After visiting the night before with Patrick Kelly from Lake City we modified our plans for Handies and decided to do the Grizzly Gulch approach rather than American Basin. Patrick has completed the top 100 peaks in Colorado and is close to having completed the top 200. It was really a thrill and an honor for us to get advice from someone like him. Grizzly Gulch would involve about two more miles on the trail but several less miles on the road. In our minds it was an easy decision and we were not to be disappointed. Thanks Patrick for the suggestion.
We arrived at Grizzly Gulch around 6:30 AM and were on the trail by 6:45 AM. After about 30 minutes on the trail, Handies comes into full view and although it was an awesome site, it did make the summit appear a long ways away.
As we got closer to the final ridge and the summit approach we were continually faced with very strong, but fairly short in duration gusts of wind. We met three different climbers on their way down who warned us of much more consistent and gale force winds on top, several levels about what we were experiencing at the lower elevations. Other than the wind it was a gorgeous day, perfect for a summit attempt.
We stopped just short of the ridge to grab a bite to eat and prepare ourselves for the gusty trek to the summit. We made to and across the ridge and on to the summit with extremely strong, gale force winds coming at us from the west. It made for a fairly short, but still enjoyable, summit stay. There were great views of Uncompahgre, Matterhorn and Whetterhorn in the distance.
Wind on the final approach: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS0BAVySBqc
Wind on summit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qg7LIz3ikuo
The trip down was uneventful, but beautiful, and we arrived back at the trailhead around 2:00 PM. While having a post climb beer at the trailhead, we happened to met JRock from Denver who had just finished summiting Redcloud and Sunshine. She would end up joining us on Whetterhorn and Uncompahgre the next two days and was a much welcomed addition to the group. Bob, a coworker of Mike's, from Monument also joined us that evening and would be hiking with us the next two days on Whetterhorn and Uncompahgre. His toughness, tenacity and 1986 Suburban 4-wheel drive vehicle were also a much welcomed addition to the group.
Dinner that night was at the Restless Spirit where Patrick Kelly and his family joined us along with recent additions Bob and JRock. It was a thrill for us flatlanders to hear about some of Patrick's experiences on some of his more challenging climbs. Restless Spirits was a neat place with cold beer, great food, fun atmosphere and even better service. We were really loving the whole Lake City experience.
Ready to hit the trail, Greg, Tim, Rockchalker and Stranger
Our first view of our final destination
Greg with Handies still a long ways away
Handies looms in the distance
Tim and Greg headed up
Trail to the top
Matterhorn and Whetterhorn in the distance
Rockchalker nearing the final saddle
San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains
Uncompahgre, Matterhorn and Whetterhorn in the distance
The howling wind on top
Greg signing us in at the summit
Rockchalker, summit #21
Tim, Rockchalker and Greg ready to head down
Greg and Tim headed down, fighting the wind
Greg on his way down
Our new found friend and hiking companion, JRock
Dinner at Restless Spirits w/Patrick Kelly - far right