Peak(s):  Redcloud Peak  -  14,034 feet
Sunshine Peak  -  14,001 feet
Date Posted:  09/22/2009
Date Climbed:   08/15/2009
Author:  JasonF
 The Sun does shine on Sunshine - but not on Redcloud  

Party: Jason & Adam (avs88fan)
TH: Grizzly Gulch
Start: 4:45 AM
Summit Redcloud: 7:45 AM
Summit Sunshine: 8:45 AM
Back to Redcloud: 9:30 AM
End: 12:00 PM

Adam and I drove down to Lake City after work Friday night, arriving at the TH well after dark (around 10:30). Set up the tent with the headlamp and camping light and a few minutes later was ready to call it a day. The storm cell that rolled through the area appeared to be long gone, leaving clear skies perfect for stargazing. I enjoyed the amazing stellar scenery for a few minutes before crawling into my home away from home.

I awoke to starry skies at o'dark:30. It either rained lightly during the night or somebody turned on the sprinkler system at the trailhead because the tent was dripping wet. Waking up at 3:30AM has it's advantages - sometimes it's hard to remember what those are when it's butt-numbing cold, very dark, tent is dripping wet and the prospect of hiking 5,000 vertical feet looms just outside the mummy bag. That along with the 4 hours of sleep (albeit good sleep as I popped a sleeping pill) made me take an extra five minutes to get going.

Woke up and proceeded to gear up. Burppppp!!! Yesterday's greasy-laden diet was making its presence known. After a thorough convincing from Adam that we were on the correct trail we headed out on our adventure, this our second outing of the season. Burrppp!!! Obviously the two donuts for breakfast, Smashburger for lunch and Taco Bell for dinner was not a good combination. Most of the way up through treeline was a rather painful experience as my GI track was not pleased with this current foray into ever-decreasing oxygen. About the time my stomach started to catch up with the rest of my body we realized that yesterday's stormcell had perhaps hung around like bad B.O. The 20-30 mph winds with a chance for rain/snow that had been predicted for this fine Saturday were non-existent in the basin below Redcloud however as we reached the saddle headed up to our first destination the weather took a turn for the worse. All the above predictions started to become a reality. This required the customary donning of extra clothes and gloves. Of course, ten minutes up the trail the wind stopped so I had to pull clothing off again. And of course, only five minutes later we hit the exposed ridge line so extra layers went on again. After that point the extra layers stayed on until we got back to the 13,000' saddle as the 20+ mph wind was a mainstay for the rest of our time at the higher elevations.

Unfortunately the wind wasn't the only problem as the pesky cloud that had hung out over Handies now had migrated over our direction. At around 13800 feet the precip started fly in the form of snow/very small hail. This wintry mix proceeded to pelt us, feeling highly enjoyable (not) on all exposed body parts. Thank goodness for the balaclava that I usually never use but bring along, just in case. It would also come in handy the next day on our Mt. Sneffels hike.

We ended up summitting Redcloud with overcast skies although there was still decent visibility, enough to make out Uncompaghre and Wetterhorn in the distance. With the wind chill it was bitterly cold so our celebration of bagging Redcloud was a fleeting moment. Off to the next peak. Gray skies and continued strong winds dominated the traverse. To this point we'd only seen the sun for about five minutes this morning and with clouds all around us the thought did arise "what the heck are we doing up here?". With no lightning bolts raining down on us we proceeded on our way down the well-worn path, although it did seem to take an awful long time to get from point A to B that morning, made only more time consuming hiking under the unfriendly skies. I had been praying for some time about some better weather so as we made the final ascent up our second peak of the day under ever increasing cloud cover it was a true God moment (IMHO) to have the skies open up right above Sunshine Peak, right about the time we set foot on the summit.

We stayed on the summit for a few minutes to bask in this peak's namesake. As the strong winds remained we pondered the thought of bailing into the westerly drainage area but ultimately went back over Redcloud. Our hike ended with a great 4WD trip over Cinnamon Pass to Silverton and then on to Ouray.

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