Peak(s):  Redcloud Peak  -  14,034 feet
Sunshine Peak  -  14,001 feet
Date Posted:  08/25/2019
Date Climbed:   08/22/2019
Author:  tb8331
 Redcloud and Sunshine Peaks   

It was time to try to climb a 14er again. I usually try to get to Colorado for this purpose at least once a summer. I had made it out to Grizzly Gulch/Silver Creek twice last year, but failed to summit on two attempts of Handies and one attempt at Redcloud/Sunshine. So I decided to go there again to try all three peaks.

I started up the trail at 0315 as I don't usually sleep well or long at trail heads. Due to several factors that I will go over in a bit, I wasn't back to the trail head until 1615, which annoyed the hell out of me.

The first obstacle was the snow and avalanche debris that was covering the trail below 12,000 feet. I knew from last year's trip that I was headed the right direction, but decided to stop ascending until it was lighter, despite using a good headlamp. I basically stood still from 0430 to 0600 between 11,500 and 11,600. I knew the terrain was rocky for a bit and hadn't been too far past that. The main reason for stopping was that I didn't know how far the snow fields extended and didn't feel like missing the trail or getting off route in the dark. Once it became light it was clear that you just stayed on the left side of the snow fields and you would eventually gain the trail again.

My second "mishap" occurred at the first "trail this way" sign. There appeared to be a trail behind the sign, hence the sign being put there, and I still chose to climb behind the sign. I am more ashamed of this because I typically don't venture off trail. It was readily apparent after 100-200 feet of climbing that I made a mistake. At that point I determined it was safer to keep ascending instead of down climbing. The result is that I went up a much steeper and harder route. I'm sure this took me longer to ascend than staying on the trail would have.

I ended up reaching Redcloud's summit a little after 0900. I left shortly after and reached Sunshine at approximately 1015. Clouds were starting to build, but nothing looked too serious at this point. I left Sunshine at 1030 with the goal of being off Redcloud again by noon. It took me 30 minutes to descend off Sunshine as my knees don't handle descents well; especially on loose scree. It was probably 1130 when I reached the base of Redcloud again. By that time storm clouds were all over the place. I wasn't happy with the thought of being that high in possible thunderstorms with knees that weren't working properly. This was well past the sign on the saddle that says not to descend there. Another hiker had caught up to me and descended down the slopes on the south side of Redcloud. I considered doing this as well, but going off route on these mountains isn't something I'm a proponent of. I ended up racing up (for me) Redcloud and was descending slowly down the other side by 1230.

The biggest problem I had here was that I was seriously considering just turning around after Redcloud. I was pretty gassed by that time, and knew my knees were not going to allow me to ascend or descend quickly. While the clouds weren't looking like anything serious at that point, I usually prefer to err on the side of safety. I would have been happier with myself at the time if I had listened to myself and just turned around at that point. Looking back now, I'm happy I kept going as I got to add two more peaks to my total.

I hope some of this is helpful to someone. I also hope this wasn't too dull as it is my first TR. Thanks for reading!

Comments or Questions

Nice work
08/25/2019 20:00
Way to keep going and finish!

How was the road getting there? I may head that way Wednesday.

Rick Canter
Cloud and Sun
08/26/2019 14:14
Ah, tb8331, I completely "get it". I am a slow, flatlander and your report echoed mine (not on this site) from many moons ago. I seriously wondered about one or two summits, how to get down etc. I did not hear thunder until I was down at treeline, fortunately, but the choices we both made and obstacles faced felt similar. (I did it in the era before the big avalanche, however.)

You had a good day outdoors, came down with all 4 limbs intact, and two summits. Way to go...

08/29/2019 23:22
Sorry for the late response. The road was good. Did it in a Hyundai Elantra. I'm sure you figured this out already.

Rick Canter
08/29/2019 23:24
I agree. A great day outdoors. I was cursing those mountains on the way down. Said I'd never do them again. Yet, here I am in a pub a week later, and I'm thinking fondly of that day. Hoping to get out for one more this year.

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