| Redcloud/Sunshine Winter Ascent
A Winter Ascent
Peaks: Redcloud, Sunshine
Route: Sunshine East Ridge, traverse to Redcloud
Approach: Mill Gulch CG
Length: 9 miles RT
Vertical: 5400 feet
Ascent Party: Teddy, Jeff, Ben, Taylor, Bill, Matt, Karthik, Paula, Max, Ted, Jim
The day shift lounges on Redcloud in spring-like conditions.
6:00 am, Cataract Gulch TH.
First light comes too soon. The bag is warm, but it ends there. You know the drill. Dress the top, hide in the bag. Warm back up. Dress the bottom,
hide in the bag. Warm back up. Ultimately, the moment of reckoning: emergence. Is there life? More importantly, is there coffee?
At this moment I realize I’d forgotten the trick of burying a warm thermos in a stuff sack of down the night before. Seems the management has packed
us a stove and some instant. Oh. OK, survival mode it is. The stove lights; soon there is ...ah... instant coffee. Considering we’re 12 miles from
Lake City, Colorado, at 6am, in subzero weather, we’ll call it luxury.
Most of the gang stayed at the hostel in Lake City last night. Jeff and Ben tent-camped at the Mill Gulch TH; I Gladbached it in the back of the truck
at the end of the road. Thanks to Ted E. for the tip on current road conditions.
Thanks to Teddy (Ameristrat) for setting this one up! Great weather, and a great group!
Before long I’m up and about, anticipating headlights, which arrive promptly at 06:30 am. Bless you, Ted and Karthik! “Yes, I’ll be there shortly.
Thanks, man. Go ahead and get started.” I deign to admit to old bones creaking in zero degree temps. Much better to just smile and keep up
The Mill Gulch "Trailhead."
Dawn on the Mill Gulch "trail."
By now it’s fully light at the Mill Gulch parking area. Five cars. Two tents. Ultimate silence. Better get these cold bones moving, got some catch-up to do.
Wait, can’t we just admit defeat and go back to bed?
Ah, the old phone terminal thing. Recognize it from the photo in Anna’s TR. Saw the footprints in the snow on the way in last night. This must be
the place. Let’s get started. At least the vertical gets out of the way in a big hurry.
Max. (Photo by Ted.)
Before long we’re at the boulderfield. We’ve got a great group; the mood is festive. We mostly hang together into the alpine, where our larger group
naturally breaks into a couple of smaller subgroups.
The steep trees relent and pay deference to the surprisingly dry alpine slopes. Our work is cut out for us, a mere three bumps further up the alpine.
The boulderfield. Care must be taken to follow the cairns. (Photo by Ted.)
We bumped into some geek out taking pictures. (Thanks, Ted.)
Heads down. (Photo by Jeff.)
(Photo by Ted.)
The conditions are so good, Jeff's not sure we get a snowflake for today's routes. Contrast this with Steve's ascent a few years ago.
Happy fifth anniversary of Redcloud and Sunshine, Steve. Guess we lucked out, huh?
Cooper on RC/Sunshine, MKL day, 2008.
(Photo by Ted.)
(Photo by Ted.)
Ben and Ted.
First stop, straight up.
The Sunshine summit.
The road ahead.
What we just came up.
A brief rest break on Sunshine, and we’re off through the alpine connecting ridge to Redcloud. I don’t recall the ridge being this much fun a few
The start of that Nolan winter route over Whitecross to Handies.
Beta: The entire Whitecross winter route to Handies. Anyone want to give it a try?
Beta for Britt: Half Peak. I keep gazing at those Grenadiers.
Please allow me to digress a moment.. Sunlight Spire, the main needle-like projection in the left massif, as seen from the base of Noname Needle, 8-21-12.
Today, from our summit perch on Sunshine: At skyline, Windom to the left, Sunlight to the right. Sunlight Spire can clearly be seen as the sharp needle-like peak in the massif between the two.
(Closer view of the Spire, 8-21-12.)
Starting the connecting ridge to Redcloud.
Looking back on our first summit today, Sunshine. (Photo by Jeff.)
Teddy on the connecting ridge. (Photo by Jeff.)
A look back at Sunshine.
"For amber waves of scree."
Uh-oh. Jim's summit-fever disease begins to relapse. (Photo by Jeff.)
Teddy and Tyler.
There's what we shoulda done.
Can we camp at Nellie Creek tonight?
Handies and the Whitecross route. A lot of the SJ is looking prime for winter ascents.
Weimenuche looks good.
Before long, the first shift assembles on the summit, lounging, taking photos, feeding, and generally enjoying the mountaineering equivalent
of happy hour.
Matt on Redcloud's summit.
Jim and Jeff.
Ben, Jim, and Teddy. (Photo by Jeff.)
Jeff and Ben. (Photo by Jeff's camera.)
Looking back south to Sunshine.
The weather and conditions are so good that we’re almost surprised not to see another crew up here. Oh, wait. Who’s that in the saddle below? Coming
up the standard route? That’s crazy. Yes, he must be nuts. Odds are we know the guy.
The Redcloud Saddle on the Standard Route. You can see a mountaineer near the base of the saddle.
Close-up of the saddle and our peer making way toward Redcloud's summit.
Meanwhile, a very dry Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn taunt, just out of reach to the north. Ken’s Whitecross route on Handies is looking quite good,
except for a few point releases down low, avoidable on the ridge proper. Would have been a great week to take off.
Max and Karthik. (Photo by Ted.)
Heading down. (Photo by Ted.)
Ben. (Photo by Ted.)
Ted and Max. (Photo by Ted.)
Interesting how a four mile hike in is approximately twice as long on the way out. We cut the slopes below Sunshine, where the antennae momentarily
receive sketch vibes. I call back to be careful. The main shallow cross-loaded gulley is avoided by climbing a bit, continuing the traverse higher up
on more bare ground.
Crossing under Sunshine.
Headed home. (Photo by Jeff.)
Don't miss the turn into the trees. Yes, there is a modest trail.
It's a bluebird day, complete with contrails.
Entering the trees, our sun sinks low in the western sky.
Back at the TH, a few of the guys are napping in the cars. I take the opportunity to scope out both the Grizzly turnoff, and the Cottonwood drainage,
for a future Handies trip. Someone has busted out the snowbank at the back of the Cataract TH. The road appears plowed, or at least well-packed.
I walk a ways back on the road, briefly musing how I might clone myself to be at work tomorrow.
Back at the TH, the guys are packing up. Good vibes, great conversation, palpable camaraderie. We bid each other farewell. It’s been a fine trip.
But the story isn’t over.
I’m driving out, and stop for a fellow on the road. Are you ok? Do you need a ride? Kirk? Wow! He did a loop for 13811, 13832, Redcloud, and
Sunshine, solo. We drive to his car and chat as the rest of the crew scurries back to pick up stuff at the hostel. It suddenly occurs that’s it’s been a
most unusual day: two winter 14ers, and it’s still light out.
I head home somewhat sadly, wishing to spend a little more time in the San Juan in these great conditions. But ultimately, it’s been a great day.
Winter 14ers number 37 and 38 are safely in the bag, and with a great group, to boot. Even got to bump into Kirk today!