Peak(s):  Redcloud Peak  -  14,034 feet
Sunshine Peak  -  14,001 feet
Handies Peak  -  14,048 feet
Date Posted:  05/29/2008
Date Climbed:   05/25/2008
Author:  KirkT
 Memorial Day, Wind & 3 Summits in the San Juans  

REDCLOUD PK (14034ft.) , SUNSHINE PK (14001ft.) & HANDIES PK (14048ft.)
Date Climbed: Redcloud/Sunshine May 25, & Handies May 26
Route: Redcloud & Sunshine, NE Ridge w/Traverse; Handies, West Slopes
Round Trip: (Redcloud & Sunshine) 11.5 miles
Round Trip: Handies, 6.2 miles
Elevation Gain: Redcloud & Sunshine 4800 ft.
Elevation Gain: Handies 2900 ft.
Hikers: KirkT and Cldeck

Day 1, REDCLOUD PK (14034ft.) & SUNSHINE PK (14001ft.)

Well after a week trying to get some people together for another San Juan's trip, it ended up being Chris (Cldeck) and myself off to another great adventure. I have been trying to make those long trips to the San Juans as fruitful as possible with the cost of gas right now. With a long weekend approaching and fairly good weather forecasts, I jumped at the opportunity for another trip to possibly get 3 more 14er's off my list. We both had previous obligations on Saturday with our families so we ended up leaving Castle Rock about 6pm Saturday. We set off in Chris's truck (which has tons of character by the way) on the way to Gunnison. This truck has got to be seen....almost 20 years old... rust everywhere with over 150k miles and would only get to the speed limit about 60% of the time! I think I'm gonna name his truck..Rust ..Rattle.. and Roll!! It was great! 8) We eventually arrived at the trailhead about 11:45 pm. The road to Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch was totally dry. There was no problem whatsoever reaching the trailhead in the dark. There were 4 different camps set up when we arrived. Shortly after arrival, we set up my tent and hit the sack, setting the alarm for 5:40 am.

We started our day on Sunday with the hopes of knocking off Redcloud and Sunshine. After gearing up we were off to march at about 6:35am. The original goal was to turn off the main trail and ascend the North Slopes. We however were not overly familiar with the route and missed the "obvious" 2 cairns signaling the turn off for that route. We continued up the standard trail up to Redcloud. The snow was deep in places and above 11500ft it was permanent. We did not need or use snowshoes or crampons even though we both had them in our packs. The wind was blowing pretty good in the Redcloud Basin and we could see that it was blowing very hard up higher around the summit of Redlcoud. We continued at a steady but not too fast pace. We did not want to wear ourselves out and the weather did not look threatening at all. We eventually made it up to the upper slopes of Redcloud where the wind was beginning to really blow pretty hard. Chris put on another shell and pants while I bundled up as well. After some awe inspiring photos and taking in the incredible San Juan scenery we made our ascent to the summit. We summited Redcloud at 10:25. The wind was blowing pretty fierce and we were getting cold so we snapped a few pictures and started our traverse towards Sunshine.

The traverse was pretty straight forward and the snow was not overly deep. There was some loading on the East sides of the ridge so we just stayed clear of those and took off towards Sunshine. We met forum member Cruthas and Rod on the ridge near Sunshine's summit. After a few moments of conversation we continued towards Sunshine's summit. We summited Sunshine at 12:00. Traverse time of 1 hour 30 minutes. The wind was still blowing extremely hard. So again, we snapped a few photos and headed back down to the saddle to start our descent.

We picked a line down the North slopes of Sunshine and started our way back down into the gulley. The descent went fairly quickly and we reached the ridge below that leads into the valley below. After a tricky trek across some steep snow we glissaded about 300 ft into the lower basin. The wind was not blowing in this lower portion and the sun was beginning to get warm. After about another 20 minutes of hiking we began to posthole pretty bad, so we donned our snowshoes and continued down. There were several very large cornices along the North ridges and several places where avalanches had fallen, looked like very recent. Some of the snow balls were as big as a car. The descent after that was pretty uneventful, but it was pretty warm with the sun shining down on us. We made it back to camp at 3:00. Round trip time of 8 1/2 hours. We were happy with our time considering the snow conditions and wind. After returning to camp I passed out in the tent and Chris ran some errands back in Lake City. We visited with Cruthas and Rod before retiring to our tent at about 8 pm. We were planning on climbing Handies in the morning but wanted to get an earlier start so we could get home at a decent time.

I should mention that at around 8:30 3 cars arrived and it sounded like one heck of a party. If I had know it was Skassgard and SarahT and company I would of came out and played along! 8) Oh well...finally got to sleep and prepared for the next morning.

First light on Handies.

Chris in Lower Basin Of Redcloud

Redcloud Summit Ridge

Redcloud Summit

Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn

Me on Summit of Redcloud

Redcloud-Sunshine Traverse

Redcloud and Northern San Juans, Uncompahgre

Glissade path down Sunshine's North Slope

Avalanche Slide

Day 2, HANDIES PK (14048ft.)

The next day the alarm went off at 3:40am. It had been raining off and on all night. We were both awoke several times during the night when sleet was hitting our tent. We really did not think too much of it as we proceeded to gear up and drive the truck up the road to the American Basin trailhead. We had to park at the junction of Cinnamon Pass and American Basin Trailheads. There was a large bulldozer parked blocking entry to Cinnamon Pass with "CLOSED" written on its blade. We geared up and started our hike up American Basin at 5:15.

We started to posthole immediately and after about 20 minutes of fighting the situation, we donned our snowshoes and continued into American Basin. We had to hike about 1/2 mile up to the 4WD parking area. The bulldozer had made one pass down the road but it was still very unpassable by any vehicle right now. The 4WD trailhead was covered in about 5 ft of snow. The 2 signs there were sticking about 1 foot out of the snow.

We continued up into the basin just following the stream path and steadily climbing up ever increasing slopes. The summer route goes more against the ridge line to the West. We decided to take a more direct path straight up into the heart of the basin. The wind was blowing extremely hard, much harder than the day before. I would estimate at least 30 mph with gusts to 50. After reaching the upper portion of American Basin we decided to pick a line straight up Handies' West Slope. We still had our snowshoes on. This line was extremely steep in sections and the wind was making it even more difficult. Several time the gusts were so strong they almost blew us totally over. We found ourselves totally laying down several times to shield from the wind. We eventually made it up to the upper summit ridge. The snow was much more sparse up high. We decided to take off the snowshoes and continue up in boots. I dropped my pack and started up with Chris closely behind. We reached the summit at 8:15 completing a 3 hour trek.

After 10 minutes on the summit, we had enough of the wind and decided to go back down. The descent went very quickly. When we reached to where my pack was located I decided it was a good idea to put our crampons on and continue a parallel route close to where we had ascended. This was Chris' first time in his crampons so there was a short adjustment time, but he soon was right behind me and we made great time back into the lower basin. Looking back, it was a great decision to use our crampons. The snow was hard and consolidated and at this time of the day so far.. the sun had been shrouded by clouds. Perfect for crampons. After reaching the lower portion of the basin we switched back to our snowshoes to avoid the post-holing nightmare. We made it back to the truck at 10:15. Total time of 5 hours.

All in all, it was a great holiday weekend in the San Juans with great company. Looking forward to many more of them in the near future.

First light in American Basin

American Basin

Windy upper slopes of Handies

Groud Blizzard around 13800ft.

Redcloud and Sunshine from Handies' summit

Handies Summit shot

Chris on Handies summit

American Basin 4WD trailhead

Tractor blocking Americna Basin access

Our home away from home

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Stupendous, as always...
05/29/2008 03:34
Kirk - Wish I could have made that trip with ya‘, but I‘m glad you knocked 3 more off the short list!


Great report
05/29/2008 13:28
Nice job writing up our trip. We will have to do it again.


Would have been nice to chat
05/29/2008 16:17
Funny that there were no groups at the TH that night! Congrats on your 3 new 14ers.


I remember...
05/30/2008 17:11
Chris‘ old rust machine. Glad to hear the rust is still holding the truck together. Where‘s your sweet stache by the way? Make it come back. Cool report.

El Viejo

What Was at The Bottom of those Gators?
05/30/2008 18:37
Great report and beautiful pics. Red Cloud, Sunshine, Uncom and Wetterhorn (if I can find a CIII-IV partner) on my list for late June but I am waiting for the snow as I am from the desert. I have not used snowshoes or crampons and it sounds like you did not either? Was the snow that firm?



07/20/2010 14:06
We‘re going to have to figure out some secret handsignal or something. I was the only other person on Handies that day and spoke to you guys briefly just below the summit. Nice report, the pictures give a good feel for how brutal the wind was up there.

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