Sunshine Peak - Northwest Face
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|Difficulty:|| Difficult Class 2 |
|Trailhead:||Silver Crk/Grizzly Gulch|
|Total Gain:||3,800 feet|
|RT Length:||8.50 miles|
|USGS Quad.:||Redcloud Peak|
|County Sheriff:||Hinsdale: 970-944-2291
From Lake City, drive about 2 miles south on Colorado 149 and turn right on County Road 30 toward Lake San Cristobal and Cinnamon Pass. From the start of the 30 road, it's nearly 16 miles to the trailhead. Stay right near 11.8 miles. After 12.5 miles the road becomes more rough, and between 13 and 14.5 miles it's a shelf road that hugs the south side of Sunshine Peak. Before 16 miles, reach the trailhead in an open area. Parts of this road are rough, but when it's dry good-clearance 2WD vehicles should be able to get to the trailhead.
From the Silver Creek trailhead parking area, follow the trail northeast up a hill and into the forest. Near 11,100', leave the forest and continue on the trail as it parallels Silver Creek on your right - Photo #1. Above 11,300' (Photo #2), look sharp for a cairn down near the stream - Photo #3. Leave the main trail, cross the stream ( 37.94888° N, -107.43918° W), and locate a small trail in the bushes, a few feet to the left. This trail ascends south towards Sunshine Peak.
Hike through the trees and continue parallel to the South Fork stream. Near 11,600', turn left (Photo #4) to climb a slope and re-enter the trees above 11,700'. Pass an old shack near 11,800' and continue to tree line, near 11,900'. Most of the remaining route is visible to the south - Photo #5. Continue toward the south end of the basin (Photo #6) and ascend a small rock glacier near 12,400' - Photo #7. The remaining hike, to the end of the basin, is on talus. Continue directly south toward the end of the basin - Photo #8. Do not turn left (east) in this area - there's another route that climbs to the Redcloud-Sunshine saddle, but it's steep, loose and dangerous. Continue across the talus to reach the south end of the basin - Photo #9. The trail may disappear but there are a few cairns that may help.
To reach the Northwest Face, the route now climbs a small, steep gully ( 37.92721° N, -107.4299° W). Locate the gendarme shown in Photo #9 and hike to the gully on its left. Climb the steep, scree-filled gully (Photo #10 and Photo #11) to 13,300'. Continue up another 100+ feet to reach a flat area below the Northwest Face - Photo #12. From here, you have two options (Photo #13), and the 2nd is the better choice:
1) Left Side of Face
Hike southeast across talus to reach the base of the face, left of center. Locate a trail that climbs east toward the upper left of the face- Photo #13. Don't climb straight up the face because the rock is very loose locate the trail on the north side of the face. The trail starts out a bit vague but becomes more defined as the terrain steepens. Follow the final trail segment to reach Sunshine's north ridge ( 37.92534° N, -107.42582° W) near 13,700' - Photo #21. Turn right and follow the trail up to the summit. Photo #23 looks down on portions of the route.
2) Right Side of Face - West Ridge
Continue across the flat area (Photo #14) and locate a trail that climbs to the crest of the west ridge ( 37.92214° N, -107.42853° W). Ascend a defined trail to reach the ridge crest above 13,600' - Photo #15 and Photo #16. Turn left and follow the easy ridge (Photo #17 and Photo #18) to the summit. Photo #19 looks down along the ridge. This option is easier than option #1 (above) and definitely a lot more stable.
For the descent, the easiest option is to descend the west ridge and cross back under the northwest face to reach the top of the dirt gully. Or you can descend via option #1 (above) using the loose trail on the north side of the northwest face. If you choose to descend via this option, hike down Sunshine's north ridge for 400' and look for a trail that leaves the ridge on the left - Photo #21. Hike west down the northwest face (Photo #22) on the loose trail. The trail is ok for descending, but you'll quickly realize that it probably isn't fun to ascend. Photo #23 shows the lower portion that leads back to the dirt gully. Photo #24 looks across the face, at the west ridge. Photo #25 is another look at the terrain you'll encounter on this trail.
Photo #26 looks back up at the northwest face and shows the general location of your two options for ascending and descending the northwest face.
Warning: Do not descend west off of the Redcloud-Sunshine saddle. This area is steep, loose, and dangerous. If you are not hiking over to Redcloud, use one of the Sunshine descent routes described above.
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