Thursday, August 2, 2007

Redcloud Peak, Sunshine Peak (8/2/07)

Route Name: Northeast Ridge from Silver Creek
Start Elevation: 10,400 ft. (Silver Creek Trailhead)
Redcloud Summit Elevation: 14,034 ft.
Saddle Elevation:13,530 ft.
Sunshine Summit Elevation: 14,001 ft.
Total Elevation Gain: 4609 ft.
Round-trip Mileage: 12 mi


As with our Handiest hike the day before, we got up very early (like 5am) to head on the road to our peaks for the day. Once more we made the drive to Silverton, dodging a few early morning deer, and made the trek up and over Cinnamon Pass. Today we stayed on the Cinnamon Pass road past the turn off for American Basin and Handies and went another 2 miles down the road to the Silver Creek-Grizzly Gulch trailhead. This is a very well-marked area and can't be missed. We found many other cars and even a few tents setup there. There are also outhouse facilities at this trailhead. We left the trailhead at 7:38am and headed up the steep trail into the forest. In the first 2 miles of the trail it is climb, climb and more climb. There are two small stream crossings you get to do in the forest and eventually as the trees begin to thin you meet up with Silver Creek. You hike side by side with the creek until you get to the edge of the basin north of Redcloud Peak. There is a rocky hill that marks the end of the basin which the trail will take you left (north) around it.

Once past this hill we followed a very smooth and well-marked trail which curves around the north and east sides of the basin. We saw a backpacker's tent on the southwest end of the basin as we hiked through. The basin was gorgeous and sunny as we hiked this morning. It is a mostly grassy basin with good wildflowers. As you reach the south end of the basin the trail gets steep once more and a set of switchbacks takes you to the saddle at 13,000 feet. From here you finally get your first glance at the aptly named Redcloud Peak. From the saddle it is a steep climb up switchbacks along the northeast ridge of Redcloud. The climb takes you up to a false summit just 200 feet below Redcloud. From there the final summit ridge of Redcloud is again a steep climb but a good one with almost no exposure. As we ascended the final hundred feet I commented upon the steadily increasing red rock that Redcloud seemed to have rolled out the "red carpet" for us on the approach.

We hit Redcloud's summit at 10:51am, a 3 hr. 13 min. hike up the roughly 4+ miles and 3600 feet of elevation gain. At the summit we noticed the clouds going bad and quickly. We had several white puffballs coming around us and the ones over our head were even starting to darken. No rain had shown up yet and with Sunshine only a mile away we couldn't pass up the opportunity to head on over. The thought of reclimbing Redcloud all over again to get Sunshine also didn't sit well. So we spent only a minute on Redcloud deliberating our options and then we quickly started the 1 mile ridge to Sunshine. We'd heard reports it takes 45 minutes and they were right. By the time our tired legs had made the finall 500 foot steep ascent up Sunshine from the connecting ridge it was 11:40a, about 49 minutes from Redcloud. We'd felt a few sprinkles but the rains were still holding off, and thankfully, no sign of any thunder or lightning. We spent about 10 mins on Sunshine getting a drink, some pictures, and a snack and then headed back for Redcloud.

We made the return trip in 55 mins having passed one hiker who had ascended the steep scree field to the west of the Sunshine-Redcloud connecting ridge. We saw the sign warning hikers not to descend that route (though many trip reports out there describe having done this) and decided ourselves to make the trek back to Redcloud. This time on Redcloud we got to spend a few more minutes there finally rejoicing in having gotten both summits thisday. We finally left Redcloud at 12:50p to make the long hike down. When we rejoined up with Silver Creek only a mile or two from the trailhead we ran into a pair of hikers who had descended the scree field from the Sunshine-Redcloud ridge. They said it was slow climbing but not too bad. It definitely cuts a few miles off the trip. They said after the scree field there is a well-marked trail leading you out of the basin back to the Silver Creek trail.

The rains didn't find us until the last half mile from the trailhead. Even then they never turned into a downpour but rather just enough of a sprinkle to force us to put on the gore-tex jackets for the last bit of the hike. We hit the trailhead at 3:15pm it a roughly 7 1/2 hour day to climb both Redcloud and Sunshine. Once more we made the long 2 1/2 hour driveout over Cinnamon Pass, past Animas Forks and into Silverton. We made it back to the condo around 6pm.


I do not have a GPX track of my own from this hike so I have included a generic KML file of the hike over Redcloud to Sunshine and then back. This gives an idea of what the trail looks like and what the area of Redcloud and Sunshine look like.


If you would like to see all of my photos from this hike click the photo below and it will link to my Google Photos Album:

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Handies Peak (8/1/07)

Route Name: Southwest Slope from American Basin
Start Elevation: 11,600 ft. (parking lot on 4WD road)
Summit Elevation: 14,048 ft.
Total Elevation Gain: 2448 ft.
Round-trip Mileage: 5.5 mi


We left the condo around 5:30am this morning to head for Handies. We made the drive up to Silverton and then found CO-110 heading northeast out of Silverton (also County Road 2). This road travels for about 7 or 8 miles out of town on a mostly flat dirt road. You'll then hit what seems to be an RV park where the road starts heading uphill and gets much rougher though still passable for 2WD. After a few more miles of bumpy driving you hit the ghost town of Animas Forks. From here the 4WD road heads east and you have a choice between Engineer Pass or Cinnamon Pass. We went up and over Cinnamon Pass which turns out to be a beautiful drive. The 4WD isn't bad and the road is mostly straight with not too many switchbacks. At the summit of Cinnamon Pass you're up in a green meadow area with ridges of peaks to the north and south. The trailhead for Handies in American Basin was only about another mile from Cinnamon Pass.

We left the trailhead for Handies at 7:45am. We had gone to the extent of the 4WD road in American Basin (as did several others) which cuts about 1/2 mile off your trip heading in. The climbing was very good and the route easy to follow as you headed up into American Basin. As you get about a half mile into the basin you start to veer left (southeast) into the upper parts of the basin. The trail will take you to the bottom of a green slope on which you climb several steep switchbacks which will take you to just below Sloan Lake. From here you traverse along a rocky trail east across the back end of the basin to a few longer switchbacks which take you up to the saddle at the southeast end of American Basin. Once on the saddle you're at roughly 13,500 feet elevation. From there it was a steep climb up the summit ridge to Handies. There is really no exposure along any part of this trail and the path is well-defined the entire way. We summited at 10:15am, only 2 1/2 hours from the trailhead. There were 3 or 4 other groups at the summit some of which had come up the Grizzly Gulch trail. The view was hazy but we were able to pick out most of the other San Juan 14ers.

We spent a good half hour on the summit talking to the other hikers. We found out much of our group up there were schoolteachers. We headed down from the summit at 10:45am and made a quick hike back to our jeep getting there at 12:15pm. The legs still felt good when we hit the bottom and the altitude didn't even get us today. After having spent last night in Ogalalla, Nebraska at relatively low elevation we were calling Handies our acclimation hike for the trip.

Once in the jeep we spent the next 2 hours plus once more driving Cinnamon Pass and heading out to Animas Forks and Silverton. We spent a little bit of time at the ghost town on our way out. The road at this point in the early afternoon was littered with ATV's and tourists making their runs on the rentals into the mountains and the ghost town.


I did not have a GPX track of my own from this hike. I have taken a generic KML of the Handies trail and embedded it into Google Maps so you can get an idea of where the trail takes you and what the Handies Peak area looks like:


To see all of my photos from this hike click the photo below and it will link you to my Google Photos Album:

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