Peak(s):  Handies Peak  -  14,048 feet
Date Posted:  09/10/2006
Modified:  10/01/2012
Date Climbed:   09/10/2006
Author:  summitbound
 Handies Peak- Southwest Slopes-American Basin  

After reaching the summit of Red Cloud and Sunshine LOVEINT and I headed off towards Handies and the American Basin trailhead. The road past Grizzly Gulch gets considerably rougher the further up it you drive. At the turn off from the main road to American Basin a high clearance vehicle would be recommended. The road from this point forward is pretty rough and rocky. The parking lot slopes towards the creek and there was only one level spot in the place and it was already occupied.

Another truck had been following us the entire way up and as it turns out they were on their way up to the summit. We halfway toyed with getting it done as well but decided since we had the time we might as well enjoy the evening and save it for the next day. I know I could have made it up but I am not sure I would have enjoyed the hike very much. Sometimes I have to revisit my reason for hiking and while it is fun to say I have climbed X number of 14ers the real reason I do it is because I enjoy getting out, not to just check another off the list.

We setup camp and cooked ourselves some steak burgers and warmed up some coffee to help keep the chill off of us. The burgers must have smelled good because the guy who took the only level spot came over to talk shortly after we started cooking them. Unfortunately we did not have any extra. We chatted with him until our dinner was ready. After dinner we cleaned up, readied our packs and setup a tarp to cover the back side of the truck incase it rained on us again and settled in for the evening.

This picture of Handies was actually taken from the hike up Red Cloud and Sunshine but I think it's a great shot so here it is.
Since the only peak we had planned for the next day was Handies, and it was a relatively short hike, we decided to sleep in a little and make ourselves a hot breakfast. The guy we had been talking with the night before had hit the trail long before we were ever up and only one other vehicle was in the parking lot. It looked like we would not have to share the peak with many other people.

Unlike the hike the day before, this days hike started above tree line. We signed the register and began our trek up the basin.
Probably due mainly to a good nights sleep, the hike up to the top of the basin seemed pretty easy and went by quickly. I was surprised how far we had come when I looked back down to the trail head.
From here it's a short hike up to Sloan Lake. This lake is really cool and the trail does not go directly to it, instead it misses it by a couple hundred feet, but it's was well worth the slight detour to go check it out. After the lake, the trail circles around the bowl and if I had to pick a section this is probably the roughest of the trail and as you can see its still all class 1.
From here it was just lots of elevation gain up a very well maintained trail. I think the biggest problem we had was that it had started to warm up and the snow from the previous days weather was starting to melt. It was making the trail a bit of a mess. As we started to top out on the ridge we got a great view of Sloan Lake. It was here that we met up with the guy who spent the night at the trail head. He was surprised at how quickly we had gotten up to where we were.
From here we walked up a grassy slope to the top of the ridge. Handies summit was now in sight
The first portion of the trail here was pretty steep and we were now high enough that the snow was not melting at all. We stopped long enough to throw on more layers and we were careful to avoid the icy patches.
Handies is clearly one of the easier 14ers but it is still a 14er none the less, and by this point I was huffing and puffing to make it up the last pitch. True to tradition LOVENIT beat me to the summit by a good 5 minutes.

I had read all about the beauty of the San Juan Range and its here that you truly gain an appreciation of it. The views in every direction were photo worthy and the snow added just that added bonus. Here is just a sampling. I really want to come back and attempt one of those couloirs.
If you look off the other direction you can see Silver Creek and the Grizzly Gulch trail head
At the summit we ran into a lone hiker who was waiting for the weather to clear up so he could take some pictures. I don't think it ever did. We got him to take our summit photo, collected our summit rock, and sat down for a bit to eat and some conversation. Turns out he was from Indiana and was doing a solo hike today while he waited for some friends from Texas to arrive. Nice guy.

The trip back down was uneventful except that I had to break out my hiking poles, which surprised me on such an easy hike. But my knees were hurting a bit from the past few days hiking and that's why I carry them. We made good time back down to Sloan Lake where we ran into a huge flock of ptarmigan; I would say at least 30 birds. They were just getting their winter markings.
Back at the trailhead we stowed our gear and headed back down. The fall colors were spectacular and the drive back into Lake City was an enjoyable one. It was nice to see the shelf road in the day light. All in all it had be another wonderful weekend of hiking. A big thanks to LOVENIT for being our chauffer on this trip and as always for making the long drive from UT to climb with me…

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