque.
The Sawatch Range was amazing, we pasted through a small valley that rests at the base of these gigantic mountains. Mt. Harvard, Princeton, Elbert, and many more peaks were very visible from the road.
We were almost to camp when we cam across this huge avalanche path.
It took out a lot of aspen trees, and made a snow bridge at the bottom of the gully. You can see the water runs right underneath all the avalanche snow.
We finally made it to the Grizzly Gulch/ Silver Creek Trail Head and set up camp.
Our campsite was surrounded by beautiful mountains with enough snow worthy enough to ski.
The first night we arrived it was cold and snowing on the surrounding peaks. That night I didn't stay too warm, but the next night I bundled all my clothes in my sleeping bag, slept with a fleece on, and stayed warm.
The hike in was amazing. Up at 4 a.m we cooked breakfast, stretch out, and packed are gear before the initial hike. We had to pack our skis and boots on our back because there wasn't enough snow to start skinning from the bottom of the trail head. About a mile or so into the hike and after post holing on several patches of snow, we found enough snow to start skinning. We had to hike through mountain gully's, avalanche shoots, and debris.
After hiking for a short period, the views of the surrounding mountains were unreal. You can see Handies Mountain in the background full of sun and covered in snow. Handies is another 14er that we planned to summit and ski the following day via Grizzly Gulch Trail. Some were hiking it via American Basin. We heard you could get to about a half mile from the trail head. Because of heavy avalanche activity this season the plow were making huge snow banks which was taking them longer to clear the road. I imagine the road should be cleared within a couple weeks.
We made our way through a stream bed covered in snow, this is where we started our skin ascent. As we walked over the icy snow we could hear the streaming water underneath us rumble. We decided it would be safer if we stayed along the edge of stream banks just in case the snow gave. The mountain ahead is unofficially called "Sun Dog" it was covered in snow and definitely skiable.
The stream bed opened up to a mountainous valley. Rob ahead of me decided our best route (shown in red) was up a steep snow shoot, over a skree field, and to the saddle between Sunshine and Redcloud. You can see sunshine in the distance, it is the mountain in the far upper right hand corner of the photo at 14,001 feet. The summit had plenty of snow, very hikable and very skiable. We passed two hikers on our way to Redcloud, they had summited Redcloud and eventually summited Sunshine.
Rob putting crampons on and getting ready to break trail up our steep route to the summit.
Rob Breaking trail with ice axe and crampons, you really get an idea of how steep it was.
It took every bit of strength we had to get up the snow shoot with ice axe's and make our way to the skree field which was almost impossible to climb with ski boots.
Once we made it to the saddle between Sunshine and Redcloud we rested for a bit. It was late in the day and the sun was already starting to warm the snow. We started to make our way to Sunshine and with only a little further to go we decided it was to dangerous for us to try and summit Sunshine and then head back and summit Redcloud. The snow was getting too warm and it would have taken us too long. Disappointed and with the summit in view we turned around.
The skin to the summit of Redcloud 14,034 feet, was long and exhausting. The snow shoot climb took everything out of us, but we made it. Once on the top we slapped hands and snapped a few shots with the camera.
The wind was blowing incredibly fast so we didn't hang out on top for to long before we made our way to the "Dog Leg Couloir"
Once in the couloir we got a great picture of "Sun Dog" some really great lines to be had on that mountain.
We were able to ski all the way to the bottom of the avalanche debris we hiked into that morning. Wet slides were coming down off of "Sun Dog" and we could see avalanche debris in the distance on Handies. It really took us too long to get up and down. We were both confused as to what took so long but we were nevertheless happy to be fortunate enough to summit Redcloud and ski the "Dog Leg Couloir"
Once we made it back to camp we ate some food and got to bed early, with a 3:00 a.m start the next morning we needed all the rest we could get.
The alarm went off at 3:00 and I yelled over to Rob "Rob it's 3:00, and its raining!" We got up and decided to wait to see if it would stop. It had been raining the whole night. We didn't want to get wet preparing for our ascent to Handies so we waited. With no sign of relief and worried about wet slabs, we decided it was a no go. We couldn't see what the conditions were like on top of the mountains and through the gully we had to skin through. Disappointed and kicking the dirt we packed our wet tents up and headed home. With our tails between out legs we felt defeated, and the only solution to the defeat was to plan another trip down there and conquer them at a later date.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):