Peak(s):  Sunshine Peak  -  14,001 feet
Redcloud Peak  -  14,034 feet
Date Posted:  07/02/2018
Date Climbed:   07/02/2018
Author:  coloradosheets
 Avoid the Loop   

After climbing Handies the day before, I decided to go for the Red Cloud / Sunshine loop in the clockwise direction. This whole bit assumes you're planning to try for both peaks from the Silver Creek TH. That's what I just did and on this day I learned 3 things that I think are worth sharing and I'll go so far as to call these - My Three Pieces of Advice:

First - don't be tempted by the loop. Yes, hiking back the way you came, not to mention with an additional 500 vert and a few extra miles, does not seem appealing. But what is even less appealing is descending loose boulder fields and scree for 2,000 vertical feet (especially after having summited two peaks!) Seriously - The hike on the standard Red Cloud peak trail is absolutely stunning. There is a short bit of rocks and scree at the top, but mostly it's just a huge green basin that is guarded by craggy 13ers and completely adorned with wild flowers. The Sunshine trail, on the other hand, is literally nothing but a ton of rock, with some sharp rocky bits thrown in for variety. This long painful down march is only briefly interrupted by a fun game of "Now Which Gully do I Slide Down Without Plummeting Off a Cliff." So yeah, going down Sunshine was not something I'd recommend.

Second - if you can't jive with advice number one, then I'd strongly recommend doing the loop in the counter clockwise direction. This is the opposite of what I did. Going up Sunshine from Silver Cree would surely give you a far better view of which gully to ascend and you get to enjoy those sharp rocky rocks on the way up with fresh feet and then when you're tired you get the nice long basin descent of Red Cloud.

Third - if you are the person that ignores advice 1 and 2, and/or you've already ascended Red Cloud but are now standing on the peak of Sunshine and someone talks you in to descending Sunshine (it is temping after all, "I can see the road right there" and people will try to convince you)....if this is you, then be very careful which gully you descend. Getting off the peak is easy, and you'll quickly find yourself in the flatish area deciding which way down and hoping like hell you don't get cliffed out. Here's the thing - if you didn't come up this route, once you get to the gullies, I can honestly say that it's hard to know which gully is the right one to descend. Especially because the WRONG one has the most cairns and the most worn in tracks so it therefore appears like the obvious best choice (wrong!). So please - Read up on the descriptions and most importantly, scout your options. Spend an extra few minutes walking back and forth and try to pick the gully that you can visually see each step all the way down. If you can't then there is a cliff (even if a small one)

Pro Tip - How to Know Which is the Right Gully? The one that looks like a ton of people have used, but also looks like a scree water slide into an hour glass, well that's the wrong one. That gully is doable (I just did it) but it's bad. It funnels into two class IV pitches which aren't long, only about 10 feet each, but on very bad rock. If you found this gully, then you need to go two gullies to the right!! If you do find yourself in that gully don't panic. The middle would end badly, but I descended the right side and found somewhat stable rock. I stayed right over the first class IV pitch and then crossed over to the left side (assuming you're looking down) for the last Class IV bit and found stable rock there too, albeit with gravel on the ledges that you have to sweep off with your feet. Fun! And all that was followed by a long "boot-ski" on loose gravel down to a 45 minute painful hike on loose sharp boulder field and scree. Ugh! (see advice number 1 above)

Comments or Questions

Pro Tip
07/03/2018 06:51
I don't think you took the correct descent gully from Sunshine's northwest face. There's a Class 2 way all the way down and if you found Class 4, you were NOT on route. It sounds like you went down from the saddle between those two peaks? If that's the case, there should have been a "Don't go this way!" sign.


More info
07/03/2018 06:57
Here's the gully to get to/from Sunshine's NW face:


More info
07/03/2018 06:59
Here's the map, showing the loop, without getting 13er "Sundog."
R1 -> S1 -> descend S2 (or reverse if doing Sunshine first).

07/03/2018 07:11
Hi BIll, as I mention in my write up, i definitely descended the wrong gully. It wasn't the saddle between Sunshine and RedCloud, it was actually a gully just to the right of the correct one (if you're looking up). Actually in the photo you have above, I came down the one that is just barely out of the frame to the right. Unfortunately lots of people have been taking that route (i.e the wrong gully) and there are Cairns and a well worn in trail leading up to the wrong one, and also Cairns leading down to the wrong one. Wish I had taken a photo to post, my cell was dead and I now wish I had removed the Cairns leading up to the wrong one but was low on water and time.

Can anyone else post a photo looking up at the wrong gully, which for some reason appears to be the more heavily used trail? If anyone is up there and has time, please remove the cairnes leading up to and down to the Class IV gully.


07/03/2018 07:15
I'll take a look at the route description text to see if I can make it more clear. I'm not sure why people have been passing the correct gully area and going into more-difficult terrain. All the more reason to go UP this way, as you mentioned in your report.


07/03/2018 07:46
It sounds like people are going down the steeper gully, just west of the gendarme in my first photo, above. In the NW Face route description, I warn against that but if they are descending into this area (clockwise loop) it's probably easy to miss the correct gully and go into that one because it's the low-point of the saddle with "sundog."


07/03/2018 10:11
This should help. I changed the last few pics on Sunshine's Northwest Face route to better show the location of exit gully. Here's one that may help:

07/03/2018 10:25
That's great, thanks Bill! And you're right, easy to miss going down. That peak was definitely not my first rodeo and I still missed the correct route. And to clarify, the one I went down is actually still the one to the left of the one you have with the red x. If you want to be extra sure, maybe add an additional red X one more to the left? (in your photo above).

Thanks Bill!
07/03/2018 10:28
Bill, I just read your updated description. Thanks so much for doing that! It's thanks to the folks like yourself who take time and share their beta that are helping keep others safe out there. You rock! (yes, that pun was intended)


07/03/2018 12:39
Great - I'll add another "X" to that photo. Hopefully this helps in the future!


even better
07/03/2018 12:40
Do the loop but include Sundog, and come down its north ridge.


Not the only one
07/03/2018 19:55
I was shut down on the descent a few years back too. Picked the wrong gully, decided to re-summit Sunshine, lucky for us the weather was good.

Double tracked?
07/05/2018 14:04
Maybe that route has such a well worn path at the top because a lot of people are descending it then backtracking up. In any case, it's unfortunate that somebody has set cairns that lead to a hazardous route.

We used the correct route, and it was scary
07/29/2018 17:38
Thanks for all the people who posted the best route. Once your are on top, it's very difficult to look down and see which route is the best.
Anyway, even the best route is scary. Loose and steep, and you have to use your hands the whole time. I would call this easily a class 3 scramble.

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