Redcloud Peak - 14,037 feet
Sunshine Peak - 14,004 feet
Redcloud Peak - 14,037 feet
Sunshine Peak - 14,004 feet
|Magic on Redcloud and Sunshine|
Start time 0615 and finish time 1520
Ascent time to Redcloud 4 hours and 5 minutes
Time across the saddle 1 hour each way
Descent time from Redcloud 2 hours and 10 minutes
Total mileage 11.67 miles
Total elevation ascent 5,734 feet
This trip marks our first venture to the San Juans, and we were certainly not disappointed. We stayed in Lake City at the Westwood Resort, a very nice spot on the south end of town. We left Lake City early at 0515 and made it up to the Grizzly Gulch/Silver Creek Trailhead by 0600. The trip to the trailhead was pretty straightforward with most of CR30 being wide, flat and well-maintained. The last four miles got somewhat rougher, and the shelf road freaked the kids out, but it is wide, and fortunately, we did not encounter anyone on the way up. I was glad we had our 2008 AWD Hyundai Santa Fe, but a regular passenger would also make it as well, although it would be slower going.
The trailhead is quite nice with plenty of parking and two decent toilets (although there was no toilet paper, so bring some, which is always a good rule of thumb when hiking). There were a couple of tents set up at the trailhead, and we also took a look around Mill Creek Campgroup (five miles before the trailhead) which had nice spots, bear boxes, water, toilets, and dumpsters - not too bad for $7/night.
We ate a quick breakfast at the trailhead and began hiking at 0615 from elevation of 10,400 feet. The first mile is an easy ascent through the forest, and we reached the clearing near the creek at 0655 at 1.17 miles and an elevation of 11,114 feet. Here we are in the clearing with our first good view of the summit.
At 0705 at just under a mile and half into the hike, we reached the large cairn by the side of the creek. At this point, the route was quite rocky and more slow going. We weren't big fans of all the rocks. There was still a lot of snow along the creek, and at around two miles the snow completely covered the trail. Here is an example:
We went up the ridge a little bit instead of walking through the snow (because we couldn't tell where the trail reemerged), and that was a mistake. The climb up was very steep and time consuming. We entered the basin area at 0815, which was a welcome relief away from the rocks and onto a more solid trail.
And, more importantly, the emergence of the wonderful wildflowers. We have seen a lot of columbines during our hikes, but we have never seen patches this big before, like this one with Brett:
We also loved how many of the different creeks from the different parts of the mountain ran together into Silver Creek. Here is one creek and all the wonderful wildflowers:
By 0830 we had reached the small pond at 2.88 miles and an elevation of 12,254 feet. We saw many marmots on the hike, friendlier than I have seen before. Here is a great view of one up close, and Brett got really close to one before it scampered away.
At 0840 we reached the first trail sign (2.88 miles and 12,350 feet) and the second trail sign at 0900 (3.55 miles and 12,851 feet). We gained the ridge by 0910 (3.69 miles and 13,003 feet) and then slowly made it up toward the false summit. This section was challenging with the switchbacks, rocks, and its steepness. Plus, I was pushing the group on time to make sure we had enough time to summit both peaks before the weather turned. I really did not want to get caught on the saddle between the peaks when the clouds come in. Here we are moving up the ridge with the summit in the distance.
We reached the false summit at 1010 (4.27 miles and 13,750 feet,) and here is the view up the final push to the summit, which we reached at 1020 at 4.48 miles and a total elevation gain of 4171 feet.
This was twenty minutes later than I had wanted, and I knew we would have to move to get across the saddle and back. We stayed just a couple of minutes on Redcloud the first time, just enough to snap a few pictures, including a nice one of Uncompahgre in the distance (one day, we'll make that summit). We've been on a bunch of summits, but I've never seen funky mountaintops than we saw on the summit of Redcloud, especially with Uncompahgre, Wetterhorn, and Matterhorn in the distance. Amazing views from the San Juans.
We moved quickly across the saddle.
We reached the sign at the bottom at 1055. We heeded the advice of the sign and made the decision to return via Redcloud.
It took us an hour to summit Sunshine, summitting at 1120 at a total of 5.84 miles and an elevation of just 14,001 feet. Surprisingly, we had enough coverage to make one phone call. Here is Brett dead tired at the top of Sunshine with the saddle we just crossed and Uncompadre in the distance.
There were quite a few clouds all around, but none was very close, and fortunately for us, the clouds stayed away, as I knew we would not be able to follow my standard rule of trying to be off the final summit by noon. We were also pretty worn out and opted to eat a quick bite and take a few pictures.
Brett made her summit jump, her fifth 14er summit.
Sunshine marked Will's 22nd summit and Kenton's 2nd.
And here we are on the summit.
So it was all around a magical day with wonderful weather, beautiful views, curious marmots, and we even had some actual magic on the summit, with Will and Kenton donning Harry Potter-like wizardry and battling it out on the top of Sunshine (thanks to the crazy app spaceeffects and the animation wizardry of Kenton Fox).
We left Sunshine at 1145, made the sign at the base of the saddle at 1205 and then made the summit of Redcloud a second time by 1245 at a total of 7.21 miles. That final summit was very hard, especially for Brett. It was her first two summit day, her most elevation in one day, and her longest hike, and when we made it past the hump that we thought was the summit (but instead just hid the summit), she was not happy. In addition to the distance between the two peaks and the hidden summit, the rocks along much of the trail, especially up Sunshine, were challenging. Here is just one example.
I'm not sure I will make that hike again, at least across the ridge. We saw hikers descending Sunshine to the east, and that might be an interesting ascent in the future.
We stayed at the Redcloud summit for nearly half an hour. Here is the obligatory jumping picture:
The weather was great with a lot of sunshine and clouds well in the distance, and we only decided to move once they moved a little closer at 1310. And of course, the rain did finally come about the time we reached the pond well below the ridge. We were still below treeline, but it was a gentle rain with no lightning or thunder so I wasn't too worried.
We reached the pond by 1405, the big cairn at 1450 and the trailhead at 1520 for a total elevation gain of 5,734 feet and total mileage of 11.67 miles. Here we are at the end of the hike, posing next to the trailhead sign. Success.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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