| 7 Cents in the San Jua-tch
BIG mtns...small people...Redcloud living up to its name
My wife kindly let me head into the mountains for the weekend. Normally I only do day-trips but with these peaks in the San Juans being such a long drive I extended it. I wanted to maximize the peaks climbed so I planned out 7 Centennials I could get in less than 48hrs! In the end, I was so glad to be able to make it back home with a couple of hours to spare before my boys went to bed.
Peak: Mt. Ouray – 13,971’ (R#58 )
TH/Route: West Ridge from Marshall Pass
Elev Gain: 3300’
Time: 3:30 (3:00pm - 6:30pm) 2hr Ascent w/ 1hr Descent
Evening Light on First Cent - Mt Ouray
I left work around 11:30am and made it to Marshall Pass by 2:30pm. Geared up and started off up through the forest towards Mt Ouray’s West Ridge. The slope was grassy with little deadfall and I reached treeline about 40min after starting. Above treeline the slope steepens and I zig-zagged my way up to the ridgeline. Here I found a use trail that followed the ridge around to where the easy scrambling began. There were two easy notches in the ridge where I had to lose 50’ or so elevation each time.
Mt Ouray West Ridge
Looking south towards Mt Antora and Marshall Pass
To the north I had great views of 13,472 and the Shav/Tab area of the Southern Sawatch.
PT13472 with Shav/Tab and southern Sawatch behind
I crossed paths with 4 people who were coming back down from the summit. The scrambling on the ridge was very easy and straightforward. I reached the summit 2hrs after starting and enjoyed the beautiful views in all directions. Called my wife and talked to my boys on the phone for 15min or so and then headed back down. I arrived back at Marshall Pass almost exactly 1hr after I left the summit. As I drove down towards Gunnison I was amazed at the spectacular Fall colors along the road.
Fall colors along Marshall Pass Rd on way to Lake City
Had dinner in Gunnison at Pizza Hut and then headed towards Lake City. Arrived at the Silver Creek TH for Redcloud/Sunshine around 10:30pm where I slept in my Pathfinder until the alarm rang at 4:30am.
Peaks: PT13,832 (R#90), PT13,811 (R#99), Redcloud Peak (R#46), Sunshine Peak (R#53), Handies Peak (R#40)
TH/Route: Silver Creek TH and American Basin 4WD TH
Distance: ~20mi: PT13,832, PT13,811, Redcloud Peak, Sunshine Peak = 14.5mi, Handies Peak = 5.5mi
Elev Gain: 7700’: PT13,832, PT13,811, Redcloud Peak, Sunshine Peak = 6200’, Handies Peak = 2500’
Time: 12:45 (5:30am - 6:15pm) PT13,832, PT13,811, Redcloud Peak, Sunshine Peak = 9:00 (5:30am – 2:30pm), Handies = 3:00 (3:15pm-6:15pm)
Had breakfast which consisted of a quart of Tang, 2 pieces of left-over pizza, and a Double Chocolate Muffin. The breakfast of champions I tell you! Started off from the TH at 5:30am and headed up the Silver Creek trail. I knew sunrise was around 7am and I was really hoping to make it to the pass in time to get some pictures of the morning alpenglow on Redcloud. I made it there just in the nick of time and was sooooo glad I did.
Red glow on Redcloud
After resting for 5min or so and taking pictures I headed off on the trail that led to Cent #1 of the day, PT13,832. There was a nice use trail that led the way and traversed the talus below PT13561 to the saddle with PT13832. Here I got some really cool photos of sunlight, shadow and blue sky on PT13561.
Cool light/shadow/blue sky contrast on PT13561
From here I could also finally see Sunshine Peak and the rugged cliffs along its east ridge.
Morning light glows on Sunshine and Redcloud
The climber’s trail traversed the tundra and stayed about 75’ below PT13832’s summit. So I left the trail and headed up to the summit. Signed the register, snacked for a minute and then headed off towards Cent #2: PT13,811. As you can see in the photo below there is an intermediary, unranked PT13632 that I had to go over to get to PT13811.
View from PT 13832 w/ 13811 on left and 13632 on right
The climber’s trail angled to the right up PT13632’s slope and stayed about 50’ below the summit proper and then angled down to the left once I got to the other side of PT13632. The trail then headed down to the saddle between 13632 and 13811, which is at about 13200’ elevation. Going up 13811 the trail would fade in and out occasionally.
PT13811 grassy west ridge
Along the way I had great views of Wetterhorn and the mighty Uncompahgre to my left.
Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre from PT13811
I reached the summit of 13811 around 9am, 2hrs from the pass by Redcloud. Signed the register, snacked for a bit, and looked back at how far I had already come. The north faces of PT13832/13632 were quite spectacular.
Looking back at Sunshine/Redcloud, PT13632 and PT13832 from PT13811
I couldn’t stay too long as I still had a long way to go so I headed back on the climber’s trail, going around/over 13632 and around 13832/13561. I reached the saddle with Redcloud by 10am, ~1hr after I left 13811’s summit. Here I took a 15min break, put on sunblock and then headed up towards Redcloud. There were several people already descending and 5-6 people ascending. The trail was in great condition and I was able to reach Redcloud’s summit (Cent #3 on the day) about 30mins after leaving the pass.
Final push to Cent #4 Redcloud Summit
I stopped here for 5min or so and chatted with some other hikers. The views over towards “Sundog’s” colorful cliffs and Handies were pretty neat.
Sundog and Handies from Redcloud
45min after leaving Redcloud I reached Sunshine’s summit (Cent #4) and took my first extended rest. Ate my peanut butter and honey sandwich, Rice chips (yummmm salt!) and chatted with the 6 or 7 other people on the summit for 30min.
Summited Cent #5 - Sunshine with next objective, Handies, in the Backgound
My plan was to head down the West Ridge and into the basin so I wouldn’t have to go back over Redcloud. The descent was pretty easy to follow and not very loose. The trickier part was picking the correct gully to get down into the lower part of the basin. The cairns led to a gully that was very steep, hard packed dirt, with shattered rocks/pebbles everywhere. It looked too sketchy for my taste so I traversed across the talus above that gully and two other gullies until I came to gully #4. This one had a nice tongue of cobble sized talus that came all the way up the gully. Much better. I was able to plunge-step and talus-ski safely down into the lower part of the basin where it was easy to find my way down to a use trail that led me back to the Silver Creek Trail. The aspens on the way down to the TH were a beautiful golden yellow.
Golden Aspens near Silver Ck TH frame PT13502
Fall Colors in Burrows Park below PT13477
I reached the TH at 2:30pm and snacked quickly, refilled my Camelback and then drove up to American Basin. The Cinnamon Pass road above Silver Creek had some surprisingly good obstacles before I even reached the American Basin Road. High clearance and 4WD is definitely needed even before you get to American Basin. The drop in the road to get down across the creek in American Basin was quite big and some rocks further up were a fun challenge too. I reached the 4WD trailhead and geared up again. I wore my heavier boots this time as the bottoms of my feet were getting sensitive after 14.5mi and 6200’ already.
At 3:15pm I set off up the trail. Several people were coming down as I was ascending. One guy asked me “How far are you going?” My reply was “All the way to the top!” My legs/lungs were definitely not as fresh as they were in the morning but I knew I only had 3.5mi and 2500’ to climb to the summit. The cliffs and rock glacier on American Peak were impressive.
Impressive Cliffs of American Peak lord over American Basin and rock glacier
I reached the ridgeline around 4:45pm and gaped at the views towards Half Peak.
View towards Half Pk from Handies south ridge
15min later I reached the summit, where I could look down into the impressive Grizzly Gulch basin and back towards Redcloud/Sunshine.
Sunshine and Shadow dapple the San Juans. Sunshine and Redcloud.
I had the summit all to myself and I thoroughly enjoyed 30min of peace, rest and contemplation on the incredible day I’d had so far. I took my cell phone out to call my wife to let her know I was OK. My phone said it had 3-4 bars of reception but no calls/texts were able to go through.
So I headed back down from the summit and made it back to the TH in about 45mins.
While driving back towards Lake City the evening alpenglow on Redcloud/Sunshine was simply amazing.
Fiery Alpenglow on Redcloud/Sundog/Sunshine at the end of a 5 Cent day!
Went to Poker Alice’s for dinner and ran into 14er.com member DHatfield while there. We discussed our separate plans for the next day and the inclement weather that was supposed to be moving in during the afternoon. I then drove up Engineer Pass Rd to the N. Henson Creek Rd and set up camp in my car where the Matterhorn Creek Rd splits off to the right, 0.7mi below the Matterhorn Creek TH.
Peak: Wetterhorn Peak – 14,015’ (R#49)
TH/Route: Standard SE Ridge from Matterhorn Creek TH
Elev Gain: 3700’
Time: 5:30 (7:00am - 12:30pm) 3hr Ascent w/ 1.5hr Descent, 1hr on summit.
It felt nice to sleep in until 6am and I started off my morning with my now favorite breakfast. Cold pizza and a Double Chocolate muffin! With only one peak on the docket today I was able to take a leisurely pace and stop often to soak in the views, the smells, and the energy of the mountains around me.
First View of Cent #7 - Wetterhorn Peak
Wetterhorn and Matterhorn
I didn’t see or hear anyone until I reached the SE ridge where I heard some voices from up near the summit say “Belay on!” I looked around for the people but couldn’t spot them. I ended up running into them about 20’ below the summit as they were descending. It was a dad and his 9yr old son who were climbing together. From what the son had written in the summit register it was his 20th 14er summit! Cool! I look forward to the day when I can take my two boys on these climbs. That will be sweet!
The climb up the SE ridge was fun and route-finding was easy.
Final Ridge to Wetterhorn. Now the fun begins!
From the summit I admired the rugged Wetterhorn-Matterhorn ridge. Looks pretty nasty and loose if you ask me.
Wetterhorn to Matterhorn Ridge
And just as the forecast had predicted some snow showers were starting to form and move quickly through the area. Fortunately, none of them hit me while on the summit.
Snow squalls starting to move through while on Wetterhorn summit
The views in all directions were so beautiful.
Silver Mountain and East Fork Cimarron River Valley
After an hour on the summit I headed back down and several small snow squalls hit me on the way back to my car, which I reached at 12:30pm. A couple from Utah drove up to do a short day hike and I chatted with them for awhile. They were kind enough to take a picture of me commemorating the 7 Centennials I had climbed in a 46hr time span!
7 Cents in the books!
The golden leaves on the aspens framed and carpeted the N Henson Creek Rd as I headed back home. What a fond farewell for a truly awesome weekend.
Golden Aspen leaves frame and Carpet the N. Fork Henson Crk Rd.
Total Stats for the 7 Cents: Mt Ouray, PT13,832, PT13,811, Redcloud Peak, Sunshine Peak, Handies Peak, Wetterhorn Peak.
Elev Gain: ~15000’
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):