Peak(s):  Handies Peak  -  14,048 feet
Post Date:  07/27/2010
Date Climbed:   07/21/2010
Posted By:  twotyerfryer

 Handies - Bouder Gulch   

I've been a lurker here on but finally now have a reason to join and post.

First off, I will mention that I was with a group of 9th - 12th grade students from Gardner, KS (Southwest of Kansas City) from our church. We were at Camp Redcloud south of Lake City at one of their challenge camps for the week and Wednesday would be the day we would attempt our summit of Handies.

Before our trip I had been watching trip reports from home regarding conditions/weather when I came across Kevin Hayne's accident and photo memorial. From the descriptions I read of him, he reminded me so much of many of the students I've gotten to know over the past 14 years. Ironically enough, it all started when I became the director of a small Christian youth center in Colorado Springs back in about 1996. Now I'm sweating' to the oldies back here in K.C.

In this report I wanted so much to be able to hold a sign up with Kevin's name on the summit, but when you summit with 10 students, there were enough other issues to tend to. I also was a little reluctant to hold up a sign and then explain to our flatlanders about his death as some were already concerned about what hiking a mountain actually meant


We left Camp Redcloud Tuesday evening after eating dinner and drove up to our campsite at the Cuba Gulch trailhead. We set up camp, climbed into our sleeping bags around 10:30 or so and then got to enjoy a nice soft sprinkle that turned into a fairly soaking rain with many getting wet with small streams running through our tents. Needless to say 4:00 a.m. comes earlier than I would have liked but it wasn't raining and we could see stars
A soggy tent

We had to walk back down the road about 3/4 of a mile to get to our "trailhead" at the start of Boulder Gulch. Steve Nutting from Camp Redcloud was so helpful in getting us started in the right direction as this route is rarely traveled as best as I could tell. Those without lights stayed close to those of us who did as the beginning of the trail starts of relatively steep and through trees, many of which have fallen and cross the trail.

As the area began to light up more I looked back down the valley and saw there were more clouds than anticipated. After living in the Springs for a few years and having some "interesting" adventures above treeline, I was a little leery about what the weather would hold for us. We continued on up the trail, which was lightly worn but obviously didn't see as much traffic as other trails.

Here is the view looking back at Square Gulch
Square Gulch

One of the water falls

At this point, we were still on the trail. What you see just to the right of center in this photo is not the trail. The stream is still on the right of the trail at this point.

My wife and I had moved back to Kansas City and less than one year later the Columbine shooting happened. Whenever I see a columbine I'm reminded of students who lost their lives that day. This flower stands in my mind as a solemn reminder of how we are all one moment away from eternity.

At about this point, we had almost reached the creek crossing. When we crossed over, we more or less lost the trail. After searching by map, compass and GPS, we ended up doing some bushwhacking on up.

After clearing though the brush, we ended up in easier walking grass and soon Handie's Peak came into view.
First view of Handies

Soon there after, a pretty good rain set in. Our rain gear went back on and we pressed on getting a little soggy. I will note at this time that we came across a small lake which we thought was on the map. We later discovered that it wasn't the one defined on our map(s). The lake shown on the map was larger, and closer to the basin wall.

In order to make a reasonably stable ascent of the peak, we first had to summit the 13er (unnamed) which is almost due South of Handies.
Unnamed 13er

Switch backs

We started our switchbacks going up the Southeast slope of the 13er and eventually got to a talus field.

Talus 2

After working our way through the rocks we finally reached the 13er summit which gave the teens an awesome view and sense of accomplishment. Some of them had never been past the state of Kansas. Now they were in the state of Awe.

From the 13er summit, we had a great view of American Basin as well as Sloan Lake which of course brought on "oooo's" and "aaaah's".
13er Summit

Look back at the 13er

We dropped down to the saddle and looked up to see a welcomed sight: a clearly defined trail. We worked our way up it and soon reached the summit of Handies.
Trail to Handies Summit

Image #23 (not yet uploaded)

Grizzly Gulch from Handies Summit

The students were elated and we celebrated for a short while. I don't remember for sure, but I think I looked Southwest at about 2:00 or 2:15 and saw the coming storm of in the distance. When I saw the lightning, I went into "we need to move NOW mode"
The coming storm

Fortunately, we made it back down Handies, across the saddle, back up the 13er and down the other side with little more than sleet. I was praying like crazy that we wouldn't get caught in lightning as we had two students with slightly sprained ankles and weren't moving at the pace I wanted (which would have been a sprint).

The trip was great! I've managed Pikes Peak twice, Uncompahgre once and now Handies. More importantly though, students who never dreamed they would hike to the top of such a majestic mountain did it.

On a side note: as we were coming back through the gulch, we unknowingly passed by a vertical shaft mine that was roughly 10-12 ft. down to where the water started. I don't know how much deeper it went after that. The scary part was it's on the downside of one of the grassy hills and would not have been seen until the last minute. Just a heads up on that.
Mine shaft

I'd also say that I so miss the mountains! They give such incredible opportunities that Kansas City does not offer Perhaps in the future I will have more times to come out and get to meet some of you on our journeys.


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions
j babu

Climbing with kids...     07/28/2010 14:01
Taking kids into the mountains is so rewarding! Glad you all stayed safe and had a good time. Well done.


”A State of Awe” ...     07/28/2010 14:39
What a great line (coming from the state of Kansas). Way to get 'er done on a very seldom used route (and a unique experience for the kids not to have to share the climb with dozens of other people as a typical summer day would usually be on Handies via the standard routes). And, they ALL summited and got back safely ... much credit to you, twotyerfryer. Thanks so much for posting this route description. Take care and Happy trails!


Credit is due...     07/28/2010 22:54
not to me but rather to the guides from Camp Redcloud. Ryan and Cindy get that credit. They both have awesome attitudes and were/are great encouragements to the teens. I hope to again get to hike along side of them.


Off the beaten path!     08/16/2010 20:01
That looks like a fun alternative way to summit Handies. It is a great activity to do with kids, especially teenagers. You're right too, the KC area really doesn't offer anything quite like the San Juan mountains. I lived in Lenexa for a year while going to school in Overland Park and I probably would have been any even worse student if I would have had mountains to distract me along with all the other typical stuff. Enjoyed your report!

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