Peak(s):  Handies Peak  -  14,048 feet
Date Posted: 
Date Climbed:   05/22/2005
Author:  ray
 standard sw slopes, may 22, 2005  

dogs and i left denver after work friday and camped near buckskin joe. great camping. then down to the san juans saturday, set up camp about a mile from the american basin th. beautiful weather, but warm.

got up at 3:30 and after a little packing hit the trail at 4:20. skinned on rock solid snow. a beautiful place to be in the dark, stars were out and there was some full moon light glancing the peaks. for the first part, near the stream, i had to really keep on my dogs to stay up with me as they could have fallen in and gotten sucked under the snow bridge. people should keep this in mind if they take their dogs.

as it got lighter you could see many avalanches had fallen recently, seemed like the east aspect avys were caused mainly by chunking cornices and the west aspect avys caused by rapid warming. i was glad to be on solid snow very early.

i think i made the same mistake as mauser (see earlier post), making my way too far south and ending up hitting a pass above sloan lake. there is a tight ridge that i needed to go over to get to the real pass and then up to handies. i tried it, got up to the top but decided to turn back as the dogs were kicking off rocks and there was a lot of exposure. back down to the shoulder we put on the skis and contoured around north as best we could, then got up on the correct route.

summited just before 8am. the views are incredible, to say the least. all of the surrounding mountains have tons of snow. you could see a lot of wet slide activity all around, but i felt good about the ski possibilities and the early start made the difference.

the first part of the ski was purposefully icy/crusty. i wanted to get down into the basin earlier and wait for my corn (if i had waited for the upper slopes of handies to thaw, below would have been a mess and dangerous). the beginning line i took was neat as it started mellow and got steeper and steeper, adding some excitement. the dogs were in heaven. then i stopped for a half hour and sipped a beer, taking in all the beauty. about 9:30 i felt conditions were great.

american basin isnt very challenging as a ski, but it is certainly a lot of fun with all of the undulations, rollovers, a lot of variety. next year i plan on camping a few more days and skiing more of it, there are endless possibilities.

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