Peak(s):  Handies Peak  -  14,048 feet
Post Date:  05/24/2010
Date Climbed:   05/23/2010
Posted By:  highplaces

 Handies Peak - Southwest Slope from American Basin  

After hiking to Uncompahgre on Saturday, we headed into Lake City to check the forecast for Sunday and grab some dinner. The winds on Sunday were forecast to be stronger than Saturday, but the rest of the forecast looked good with nice temps and sunny skies. We decided to head to Handies Peak. It was a long (1.5 hour) drive out to the TH. We were able to drive down .1 miles past the turnoff to American Basin, there is a large parking area there. There was a bulldozer in the road blocking any attempts to go further.

The winds rocked the car all night. I mean really rocked the car side to side. We started down the road to the summer TH at 5:00 am with a few flurries in the air and strong winds. The walk into American Basin as the sun came up was incredible.


It is windy, more than yesterday. And Handies Peak is keeping the sun from reaching us. It is colder today (26). Lower temp + no sun + more wind = cold, really cold.


The route finding was a bit slow as we tried a combination of the standard route and our own variations to shorten the mileage. Meanwhile we were getting pummeled by the wind. I'm guessing gusts 50-60 mph, knock you right over, have to use axe to steady myself and lean into it. Several times during the strong gusts we were enveloped in ice pellets blowing off the slopes. Arrived at the southwest slope and headed straight up, we used crampons and axe for this.


We get to the ridge and now it's just an easy walk up. The winds do not let up. They knock us around.


We summit Handies Peak at 8:40 am. It is glorious. Blue skies. Sea of peaks. 360 degrees around. It is windy, too windy to stay for long. Fifteen minutes on top and it's time to start down.


Easy down to the ridge and then we drop off the ridge and face the difficult sections. As usual, we cover distance quicker on descent and that makes it feel a bit easier. Heel step down the snow slope and complete the traverse out to the rock pile. We find a nice rock seat and celebrate and eat and drink. I think I am happier to be at the rocks than I was to be on the summit.

We see four skiers coming up with skis on their backs. I'd love to watch them ski down, but it will be awhile before they climb to the top.


We also spot an animal up on the slopes going into a den. Maybe a coyote or badger. Make our way out stopping to enjoy the views often (super blue skies and sunshine).


Back at the car and we are ready for post-hike pig out and I get to work on the Blackberry searching Gunnison. Find Sugah's Bistro. Menu looks good. Southern style food. Shrimp Po' Boy and Salmon Panini with French fries (thin and crispy). YUM. Perfect. A slice of Hummingbird cake (huge) and Chocolate Yum Pie and we are set – that hit the spot perfectly. Already making plans to swing by here again post-hike.

As expected this time of year, conditions were a mix. Early mostly frozen snow, later mushy soft snow and postholing on the way out. Some open dry areas with no snow. I didn't carry snowshoes and didn't regret it. Some people may have been fine in microspikes, but I liked my crampons.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

03/04/2012 18:31
Things sure melted off quickly...


Great Job!
05/25/2010 00:52
Nice work making a weekend out of it! I agree with lostsheep, the snow is going fast down there. Did you by any chance take any photos of Redcloud/Sunshine or the NE side of Handies from Grizzly Gulch? Thanks in advance!


05/25/2010 01:43
I am happy to see a recent report. It looks beautiful. Sounds like it might not of felt that way with the wind. We are praying for good weather the beginning of June to do this climb and Redcloud/Sunshine, maybe one more. Thanks for the info and great job.


05/26/2010 13:50
benners - sent you an email with more photos.

arianna2 - it was a great day, hope you get a nice one in June!


05/27/2010 16:19
Looks like you had a nice time despite the wind.

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