| Redcloud and Windshine Peaks
Redcloud Peak and Sunshine Peak
Route: Grizzly Gulch
Summit Elevation - 14,034, 14,001
Elevation Gain: 4800
Trip Distance: 12.00 miles
Total Round-Trip Climb Time (including about 45 minutes of rest and summit time): 7:15
4WD Required: made it just fine in a Mazda 3 pasenger car
Exhaustion Factor (on scale of 1-10): 5
Scenery Factor (on scale of 1-10): 6
Friday after work, Samantha and I left Golden around 5:30 and were expecting some ridiculous traffic to Lake City - well, at least I was. Call me pessimistic, I guess. We headed out on 6th Avenue East to C470 East, down to Hwy 285 West. Take this past Johnson Village and continue south on 285 until the junction at Poncho Springs. From here, we headed West in the downpouring rain on Hwy. 50 over Monarch Pass into Gunnison. Saw a hitchhiker on the pass as it was raining mountain lions & marmots (as opposed to cats and dogs) and felt bad we had no room to fit him into our car. We got to Gunnison around 9:00 and indulged in some Mikky D's. We called Floyd, the keeper of the RV campground we were staying at in Lake City, to inform him we'd be late. We headed through Gunnison on 50 for 10 miles or so, then hit the junction of Hwy. 149 to Lake City. The last couple of times I'd been on this road in the dark we saw several deer, so we took it slowly and kept our eyes peeled, but saw just one deer the entire way. Fine by me!! Around 10:30, we pulled into our quasi-campground at 7th and Bluff in Lake City. We threw up our tent and were in bed around 11:00. Our initial plan was to climb Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre the next day, but we decided that we'd get no sleep so opted for Redcloud/Sunshine instead and would do our other two on Sunday.
Around 4:00am, the alarm went off. We slowly got dressed and hit the road for Grizzly Gulch. We had Samantha's Mazda 3 on this trip and were concerned about how we'd do on the roads. We headed out of Lake City on 149 and took a righty-tighty on County Road 30. This is paved the first couple of miles, then turns to dirt, then turns to rocky road, then turns to "drive slowly in a 2WD passenger car". We drove around the shelf roads and bottomed out ever-so-slightly once or twice, but nothing big. Got to the TH around 6:00 or so, and had some struggles finding some things, but finally got to hiking around 6:30 I think (I didn't have a watch, so most time frames will be estimated).
The trail starts out through the trees and begins somewhat steep. About 15 minutes into the climb, we heard something rustle and something big and brown took off running to the right, down the embankment. Neither Samantha nor I were able to identify this creature of the morning. We kept on trucking.
We saw a couple ahead of us take a turn to the right on the other trail. They had crossed the river and were looking back at us as if asking, "Is this where we go?" They couldn't hear us, but I was wanting to scream, "DO NOT GO THAT WAY!!!"**
**Let's flash back to Labor Day 2007; I took an adventure on these very mountains with people I met from 14ers.com. I will not mention names ~here~, but I can say this was a very bad idea. Said trip organizer commonly posts things to 14ers.com saying things similar to "Only very in shape people should come on this trip, otherwise stay home! We will have a happy hour at some random margarita drinking place to discuss details. We will leave at X hour, make it to this point at X hour, and summit 27 14ers in 4 hours if we meet my standards." Anyways, on said trip, I luckily rode up with 2 14ers.com members who were very cool and shared my sentiments. On that trip, this guy took us up the side route, don't know my directions, but long story short, 3 things about this:
1) This guy, dressed in an all cotton sweatsuit, led us up an "alternate" route to Redcloud/Sunshine. He had his dogs running loose, and they kicked several bowling-ball sized rocks down at me. When I yelled at him to contain his dogs he just laughed and said, "Yeah, they're kind of crazy." I again told him that there were kicking rocks down. Shortly after, another bowling ball sized ball tumbled right at me and missed me by about 5 feet, way to close for my comfort. So I said f**k this, turned around, went back to the TH alone, and waited for the 2 guys I drove up with (who were very cool and shared my sentiments about aforementioned trip-organizer).
2) Atop this trail he was leading us up, there is a sign that explicitly states this is a dangerous route and to avoid it. Now that's fine if he wants to go up this route, but don't go telling people we're doing a class 1-2 climb with no helmet necessary then bring us to a f**king route where you kick rocks down on us and show no disregard for this!!!
3) It was lightning out when the trip-organizer got back to Grizzly Gulch (I know because I was watching from inside my tent while I waited for the rest of my party to finish up.) His words I overheard, "Oh, it'll probably stop soon. I really want to bag Handies so I'm going up anyways."
The other party didn't hear us and continued on, and they were moving fast, so I didn't run to catch them on the wrong trail. We saw them later, so I know they got up, but I'm not sure if they took that route intentionally or not.
Shortly thereafter, we crossed the home of an Eskimo, it was a nifty little igloo.
We kept on hiking and saw a group of 7-8 people fixing the trail. Nice people. We zig-zagged through a huge basin that is just gorgeous and hit the saddle. The rest of the hike up was quite uneventful, not even a single marmot sighting. We false-summitted quasi-Redcloud, then 5 minutes later summitted Redcloud proper around 9:50; we sat down for some cracker/pepperoni/cheese sandwiches that Samantha had brought, yummy in my tummy.
After 15 minutes or so, we headed over to Sunshine. (below picture is of Redcloud from false summit)
Holy wind, Batman! I mean, anyone weighing under 100lbs would have had trouble not tipping over on this day, the wind was just extreme. This motivated us to get down the back side of Redcloud quickly so we could get on the left side of Sunshine for a wind shield! Of course, I had to stop to take a picture of the "danger" sign mentioned in the above faux-uber-footnote.
An hour after we left Redcloud, we summitted Sunshine around 11:00.
The wind was minimal up here and lots of people were debating descending through one of the gullies. They almost had me talked into it, but I simply couldn't find a reason this would be a good idea. We opted to re-summit Redcloud and descend the way we ascended. We kept our eyes peeled on those descending the slopes. They definitely made it down faster than us, but I'm still happy with my decision as I feel it was the safer approach. We passed the trail-fixers, one of whom was rewarded with a few delicious pepperoni/cracker/cheese appetizers on Redcloud's summit
We were strongly fooled by a false summit in re-summiting Redcloud, that was just a "whaaaa-whaaaa" sound effect of a cruel joke. We re-summitted Redcloud an hour after we left Sunshine (around noon = resummit) and jumped for joy (literally).
About this time it started to sleet. We began the descent with a guy named Paul, but Paul proved to be much faster than we. We couldn't tell if it was going to snow, rain, or remain sunny. For this reason, we changed jackets and such 437 times on the descent. The descent proved to be uneventful and we got back to the car around 2:00, where we had some Pacifico before driving back down to Lake City for the night, where we would get to sleep early for a long day on July 4th to climb Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn.