| “Two Day 14er“
Sunday, June 21- Redcloud, Sunshine, Handies
Monday, June 22- Belford, Oxford
Two day totals:
For Father's Day, my wife kicked me out of the house to climb for a couple days. It may be because I just turned 40 in March, but I decided to push myself as much as I could, and see how far I could go. At the end of two days, I realized I'd climbed over 14,000 feet- a true "14er" in two days. I'm no ultramarathoner- I'm no Shad- but I was happy with it all.
Day 1- stats
Trailhead: 3:40 AM
Redcloud Summit: 6:00- 6:10
Back at car: 9:05-9:20
Handies Summit: 1:50-12:15
It's a long drive to Lake City from Denver, so I only slept about 2 hours in my CRV before getting started. It was warm right away, and dusk revealed a lot of thick, soupy clouds that would hang around most of the morning. I was confused about which basin I was entering and I thought I might have accidentally got on towards Sunlight‘s north slopes, but when I reached the saddle and sun finally made a full appearance, I recognized Redcloud from the pictures on Bill's route description.
It was a very peaceful, exhilarating morning, and although it started to get windy at the summit ridge, the summit was calm and tranquil- like some scene on a strange planet from the original Star Trek series.
and me with the Sunshine traverse in the background. You can see the kind of clouds I was seeing:
I felt great, it was so quiet, and wanted to stay longer, but my plan was for three peaks today (thanks to doggler for his trip report), so I had a granola bar and was on my way. The traverse became unpleasant- the wind really picked up, and the warm climb up Redcloud turned into a really cold rock over quite a bit of scree and icy snow. My face was freezing, and I wished I had my balaclava.
Sunshine from the saddle (who named it "Sunshine?")
I felt strong, and summited at 7:00, but the low clouds spoiled much in the way of views. Handies across the valley:
and me with Redcloud in the background (trust me):
Not much to see, so off I went, down the steep screefield to arrive at the couloirs of the north slopes. Here's where the trip reports from akmpolsen and doggler really helped me out. There are several shoots to chose from, and I was grateful for the good info on which couloir to descend. Looking down, I went just to the right of the main rock formation:
Looking down the couloir:
The snow was a little sketch- at first it felt soft enough that I was able to kickstep safely, but then I realized that under a couple inches of snow, there was a hard layer of ice. Had I slipped, it could have been pretty bad depending on where it took me, so for a short stretch, I was hyperaware of all my moves, but it quickly became less steep, and let me relax. The bottom of the basin was just a big pile of rocks, but was actually great for walking thanks to consistant snow fields that were hard enough to support me but soft enough to let me grip, making a nice floor just above all the loose rocks. I made great time, and quickly found myself in a beautiful forest. I got that wonderful, "this is why I drive all night to do this" feeling, and even though I was in a hurry to get to my car, it was a real highpoint.
Back to the car at 9:05, I was doubting the clouds would let me summit Handies- they were everywhere and very busy- but they didn't seem to have an idea about exactly what they wanted to do, so after a quick PBJ sandwich, I decided to give it a go. It was late, so I wanted to make good time, but I wasn‘t sure how long until my legs started to weaken. From the start, the route was steeper than I expected, but for the first hour and a half, I felt much stronger than I thought I would. If it is really 2 miles to timberline, I was doing better than 30 minute miles, I started seeing blue sky, and it just felt like luck was on my side.
Handies from the Sunshine decent, looking across the valley:
and closer, from timberline
I felt great all the way up to just below the saddle, but as it got steeper, my legs started to go quickly, and the summit ridge found me laboring. Luckily, the clouds were breaking up the entire time, and it was obvious I was not going to be in any lightning danger at all. Finally, after many quick rests and my legs feeling like cement, I found myself on the summit with a nice group of people.
A young girl was there with her father, and it was her first 14er. It was fun to see, and it made me miss my boys back home. On the way down, I took more time to appreciate the beautiful basin- much nicer than across on Redcloud and Sunshine.
The Grateful Dead joined me on my ipod, playing Scarlet Begonias> Fire on the Mountain. I saw an ice ledge that had stretched across a creek, and had almost melted away, but was just holding on. I thought it looked kind of cool:
And looking back across the valley at this morning's work, Redcloud on the left, and Sunshine on the right.
It was a tough day, and as I returned to the car, I was already questioning the wisdom of planning Belford and Oxford for the next day. Time to stretch, drink lots of water, and get a pizza in Buena Vista before sleeping at the trailhead.
Day 2- stats
Belford Summit: 9:40-10:00
Oxford Summit: 10:55-11:05
Belford ReSummit: 12:00-12:10
Janelle drove from Denver and met me at about 5:40. We were on the trail at 5:55, and I was worried about how strong my legs would be, given what I did the day before.
Up to the cabin and timberline felt great, but then the Belford shoulder appeared. I hate that shoulder. The first time I did Belford, a gust of wind knocked me forward, and I bent my finger all the way back trying to grab a rock. The result was that I lost much of the range of motion in that finger. Stupid Belford! Plus, is it just me, or does it never end? A friend once told me that the longest half mile in the world is the last half mile on Longs before you get back to your car. I think it's the Belford shoulder. But for all that, it doesn't look so sinister.
It pretty much kicked my butt, and the false summit at the top had me on the ropes. Janelle waiting for the final summit push:
We made the top, and the wind began. It was perfectly blue sky, but the wind had us ducking next to a wall of rocks to eat and relax. I was exhausted, had far to go, and was getting cold. Tell me why I do this again!
Janelle, then me, looking across toward Oxford
At first the traverse was brutal with the ripping wind, but once we dropped down, I got my legs back, the wind let up, we got warm, and I
really dug the views, especially Harvard.
From that point on, the wind was on again off again, layer on, layer off for most of the day.
On the saddle, looking forward to Oxford
and from the same spot, looking back where we'd come, with Janelle all smiles.
The traverse looked daunting, but before we knew it, we'd summited. Unfortunately, the wind did it's best to spoil things, blowing crazy.
Belford in the background
and the whole traverse
By the time we started back up the Belford side, my legs were screaming bloody murder, but I really felt fantastic for having done five peaks in two days. Over Belford again, and down that shoulder, but this time I was elated. Even well past 12:00, there wasn't a single cloud in the sky, and it was the deepest blue you can imagine. In al the climbing I‘ve done, I‘ve never seen a day with absolutely no clouds. Missouri Gulch looked glorious
and I was in no hurry to get to my car.
I'm surprised how strong I feel, back in Denver writing this at 12:30 AM, but if I ever consider repeating the last two days, I hope someone takes a mallet and beats some sense into me.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):