Peak(s):  Redcloud Peak  -  14,034 feet
Sunshine Peak  -  14,001 feet
Date Posted:  07/18/2007
Date Climbed:   07/13/2007
Author:  14ergirl

 Lightning finish!  

After climbing Uncompahgre the day before my husband, myself, and our friend, Greg chose Redcloud/Sunshine combo for Friday. We found a nice campsite near the Silver Creek/Grizzly gulch trailhead. Image
We started at 6:45am with beautiful clear blue skies after it had rained all evening the night before. The trail up and around the southwest side of Redcloud was perfect with beautiful views of Redcloud's west face. Image
The skies were in our favor compared to the day before on Uncompahgre. We headed up the switchbacks on the south side of Redcloud and were greeted with a view of Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn as well as the Cox Comb which our friend Greg had climbed. Image Image
We reached the summit of Redcloud at 10:45am and there were a few clouds starting to build. We looked over at Sunshine a mile away and decided to go for it as we thought we were going to bail off the other side of Sunshine and not have to retrace our steps back to Redcloud. Image

Halfway between the two peaks I had to stop twice to nurse a hot spot that was starting on my left ankle. The moleskin didn't seem to want to stick very well. As we approached the top of Sunshine I asked some people about the route off the other side and everyone said it was no good, don't do it. So we arrived at the top under a dark cloud at 12:00 noon and decided it would be wiser to hurry up and go back over to Redcloud. Image
We went as fast as we could and arrived back just beneath the summit of Redcloud at 12:30 when the skies opened up across the valley and thunder started booming. Curse words went flying and we decided not to go up to the ridge and instead ski the unpleasant scree in one of the west gullies. Just as we started to traverse down the scree a lighning strike hit just on the other side of the ridge and to my knowledge noone was harmed, but my heart has never raced so hard and so fast in my life! We stayed on the steep slope and retreated through the gully back to the trees. We tried our best to spread out and not to create any type of trail as to not want to harm the mountain, but we felt our lives at that point were more important than misplacing the rocks and scree on that slope. We understand once we got down that the CMC was up there and very upset that we had taken that route. Well, we are all members of the CMC and we care very much for the impact on the mountains, but when you know that it is safer to be off the ridge a human should do what is necessary for survival. I am glad that those up there that decided to continue over Redcloud despite the lighning were unharmed, but we felt better about not being on the ridge. And when someone made the comment that there was only 1 lightning strike, I have to refute that because I know I heard a lot more thunder than just one and anyways it only takes one lightning strike to hit someone.

Sorry I had to state my opinion on that, but I had heard there were issues with us taking that route. Either way the views from the top were beautiful and the trail was great. Just make sure you are off the top of Redcloud on the 2nd time around by 12:00 because the storms in the San Juans seem to roll in fast and early.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

You made the right move
02/05/2011 00:22
Wow, I can't believe that anyone would give you a hard time about taking the quickest path to safety. People like that need to be smacked around. How bad would they have felt if they'd had the chance to stop you and persuade you to go back the "correct" way and you'd been hit by lightning? "There was only one strike!" Wow, that's great, I guess they think it requires at least two to kill someone . Hindsight is 20/20, and it's easy for them to tell you what you could have done after the fact, getting to lower ground ASAP was the correct move, given the element of the unknown.


11/30/2010 17:28
You do what you have to do. Your safety is foremost. I am a member of the CMC...their intentions are good but sometimes they are too bureaucratic, but I won't even get into the beef on that. Glad you made it back safely! I think the scree will be ok and you guys spread out, exactly what you should do when you can.

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