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The Summer's Final Summit -- Handies Peak from Grizzly Gulch
Start time from Grizzly Gulch trailhead 0655
Finish time 1400
Ascent time 4 hours
Descent time 2 hours and 30 minutes
Total distance 7.79 miles
Total elevation 4,211 feet
Roach claimed that the Grizzly Gulch route was the most scenic of the routes up to Handies so we decided to come up from that trailhead as opposed to heading over to American Basin and following the standard route up to the peak. Plus, when we hiked Redcloud and Sunshine two days before, we kept looking back at the basin, and it seemed to be calling our names. I hope to take the American Basin route one day, but we were certainly not disappointed by the beauty of the basin from the Grizzly Gulch trailhead. It was remarkable.
We left Lake City at 0600, arrived at the trailhead at 645 and began hiking at 0655. Here we are at the trail sign before our walk across the bridge.
By 0725 we were in the clearing and a few minutes later we arrived at the area of the trail covered in rocks. Fortunately, there were just a couple of spots where we had to cross rock fields, and they were not nearly as long as we had encountered on the Redcloud hike.
At 0825 we left the forest and had our first open look at Handies at 1.7 miles and 11,750 feet. The basin was simply remarkable with wonderful wildflowers and lush green. These pictures don't do the view justice.
There were numerous creek crossings we had to cross as we moved up the basin, and there was quite a bit of water in the streams.
Here is Brett at one of the streams.
We reached the trailpost at the top of the lower basin at 0910 (2.43 miles and 12,375 feet). From there we switched back up to the top of the upper basin, reaching the ponds and the 0935 (2.87 miles and 12,745 feet). From this point, we climbed just to the left of the ridgeline on a very nice trail, which was very helpful because the ridge was rocky with quite a bit of up and down.
This trail took us quite a ways up the mountain, and we finally gained the ridge at 1030 at 3.52 miles and 13,555. The climb up to the false summit was quite steep but then we had a nice jaunt across the ridge as we made the summit at 1055 at an elevation of 14,061 feet and a total one-way mileage of 3.86 miles.
Here are Brett, Will, and his friend Kenton with the American Basin in the background.
Handies makes 23 summits for Will and me.
Here is Brett's jump.
Karen, Brett, and Will with Uncompahgre in the distance.
We enjoyed the summit until 1130 and decided we needed to head down because of the ominous clouds forming all around us. Here they are as we began the descent.
Nothing looked too bad, but we knew that the weather could change quickly. We moved down the trail quickly and took in the beauty on the way down.
We made the upper ponds at 1220, the signpost at 1235, back to the forest by 1305 and then to the trailhead at 1400 for a total distance of 7.79 miles and a total elevation gain of 4,211. It was a nice final summit of the summer.
And it's been a great hiking summer. We climbed West Spanish Peak in the southeast, Bierstadt to the northeast, Elbert and Huron to the north, four 13ers in the Sangres, and finished with three 14ers in the San Juans. We're now only lacking summits in the Elk Range, a goal for next summer. We drove many Colorado miles and experienced new areas of the state.
But more importantly, we shared these hikes with others new to summiting mountains. My wife Karen made her first three 14er summits, and our daughter Brett summited all six 14ers we attempted this summer. At eleven, she is now hooked and, like Will and me, wants to climb them all. In addition, we met up with a number of different friends, introduced them to 14er hikes, and we enjoyed the mountains with them.
I may make it back to the mountains this fall or over Christmas break, and if I do, I hope we can hike some more. But I know for certain that we'll be back next summer, and I'm already planning the mountains we'll climb.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Handies looks pretty cool from Grizzly Gulch, huh? I love the fact that Handies was my daughter's 1st 14er. I can't wait to go back that way to get Sunshine/Redcloud, Uncompaghre and Wetterhorn next Summer.
Thanks for the update and the pics, looks like it was a great day out there!
Quick question on the road conditions to the trailhead. I'm hoping to head up there in a couple weeks and have read different things. Can a low clearance vehicle make it up?
Thanks for the comments. It was a great day hiking.
Huffy13, we hope to make it back next summer as well to summit Uncompaghre and Wetterhorn.
MtnHub, Brett did wear the toe shoes all the way up, but I'm not sure she will do it again.
And swalshdog, a low clearance vehicle can make it, but go slowly. There are some rocks and holes in the road, but nothing terrible. We made it from Lake City in 45 minutes; I'd give myself an hour in a low clearance vehicle.
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