| Redcloud in November
Mike: "…so we'll meet up at the Park n' Ride on US 285?"
Me: "Yeah, but I just want to make sure that you guys know now that this crap in my lungs still isn't gone. I'm worried I am really going to slow things down."
That paraphrased snippet of the conversation Mike and I had on Thursday night should have told me everything I needed to know. That morning I had taken my last does of Tamiflu and Prednisone, and I was hoping… no, I think praying might be the better word, that my lungs would clear out. I had spent the majority of the past week, including Halloween weekend trapped indoors as the second (yes, second) round of the flu beat the crap out of my body, and very slowly exited my lungs in bouts of hacking mucus filled coughs. There was no way I was going to waste what was forecasted to be an amazing weekend in the San Juans.
Ignoring my instincts that were screaming "You just got off Prednisone! Don't Go!", I packed up all my stuff, and excitedly met Mike and Wiz at the Park n' Ride after work on Friday afternoon. The drive to Lake City was relatively uneventful, and in our haste we chose to skip diner on our way to the trailhead. For all 3 of us, getting there, and getting out in the wilderness was all that was really in our heads.
The road up to the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch Trailhead was about as clear as you could hope, which really raised our spirits. No extra hiking up the road. After being denied Antero 2 weeks before, due in part to a road closure, I felt like this was an omen. Things were going to go right. Now I just knew it.
Looking back on Handies Peak from low on the Silver Creek Trail
We woke up to a cold morning, Mikes thermometer read 5 degrees when we woke up at 630am. We made coffee, ate some cookies, and rolled out at 830am carrying all the gear we could possibly need for any conditions. I was not screwing around with these peaks, I was bound and determined not to be turned around again due to lack of preparation. The trail was beautiful as it snaked its way along Silver Creek, making its way to the basin below Redcloud. Periodic snow painted the trail white, becoming increasingly continuous until it filled in all available spaces at about 12,200ft.
The trail as it follows Silver Creek still below treeline, I bet its hard to guess which side gets more sun…
Mike and Wiz waiting for me to finish taking the above photo
Looking at the North facing slope of Redcloud
Looking into the Basin
As we moved upward, my body slowly began its protest to what it apparently felt was an unjust assault against its recovery from the illness I had thought I was making the previous week. It has been years since I felt this way. Beginning at around 12,500ft, I felt like I hit a wall. My forward progress fell to a crawl, and every step felt like someone had tied 30 pound weights to my feet. I slowly, step by step fell further and further behind.
Mike and Wiz hiking into the Basin below Redcloud
Looking up at Redcloud from 13000ft (I took this on the way down)
The saddle at about 13,000ft seemed to take forever to reach, but at least I could see the summit. Snow lined the remained of the route, and I think made the upper section easier, as it was possible to stay on the snow, avoiding the scree. It took me over an hour to get from there to the summit, and by then I was coughing with every other step.
Looking over at Sunshine from Redcloud
Mike and Wiz had made the decision to head over to Sunshine, giving me a short break at the top of Redcloud and permitting me to make my own, uninfluenced decision about whether or not to continue on to Sunshine. It seemed like every 5th breath was accompanied by some serious coughing, even while I sat on Redclouds summit. I figured that with my pace, it would be hours before I got back to Redcloud, and it was very unlikely my physical condition was going to improve much at this point. After about 10 minutes of intense internal debate, I decided that the responsible thing would be for me to head back down. After doing my best to make enough noise that Mike and Wiz would see me heading back down, I threw on my pack on and went back the way I came.
I was very grateful for the snowshoes I had carried all the way up the mountain on my back. I was able to use them all the way back down to 12,200ft, and my life would have been considerably more different in the soft afternoon snow without them. Aside from that, it seemed like my energy was coming back with every foot down that I stepped. I beat Mike and Wiz back to camp at the trailhead, pulling off my boots at 345pm. I wandered around, taking photos of the beautiful area around the trailhead as I waited for them to make it back. They arrived at camp at about 5pm. They said that they had made it to the summit, and had descended down from the Sunshine/Redcloud Saddle.
a mountain to the South of the Trailhead
Mike and Wiz at the campfire
We had tossed around the idea of hitting Handies the next day, but decided to have some beers and get up late the next morning and head back to Denver. Sunshine will have to wait for another visit to this amazing area.
Lake San Cristobal, I had to stop and take this on the way out
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):