Peak(s):  Sunshine Peak  -  14,004 feet
Redcloud Peak  -  14,037 feet
Date Posted:  07/19/2017
Modified:  02/26/2018
Date Climbed:   07/18/2017
Author:  huffy13
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 Sunshine/Redcloud combo from Mill Creek....not the best way!   

Well, after not getting to summit any points of significance since July of 2015, I was really wanting to get to the mountains for a bit and try to get my peak count to 20...Uncompahgre was #18 for me and Sunshine and Redcloud seemed like a good place to get the two I needed. I really didn't want to have to drive the shelf road again and I looked into the Mill Creek route for Sunshine. I like loop routes so I planned on ascending from Mill Creek, bagging Sunshine first and then traverse over to Redcloud, descend the standard route and then just hike the shelf road back...sounds simple enough, right? Well, I knew the mileage would be somewhere in the range of 14 miles total, but nearly 8.5 of it was the descent and the road, so I figured it would be doable as long as I started early.

I got a camp site at Mill Creek Campground on Monday evening....I highly recommend it, very clean vault facilities, other campers were fun to visit with, had a moose run through the middle of the campground, and it was dead quiet after 9:30 pm. I decided that I would just car camp.
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Home for a night!!


I woke up at 4:10 AM after a restless night. I rarely sleep well at altitude until about the third night. Breakfast was some yogurt, water and a banana, I made sure I had all the typical things I take on my hike and crossed the bridge to the green utility box at 5 AM sharp. I figured this would give me plenty of time to get the combo in and still make my way down before the weather would be a factor.

Well, the trail does start right at the utility box and the first couple hundred yards aren't too bad...but then it starts to get steep and it stays that way until you summit Sunshine. The trail is not too bad but there are some places that the trail can be hard to find. It's in these places I would locate a cairn, the path does have them in some very helpful places. The trail does traverse several talus fields, most aren't too bad. But man, that steepness of the trail!!!
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Looking down at the Mill Creek campground as soon as it was light enough to see it

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Trail conditions

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Trail looks like this most of the time

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I think Bill has this exact picture on his route description!

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Looking down the steep talus field

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These little cairns came in handy several times on this trail


After about 2 and a half hours of hiking I finally reached treeline and the first view of Sunshine's summit and the ridge leading to it...I still had a considerable way to go.
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The first view of Sunshine's summit


There is a large grassy ridge just above treeline that made for a nice place to take a break. I rested here for a few minutes and got startled by a couple of ptarmigans that weren't too far away when they decided to scurry!
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Ptarmigans....


After hiking across the grassy, broad slope the trail gets steeper and rockier. The ridge is rocky, steep in places, but is fairly easy to follow most of the time.
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getting closer to the summit

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Looking back at a portion of the trail

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Uncompahgre comes into view as I ascend the ridge to Sunshine.

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Rocky drop offs along the ridge trail


Finally, at 9:15 AM I made the summit of Sunshine!!! 14er summit # 19 was finally under my belt!
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Summit #19!!!

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Quite the crowd considering it was a Tuesday in the San Juans!!!

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Views to the SE and much of the path I took up.

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The Grenadiers look really cool!! these were taken from Redcloud



After about a 15 minute break on Sunshine's summit I figured I better start heading towards Redcloud...the morning started out with no clouds whatsoever, and what clouds were showing up were not threatening at all....yet. So, around 9:30 I was off!
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The trail over to Redcloud, my next goal!

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Looking back at Sunshine from about halfway across the saddle to Redcloud


The ridge is straightforward and easy to follow, views are great too.
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Looking down at the American Basin Road from the traverse path

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Looking ahead on the trail to Redcloud


Made it to Redcloud's summit right around 10:30 am, at this time the clouds were starting to darken and look a little more ominous. I only lingered on the summit long enough to get a few pictures and started my descent right as some grauple started hitting, along with rain.
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Nice summit views

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Looking back at the traverse to Sunshine from Redcloud's summit

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Handies from Redcloud

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Finally! 14er #20 is in the books!



The descent was uneventful aside from the steady rain, the occasional roll of thunder. I did manage few wildflower pics along with a sweet marmot couple that serenaded my descent for a while.
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I love these alpine waterfalls and the flowers!!!

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Columbine

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Cool alpine flowers!

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more flowers!

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Marmots




Once I got to the Grizzly Gulch/Silver Creek TH I started walking back towards Mill Creek on the road, I great guy from Denver named J.R. stopped and offered me a ride since he had finished Handies and was about to head to Creede for a possible look at San Luis Peak. I did not feel like walking in the rain anymore so I gladly accepted his offer! Thank you, good sir!!!!


Overall, I feel like this route is not for the faint of heart. The trail from Mill Creek Campground is steep and unrelenting from the start. I would recommend doing the trail from the standard route, if you have a choice. There are places that the trail is hard to comprehend, especially below treeline, luckily cairns have been placed that help where the trail is faint. I got back to the GG/SC TH right at 1:30 or so. A roundtrip time total of 8.5 hours, taking a grand total of 20 minutes combined on both summits, plus several breaks on the hike. Being a flatlander and by no means fast, I think the time would be shorter for more experienced hikers. I probably would have taken closer to 10 total hours if I hiked all the way back to Mill Creek. I like loop type hikes, but this one is just too dang long to do that way, especially if weather could be a factor. (Which it was for me on this day). Storms started up a little earlier than usual this day, so I would have had to descend the standard route regardless, but having planned it that way I wasn't caught off guard.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
druid2112
User
Nice work
07/20/2017 07:54
I did that route in winter conditions and remember thinking, "man, this would not be fun in the summer without snowpack." Way to get after it.


Jay521
User
What druid said.
07/20/2017 09:28
Nice report. Congrats on #20!



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