| Redcloud/Sunshine/Handies from Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch
I've been looking to get some quality time up above treeline for a while. Early this week, I finally found the time to get out and do some of the easier San Juan peaks.
We left Colorado Springs at 5:00 PM on Monday night, which put us at the Silver Creek-Grizzly Gulch trailhead at 10:00 PM. It was surprisingly warm and for a moment, I considered just throwing my pad and sleeping bag down under the stars.
Alarm went off at 2:30 AM on Tuesday. The plan was simple:
1)Climb Sunshine's NW face from the Silver Creek-Grizzly Gulch trailhead
2)Traverse to Redcloud.
3)Descend via Redclouds NE ridge back to Silver Creek.
4)Check the weather and our spirits and possibly do Handies East slopes via Grizzly Gulch.
We suffered from whatever disease it is that doesn't allow you to function early in the morning (lack of coffee, perhaps?)- it took an hour and a half to eat a little food and get dressed. We were on the trail at 4:00 sharp.
As we ascended out of the forest around 11,100', we began looking for the cairn that signified the trail for Sunshine's east face. There was still plenty of snow cover on the stream paralleling the trail, and I began to get the feeling we had missed said cairn in the dark. No worries, we just decided to do the Redcloud-Sunshine loop the other way.
The sky began to lighten up a little by 5:00. This is a look back to the west towards the trailhead and Handies.
The trail left the creek and became incredibly pleasant as it cut through a wide-open basin. By 5:30, we had gained Redcloud's NE ridge. Up to this point, the trail had been snow-free with the exception of a few spots near the creek.
Our first of many small snow field crossings. At this time in the morning, it was delightfully solid.
Sunrise in the San Juans.
This was my first time in the San Juans. As we began to get higher on the ridge, the sheer number of peaks astounded me.
We summitted Redcloud at about 6:45 AM. Here is the view north to Sunshine.
Looking east towards Handies.
We took about 10 minutes to change layers and snack before heading across the Redcloud-Sunshine saddle. Again, the snow was delightfully firm as we ascended from the saddle up Sunshine.
I'm planning a trip to climb Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn in early July. The view of these two peaks from only a few miles away got me excited for the trip.
Nearing Sunshine's summit. Redcloud is behind me, with Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre in the distance. This little snowfield provided for some fun glissading on our way back.
We summitted Sunshine at about 7:45. After re-tracing our route for a few hundred yards, we easily found the trail for Sunshine's NW face.
The last 1,000' or so of this route is somewhat unpleasant; lots of scree to contend with.
akmpolsen's trip report from 6/13 helped us out and we chose the correct gulley to descend. Once clear of the scree, this descent was my favorite part of the day. We spent the next half hour following a shallow snowfield as it meandered down a valley. Sun had not yet hit it, so it remained solid the whole way.
On the snowfield.
Eventually we made it back to treeline. This short forested section from 11,900' to 11,300' was gorgeous.
Once we met back up with the main trail, I chose to play Frogger and hop across rocks to get across Silver Creek. Kat chose the old-fashioned fording method.
We were back at the trailhead by 9:45. Both Kat and I felt great, however my dog was beginning to get a little tired. After re-fueling, we decided to give Handies a try, fully aware that we might have to abort mission due to weather. It was still sunny and relatively calm. The past few days had seen a gradual build-up of cloud cover in the afternoon as opposed to anything sudden and violent, so we felt comfortable pressing on. After rehydrating and changing into dry clothes, we left the trailhead at 10:45.
The lower route kept alternating between meadow
Anyone have an idea what these things were? Peculiar.
This route is unique in that it gives you a direct summit view the entire time.
A lot more snow could be found on the east face of Handies.
As we ascended out of the valley and up Handies' north ridge, we found the trail to be snow covered in many spots. This was one of the steeper portions; we chose to descend a different way, as it had begun to soften.
View of the summit from the north.
Plenty of snow to be found up here, but these routes were fine without special equipment.
On the summit of Handies, 1:00 PM.
It had started to cloud up, but nothing ominous appeared to be building anywhere. We had been given a great day to do this long triple! Back at the trailhead by 2:30, packed up by 4:00, we were eating burgers in Lake City before 5:00. It was a pretty big day - 3 summits, nearly 20 miles, and 8,000' of gain.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):