Peak(s):  Redcloud Peak  -  14,034 feet
Sunshine Peak  -  14,001 feet
Date Posted:  07/24/2009
Date Climbed:   07/21/2009
Author:  denvermikey
 Redcloud/Sunshine long day   

Our goal with our 3-day trip to Ouray was to hike Handies one day and then Redcloud/Sunshine the other. After checking the weather forecast (100% bonafide, guaranteed to be least until it changes) the day we left, Sunday, it appeared that the better/earlier chance for rain was on Monday. So, that is the day we decided to hike the shorter/easier Handies:
Didn't really run into any weather to speak of that day, just lots of cloud cover. So far, everything was going as planned. We woke up about 4:15 and left the hotel about 4:45 with thoughts of our San Juan two-some bouncing in our heads as we kept our eyes glued to the pre-dawn highway expecting a deer or some other suicidal animal to jump out from the pitch darkness. Timing was good on Cinnamon Pass, right as we drove over the summit, the sun was just peaking over the range.

Coming from the Ouray side, the markers and mileage references on the route description page were meaningless. So, looking at the printout describing the trailhead (without the pics), I pulled to the parking area about 6:45. Parking area - check, "hike northeast up the hill on an old road (the trail)", saw old road - check. Got all of our gear ready, then my wife had a 'nature call', so she went off into the wooded area to do her thing which, of course, prompted my body to desire the same thing. So I went off into an area out of sight from the road and proceeded to answer nature's call. About 7:00 we started the hike up the 'old road' expecting to pair up with Silver Creek soon. Less than 100 yards into the hike, we ran into a house......with a garage......and an older couple standing on their porch......drinking coffee & staring at us like we still had our pants down. I said, 'I don't think we are supposed to be here' . The lady said, 'Are you here for watercolor class?' 'Uh, no.....But, do you know where the Silver Creek trailhead is?' Embarrassed, we hustled back down to the truck and drove the last 1/2 mile or so to the actual trailhead parking area....which was clearly labeled......and had bathrooms . Not sure how long it will take my wife to get over that one, I keep mentioning that it was good practice, but that's not helping. So, we started on the correct trail about 7:50, at least an hour past our desired start, but the sun was shining and we felt vigorous.

Just a bit after leaving the forest area, we stopped to remove our outer layers as the sun was bright and there was no hint of any breeze at the time. It was almost too hot! A ways farther up the trail, we came across Frank. Frank is one of the high-ranking marmots in the area who want to make sure that all passers-by are 'worthy' of passing through their little community . After explaining to him that we are very cautious hikers, that we always stay on the marked trails and practice 'leave no trace', he decided that we were worthy and would let us pass under one condition: that we take his picture and post it on for all to see. So I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped his photo -

He then proceeded to yell at me because I was too hasty and he did not have time to 'pose' with his best side . So I waited for him to get ready then took another -

We proceeded up the beautiful valley and looked back at the area (including Marmotville) before heading up the saddle.

After a brief rest, we continued on to where the hike becomes a little more challenging. The climb up the northeast ridge is steep and full of loose rock. Then you get to the false summit, but you can clearly see the true summit to the left, so it's not that much of a surprise. Zig-zagging up the final pitch, we were excited to reach the top of the aptly named Redcloud.

At this time it was already 11:20, and listening to people who just came back from Sunshine, saying that it was at least an hour each way, we decided to pose for a summit shot then hustle on over to peak #2.

It is a pretty lengthy hike between the two peaks. There is more elevation gain than it appears. About 3/4 the way over, we saw a group coming up from the scree field. They told us that it sucked horribly and they were not planning on decending that way. We picked our way up Sunshine and proceeded to take our summit shots and move on, this was at 12:30. This picture is the one right after I told my wife that Sunshine was the 'shortest' of all the 14ers....somehow I think there was a interpretation problem here...

After explaining what I meant (strike two Mikey!), we got our Sunshine summit shot

Looking back over to Redcloud, we got down off the summit, ate some of our lunch and proceeded back over to Red.

Now, since I just hiked the saddle between the two, I knew there was going to be a couple of false summits on the way back. But my legs were tiring and I was starting to wonder where the people were hiding that were playing the loud tom-tom drums that I kept hearing. Looking over my shoulder, I realized there were indeed no drums, but only this coming for us -

So much for the weather forecast! After rounding the last false summit, I then saw how much farther it was to reach the summit of Red again. I shouted "FUDGE!!!" only I didn't say "Fudge." I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word! I would like to publicly apologize to all of the pika, marmots, and other wildlife that may have been in the vicinity and who may have been subject to the terrible, filthy, language that jumped out of my mouth. Please, please, do not let Frank find out about this. Anyway, after re-summitting Redcloud, we didn't even stop at all, just continued to scurry on down the trail trying to stay ahead of the approaching tom-toms. The area up the northeast ridge is bad enough on the way up, but on the way down, it just plain sucks. Started down from the saddle, and then it started to drizzle on us. We were very glad to be down from the worst part of the descent. It was bad enough without it being wet. No big deal, just put on the rain gear, and hike on down. Coming down the saddle, I noticed some red flags in the area that seemed to be attached to some markers. Anyone have any idea what these are for? Will there be a Recloud condo community soon? Golf Course? Maybe the marmots are movin up in the world? Not caring about the rain as much as we were glad to be off the summit in case of any lightning, we trekked on down the path toward the forest. Passing by 'Marmotville', we noticed that Frank had abandoned his post - fair weather marmot! Once we finally got to the wooded area, we were very glad to see the forest. I remember on the way up thinking that this was a wonderful, magical forest to hike through. On the way out, however, I kept thinking that there was no way we went through this much forest and that it kept going on forever, and when the hell are we going to be out of these damn trees!!!??? Finally reaching our truck at 4:20, we were both tired, but glad to be finished with these 2 peaks, 3 in two days.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

nice report
07/24/2009 14:33
Nice report , thanks. I like the wrong start story and the marmot photos, especially the second marmot photo.


Good Job Mike!
07/26/2009 20:16
Very fun to read, and I know your pain of descending Redcloud; that trail is slickery, but safer than the scree hell that you would encounter if you had bailed off of the ridge below Sunshine.

RedCloud-Sunshine Trip Report
07/28/2009 18:09
Hilarious. Thanks for the comments about the mental challenges of reprising the RedCloud summit on the way back down. I may be trying this with my hiking pal this weekend, weather permitting. The ”watercolors class” story was priceless.

I liked it!
07/23/2010 22:02
What a fun read! I love the watercolor class story and the pictures of your marmot friend. Your wife must get a kick out of you!

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