| Recloud-Sunshine, "NW Face" descent
The initial idea was to ascend Sunshine (SS) via the NW face. We (Kansas and I) decided not to lug crampons and instead see if the snow was soft enough for a descent of the NW face. It was a gorgeous day to be hiking but it was very windy and cold once on top of Redcloud.
Below, here is my dog Brian waiting for me to catch up (as usual) on the way to the saddle of Redcloud.
Below Kansas and I enjoy the summit of Redcloud, freezing our pitooties off.
Below Brian and I on Sunshine. It had warmed up a bit by now and the snow was softening fast. We decided to try the NW Face descent rather than reclimb Redcloud. A fellow named Nick joined in.
Below is a look at the steep gulleys of the head of the valley we were to descend (taken from the ridge from RC to SS)
Below, pic#3 from the "NW Face" route on 14ers.com. This gives a good overview of what it would look like from below. From up top, it is easy to get mislead, especially when cairns (yellow marker in photo) lie to you...
Here was my view looking down, and I saw the cairn (approximated by the yellow square) and figured I was at the entrance. My GPS (I marked a waypoint using Topo before the hike) suggested to me that the gulley entrance was about 100' to the right (or E). But the cairn was there, and it appeared as if the left side was easier than the right, with one possible sketchy spot as the gulley narrowed, about 50' below.
Another view which shows proper route in blue, my route in red, and the cairn in yellow.
The climb down was not bad, a little scree but plenty of solid rock. The sketchy part is barely visible in the lower L side of the below photo -- the snow was pretty iced up. The rock rib is in the lower-left foreground. I chopped a couple of steps to allow relatively easy access to the rib. After that it was pretty easy as there was good snow and a nice drop-in for a fun glissade run. My dog paused while crossing that section, but made it look pitifully easy. Kansas is beginning his descent and when he made it across the rock rib safely, Nick followed suit. It was steep enough to be concerned about rockfall, I should add.
A little glissading after the gulley descent. There were a couple of small talus piles poking through so we stopped before those and shifted over to continue the glissade. Here, Nick (blue, crudely-drawn arrow pointing to him) starts the first half of the run.
I am pretty sure any number of options would be available for a descent through the 'steep gulleys'. Ours was probably not the easiest and if there were no ice would have been pretty simple. I think my mistake was I believed a cairn more than my GPS. My advice to folks doing a similar route is to bring maps/photos of the proper route and study the heck out of it as you traverse from RC to SS. Things always look different once they are right in front of you. (I believe I marked a waypoint with my GPS at the cairn and will post the coordinates as a comment).
All in all, it was a great day and Brian and I enjoyed the companionship of Nick and Darrin (aka Kansas)!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):