Peak(s):  Handies Peak  -  14,048 feet
Date Posted:  07/23/2009
Date Climbed:   07/20/2009
Author:  denvermikey
 Handies w/ mother nature‘s fireworks   

Having lost out to mother nature last year on our early September attempt for Handies (Cinnamon Pass having 6-8 inches of fresh snow by 7 am) , we decided to make a re-attempt earlier in the year. We arrived in Ouray Sunday night and settled in to our hotel, going to sleep at an early enough hour so the 4am alarm clock would not be thrown against the wall . Next morning, we set out around 4:40 headed over to American Basin. There was already about a half dozen truck/trailers parked at the entrance to Engineer Pass, so I decided to go down 550 to Silverton and then back up to Cinnamon. Got to the American Basin trailhead around 6:35, about 25 minutes later after running back to the truck cuz I kept forgetting stuff, our trek had begun!

There were clouds from the beginning, and slight drizzle off and on, but it never got serious. We kept a pretty good pace. The last few hundred feet to the summit is considerably steeper than the majority of the trail, but with no exposure. We hit the summit at 9:00. Met up with a father/daughter from Costa Rica (I thought our trip from Castle Rock was long) who were gracious enough to take our picture.

The top was quite windy, so we sat in a somewhat sheltered area and munched on some food, rehydrated, enjoyed the wonderful views, and then started our hike down at 9:25.

On the way down, I took more time and stopped to enjoy the scenery more and take some pictures. Also, we passed a fellow member, guitarczar, and some of his band mates and a few friends they were taking on their first 14er - whats up guys!!???





As you can see, the flowers were incredible, I couldn't stop taking pictures of them. The entire San Juan range was in bloom, but this basin was spectacular. I have never seen so much green in these mountains. The very wet season has done will for the landscape. After taking our time to stop along the way, we got back to the truck at 11:15.
Now, I want to get up onto my soap box here for a little bit. We all love to enjoy the scenery, and are blessed to live in or have access to these wonderful mountains here in, why is it that some people just can't follow the simple guidelines like STAY ON THE TRAIL??? We passed this couple that were just content to wander around wherever they pleased as if they owned the place. I even tried to talk with them about staying on the trail, but they completely ignored me as if they didn't even understand me. It looked to me like a younger male trying to impress his girl. I dunno, I just don't get it. If any of you recognize this couple, maybe you can pass along the message to stay on the trails!


By the way, I know this question gets asked alot, by myself even. I took Engineer Pass back to Ouray and the timing was within a couple of minutes of going down the Silverton route. The difference is the Silverton route does not beat up your vehicle, or your tired body after a hike. Unless you specifically want a somewhat challenging 4wd trail ( it was kinda fun ), taking the Silverton route is the same amount of time. Also, when did Ouray become retired Texan vacation area central? I have never seen so many retired or vacationing Texans in their Jeeps or on there ATV's!!! The off-road traffic was unbelievable, even on a Monday. The Jeep rental shops must have been making a killing!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Nice TR - Couple of questions
07/26/2009 14:34
We‘re staying in Ouray in August and considering your exact trip. Thanks much for the details of your trip to the trailhead. Like many others we were uncertain which route to go, your report confirms we may as well go through Silverton. Wow, I didn‘t know it would take 2 hours! What was the road difficulty via Silverton and over Cinnamon? I‘m not looking for pucker factor 4 wheeling. Would you consider this route fairly easy especially vs. Engineer? Thanks much!


Silverton v Engineer
07/26/2009 17:06
Yes, plan on at least 2 hours to the trailhead from Ouray. The route up from Silverton is longer mileage wise, but not even close to as difficult as Engineer. Engineer is very slow and requires 4wd with good clearance, and patience. Cinnamon is 80% easy with no 4wd needed, there are a few stretches where decent clearance is required but nothing like Engineer. Engineer has a shelf section where the drop off the side of the road is 100‘s of feet straight down. It is a fun and challenging 4wd trail, but if your goal is to get to the trailheads in an easier, less jolting, less energy-sapping manner, the Silverton route is the way too go. If you do want to try Engineer, and have the right kind of 4wd, I recommend doing it on the return trip to Ouray. When you get to Silverton, take the main road off 550 through town (north), then at the end of town you have a choice of continuing straight or veering off to the right - take the road to the right. There will be signs pointing to a mine tour. The first couple of miles are paved then a very easy dirt road, then the road gets a little bumpier before you get to the junction to take Cinnamon Pass at Las Animas. Don‘t know if you are also planning to do Redcloud/Sunshine, but if you do, make sure you get to the right trailhead

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