| Close, But No Summit
For my first 14er of the season, I decided to have a go at Handies Peak. It was on the list of "easier" 14ers and was near Pagosa Springs, where my wife, my son Cody, and I were spending some vacation time away from the Texas heat. So on a late June afternoon Cody and I abandoned Beverly in Pagosa, drove over to Lake City, and set up camp at the Grizzly Gulch campground. The night was clear with countless stars out. We had an enjoyable evening visiting with other hikers around a campfire, turned in early, and were on the trail well before daybreak.
Immediately after passing the tree line, we were greeted by this view of Handies bathed in early morning sunlight:
There is a solid trail all the way, and the peak stays in view the entire hike:
There are several water crossings requiring some rock hopping:
On the trail to the ridge, approaching from the right side, we became concerned about the snow up ahead:
A closer view as we approached the snow fields:
At around 13,500, the trail was covered by this snow field:
There were footprints in the snow that we could step in without needing the gaiters in our backpacks. But the snow was slushy and slippery. I took a few steps and the unstable footing was just outside my comfort zone. One slip would have resulted in a disastrous tumble. So we turned back within 500 feet of the summit. We didn't have crampons or ice axes. But even if we had, there wasn't much in the loose snowy mush to grab onto.
Even though we didn't reach the summit, it was a fun adventure. And as a consolation prize, we had this view as we hiked back to the campground:
The Handies summit will have to wait for another day. But I'm in no hurry. That mountain isn't going anywhere. And I'll be back.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):