Peak(s):  Handies Peak  -  14,048 feet
Redcloud Peak  -  14,034 feet
Sunshine Peak  -  14,001 feet
San Luis Peak  -  14,014 feet
Uncompahgre Peak  -  14,309 feet
Date Posted:  06/06/2020
Date Climbed:   06/02/2020
Author:  CaptCO
 4 Days Above 10k   

Last year, I thought I caught "the bug". Truth is it wasn't until a few weeks ago I started getting peak fever. After finally getting into shape after a long winter, for myself. I knew I had to start ticking the San Juans off slowly, but surely. The weather was forecasted for 10-20mph winds and 30 degree+ temps, I knew it was time for a quickie.



Departed Denver around 15:00 Tuesday, and was set up at the TH just past Stewart Creek by nightfall. I definitely hit snooze the following morning, just getting back into a hiking routine. Was on the trail by 7:30 am or so, and started fast due to the great class 1 approach. There were at least 1, maybe 2 dozen downed trees on this trail, all of them had bypasses if needed.



Only 2-3 trees re-routed you 50ft or so out of the way and re-approach. Solid "joint forgiving" soil up to the saddle, with plenty of water sources this time of year. Once on the saddle, the views opened up and it was a quick hop skip and a jump to the summit.



There were 1-2 packed down snowfields, that required nothing more than poles at most. 99% summer conditions right now, with a 2WD dirt road (27mi) from the highway to TH. On the descent, I came upon a moose and her newborn about 30-40yds across the trail/creek. This was my first time approaching a moose, not in a national park. I kept my distance and pace, never stopped but was fortunate enough to take a couple of pictures.


After 5.5 hours and 13.6mi or so I was packing up the tent and took the backroads toward Grizzly Gulch. This was one of the most relaxing drives I've had and can give specific details via PM. In short, I had elk running next to me jamming to Ozzy, whitetail deer all over the place, and most wildlife Colorado has to offer in view. Once at the Grizzly/Silver TH I set up the tent once again, cooked up some meat on the propane grill, and crashed for another long day ahead.



There were 2 other groups headed up that morning, both very polite. I was the last one up as usual but quickly met up with the other hikers on the RC/Sunshine ridge. The approach to RC was very peaceful and uneventful. Once above treeline, there were a few snowfields to cross. This time I wish I'd brought snow gear, but I'll get into that more later. Once crossed the snowfields, I had a direct line up to the summit, from RC NE ridge. For the most part it was avoidable of scree and loose rock, but a few sections up higher I was glad to have my trekking poles. Almost a year into my Salomon hiking boots, the stitching is falling apart and allowing snow/pebbles to creep into my boot. This is great! Hopefully they last a couple more days right..







Redclouds' summit was one of a kind as expected. The red dirt almost reminded me of some country backroads back in the south, it was a nice change from being on snow all year. It was a fairly easy class 1 hike up to the summit, no real scrambling involved.


The traverse over to sunshine was mostly dry, with 1 maybe 2 packed down snowfields to cross, or scamble bypass on loose rock.





I didn't take too many pictures of Sunshines NW face, but in short it's a cruddy route in spring. Fairly solid talus leading down the West ridge, transitions into baby head rocks/scree/loose talus. It's not really possible to scree surf without tripping, so it made a cautious descent. Once approaching the gulley, I took the far-right gendarme as described on 14ers. This was easily one of the most dangerous, short gulley descents I've ever made. Going back to the previous reports, and conversation with hikers previously I didn't bring traction or axe. The gulley was partially filled and I would've liked to use both. I fell once or twice, which I don't do often and got a little frustrated. Luckily once Phizz and I were safely down the gulley, it was fairly uneventful on supportive snow until we hit a debris field. It was only about 1/4 mile long but required some serious bushwhacking. This type of avalanche debris isn't too kind on our furry friends paws, but it worked out.


One more steep snow bank, which I would've liked to use traction/axe/gaiters on and we were in the meadow.



Made it back down around 10.2mi 3600' and 7 hours.



Time for a bath I guess.. (sun never came out brr)


Food, beer, sleep, handies the next morning while the dog rests. The approach to American Basin was easy 4wd, possible 2wd to the creek crossing. It was raging the evening prior and I had planned to park 1/4 mile before. That morning the creek was fairly low, but there were snow drifts blocking the road right after. On the way over I crossed a snow covering on the creek early, and headed up into the basin. About a mile or so in, snow became consistant. I brought crampons, but left the snowshoes (and now damaged gaiters). The snow held great with a 6:30am start, and I was able to boot into the basin, and took a direct gulley/couloir up to the switchbacks. I believe this couloir started just before the Sloan Lake turnoff, and saved a couple miles.












After returning from American Basin to Grizzly Gulch TH, i relaxed for a few minutes and started to pack up. I heard a chirping under my truck, and sure enough a marmot had found a new home. After unsuccessfully trying to remove it for almost an hour, I headed over to Nellie Creek. I scraped 4-5 times total getting to the top in a stock RWD F150, which was probably just as bad of a road as South Colony Lakes imo. The marmot survived the whole ordeal, and ended up spending the night there. Come morning, it was chirping louder than the bacon grease cooking.


Fancy toilet in this nice outhouse (push the pedal 5 times) s/o to the guy who left a turd in there without flushing lol

I headed up to Uncompahgre and hoped it would leave with some quiet. The snow started about 1-2 miles into the approach, mostly boot packed and firm early. Once on the saddle, crossed 1-2 more snowfields and headed up the direct ridge line. I brought crampons but never felt the need to use them, one group took a glissade down the saddle but I felt it wasn't safe for me (without axe). The direct (steeper) ridge crux is the way to go imo, I took it up right at the tower. I tried taking the "loose rock" more mellow descent, but it was horrendous with off trails everywhere. Quickly traversed back into the class 2 crux and had an uneventful descent.



If you look closely there's a USAF plane flying a few hundred meters above summit!






You probably don't want to fall here, but good thing is you wouldn't feel it!


Wetterhorn was out of the question for multiple reasons that day, and I'm glad to have a successful San Juans trip. A storm was forecasted to push in the following couple days, so it was time for a turn and burn in Denver. Hopefully it won't be long until i'm back down there, doing some real climbing this time.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47

Comments or Questions
good work
06/06/2020 13:45
Nice handful of summits. We will do Sneffels via the SW Ridge next time you are in the neighborhood

06/06/2020 20:56
So if I'm just doing uncom would you say spikes and an axe are sufficient?

Thanks for the detailed report, helps a lot

06/06/2020 21:14
That would be more than enough, I just used trekking poles with mini flakes. Start no later than 7

06/09/2020 04:38
Headed for San Luis very soon, thanks for the pics.

Snow / Trailheads
06/10/2020 10:33
This was all incredibly helpful, thank you for the post! A couple of clarifying questions, if you don't mind:

(1) It sounds like for all of Redcloud, Sunshine and Uncomp, normal hiking boots and trekking poles should be enough gear, just have to deal with some snowbanks here and there? Or do you think it wise to at least pack some grips?

(2) Would you recommend backtracking to RC from Sunshine and taking the NE Ridge back down to Grizzly Gulch instead of taking the NW face of Sunshine down? I want to do RC/SS with my girlfriend and while she is an experienced trekker, those would be her first 14ers and I would rather not put her in a dicey situation if I don't have to.

(3) We're in an AWD Honda CRV that doesn't get great clearance -- do you think Grizzly Gulch and Nellie Creek are both doable?

06/11/2020 22:56
Boots, if you have them spikes and poles might help but poles will be plenty if you start early. Idk how the snow is atm. Not much snow but it can suck if itâs late in the day (RC). Traverse back over to RC if you want a happy gf with happy legs. CRV is fine to grizzly gulch. Nellie creek I wouldnât take one up but Iâm sure you can make it with some scraping.

Many thanks
06/12/2020 13:36
Super helpful, thanks man!

Trail pic
07/27/2020 06:33
Thanks for the thorough report. Where is this pic from?
Your 10th photo. Looks like a shelf trail or road?

Thanks Nanriz & swmbears
07/27/2020 06:50
That is part of the airy road that leads to Grizzly Gulch/American Basin from Lake City

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