| Liked ‘Em So Much, I Climbed Them Twice
Just me and the Pup…
"Sundog" – CO Rank 300
Sunshine Peak – CO Rank 53
Redcloud Peak – CO Rank 46
Pt. 13,832 - CO Rank 90
Pt. 13,811 – CO Rank 99
~ 24 miles, 10,700 feet of elevation gain.
Saturday, August 1 ~12.5 miles, 6,050 feet of elevation gain
Floyd and I pulled into the Silver Creek trailhead around 10:00 on Friday night. Normally, I sleep pretty well in the back of my car but, Floyd, on the other hand, was antsy to hit the trail and paced the trunk over top of me all night. I woke up at 1:30 thinking I slept through the alarm, but when it went off at 3:30 I felt like I only slept for about an hour and a half. We were on the trail a little before 4:00 am and turned off in pursuit of Sundog about 4:40. We crossed a snowfield about 100 yards short of the cairn since I didn't want to chance what the creek crossing would be like in the dark. Once across the creek we bushwhacked our way to the ridge. Under normal circumstances, I would say this is a very mild bushwhack. For me, trying to negotiate the trees with Floyd leashed was pretty annoying. Luckily, we were above treeline in about 15-20 minutes and from there it's a straightforward ascent along the ridge. My only recommendation is to make sure you stick to the ridge. We meandered to the west and it's a loose mess. We hit Sundog's summit at 6:15 and only had a quick stop for a few photos.
Sunrise on Half Peak
Descending Sundog's ridge
From the summit to the saddle to Sunshine is where the route gets fun. It's a fairly sharp ridge with easy class 2 hiking. The last 30-40 feet to the saddle posed the only hairy part of the climb – a very loose class 2+ gully that Floyd didn't seem to like too much at all. We made it down though without incident and started the easy hike to Sunshine's west slope. After the gentle tundra hike across the saddle, this was not a fun ascent. The trail was hit or miss, but mostly it was loose talus. Once on top of the ridge between Sunshine and Redcloud, both Floyd and I were grateful to be on a nice CFI trail. We could have bypassed Sunshine, but Floyd hadn't been up there yet and we were just a short jaunt away. Floyd nabbed his 14th 14er at 8:00 am. I forgot the incredible views from there – or maybe I just appreciate it more now that I'm so much more familiar with the surrounding landscape. Regardless of the reason, Cataract Gulch moved up on my places to visit list. My legs were starting to feel the weight of my full pack so it was nice to get off our feet for about 10 minutes on the summit.
Sundog from redcloud/Sunshine connecting ridge
Floyd on Sunshine (his 14th 14er)
A look at what's ahead
After a few pics of the pooch, we started the hike over to Redcloud. We passed about 4-6 people on the walk over and had Redcloud's summit to ourselves at 9:00. One guy topped out after we were there for 5 minutes or so and then a mother/son combo shortly thereafter. Floyd entertained the crowd while I got another 10 minutes of rest.
Redcloud - his 15th 14er
Sunshine and Sundog
We descended the standard route to the saddle (CFI has done some major improvements since I was last there 3 years ago.) On the way down we started to hit the late morning mass as a few dozen folks were heading up. But, we wouldn't see another person once we passed the saddle (until we got back to the same spot the next day). The hike up to 13,832 is straightforward, but we stuck to the trail that bypasses about 100 feet below the summit – just use common sense (which I sometimes lack) and head straight for the summit. We ascended the east side and enjoyed our little piece of paradise up there for a good half an hour. It was shaping up to be a perfect Colorado day – the kind we had all last summer, but have been few and far between this year.
A look down Alpine Gulch
Floyd en route to 13,832
Half Peak and some beauties I'll be visiting in a few weeks.
We left for 13,811 at 11:30 and found 2 stomachs, 1 with intestine intact, lying in the middle of the trail. Even odder was the fact that there wasn't one ounce of blood, fur, bone, or any other sign of a hunt, struggle, or anything else. Whatever it was, was completely gone except for these guts.
At the low point along the crossing, I gave Floyd our last sip of water. We used way too much early on and now we were paying for it. Well, I was paying for it. He continued to pee for the next half an hour while I was panting heavily – apparently he had more than his share of my stash. At 1:00, pretty well beat down from dehydration and carrying a full pack for the last 7 hours, we topped out on our 5th summit of the day. We laid out on the summit and enjoyed the perfect day for a good 45 minutes taking pictures and basking in the views of the Weminuche wilderness. I also started to scout out plans for Sunday. I had brought information on Green and Red mountains to tag onto the day, but without water, those were out of the question.
Floyd on 13,811
A look back on our day's work
Zoom of Half / Quarter Peaks
RGP - plan B if Floyd wasn't cleared by the vet. Probably my highest wish list summit right now.
Man, I love the San Juans
Descent from 13,811
We intended to camp at the Williams Creek/Alpine Gulch trail intersection and ascend 13,180A Sunday morning. From there, I was hoping for a similar ridge walk back over to either the Copper Creek trail or we'd try to go all the way to Edith Mountain should weather/energy/desire permit. Bill's excellent 360 panorama from Redcloud provided a ton of information for the trip, but there was one section of ridge behind Cooper Creek Peak that I couldn't see. Unfortunately, I could now see that little section would probably be problematic for Floyd.
Problem area on ridge (middle of 3 in pic) - steep dropoffs to either side and the towers had me concerned. I should have gotten the telescope lens out for this picture to give more detail.
The east slopes of Cooper looked doable though, so we'd stick to the plan and just skip 13,180. All that was left to do was descend to the Williams Creek trail.
Floyd getting much needed refreshments
Now, I thought Williams Creek was the only trail in the area. On the decent, I spied what I thought was a shortcut that would bypass the last bump in the ridge before the saddle with Green Mountain. The trail also led to a creek in a lush field and that was all the encouragement I would need. Floyd and I sat at the creek drinking for about 15 minutes and I could just feel the energy coming back. Unfortunately, I couldn't see any more trail. The bushwack was on – through nasty deadfall and avoiding steep gullies to either side. I still thought this was the supposed trail since there were game trails littering the area and I felt that maybe it just wasn't maintained. Mostly, I was tired and in denial. Nevertheless, I aimed for the spot that had 3 ridges converging at once at the base of 13,180. I thought I found it and I set the tent up in the only flattish 3'x7' spot in the area.
As I started to fire up dinner, I realized I forgot a fork. Now, how do you eat lasagna without a utensil? Being a child of the 80's, I McGyvered up a duct tape spoon with a burn pad from my first aid kit and a piece of bark. Duct Tape really does do it all. My spoon didn't have much of a convex face so it was more like a spatula so I had to make the lasagna extra thick. Freeze dried Lasagna Paste isn't as bad as it sounds, especially considering the conditions.
I think there is a market for "duct tape spoon"
Floyd slept through dinner and when I set the tent up he forced his way past me and curled up on my "pillow." (My ball of a change of clothes and my jacket.) As I relaxed – using Floyd as my headrest (warmer and softer than my pillow), I did something novel – I pulled out a map. Now, I realized our mistake. We descended one drainage too early and I located where I thought we were – about ¼ mile south of where we should have been. I have to admit, this was by far the most isolated camping spot I've ever had. We were no where near anything resembling a maintained trail. Tired and stubborn, I talked myself into believing that we descended far enough and went to sleep.
Sunday, August 2 ~ 11.5 miles, 4,650 feet of gain. "I did it for the 3,000 foot rule"…
I had no desire to walk around in the area in the dark, so we waited until 1st light (~5:45) to start our day on Sunday. We were just below a dry creek bed. I figured we'd use that to ascend to treeline to have a look around. If we were where I thought we were (along the creek to the east of Pt. 10,925), we'd have 3 ridges to cross to get where we needed to go. If we were where we were supposed to be, it would just confirm it. We ascended and we were where I thought we were (Hey, I can read a topo!) once on top of 10,925, the first impression of our route was promising. The next ridge was also nice, gentle, and grassy so there was still hope we could salvage this. Once on top of the second though showed the third (to get over the ridge holding Pt. 12,691) was not going to be so easy. We'd have a 1,000-foot drop into think forest. Now, it was decision time. I initially thought we could still "Git Er Done" but after descending about 25 feet, I had one of those "WTF am I doing?" moments. The other option was taking the ridge that we were on all the way up to 13,811 – it was wide, grassy and looked straightforward enough. Descending would have been a nightmare and we were still a mile or two down the drainage from Cooper Creek Peak. The smart play was to just head back the way we came, plus there was some clouds rolling in that looked like they could materialize into something. If we were to get caught in this drainage, we were awfully far from home.
Ready to Go
At this time, I also had a feeling to look over my shoulder. I turned to see a huge coyote about 40 yards back that seemed to want to make Floyd either his/her mate or breakfast. I had no interest in him becoming either and Floyd wasn't leashed at this point, but, luckily, he had yet to see the coyote. So, I called Floyd over and clipped him in. Once he was secure, I turned and the Coyote and I had a bit of a stare-off for a minute or two until he finally turned and lost interest. We started up the slope and after about 1,000 feet I unleashed Floyd just in time for him to find some Elk and (what I think) was Bear scat to roll in. He's a good dog, but the rolling in crap is an annoying trait.
Ascending 13,811's North Ridge
We finally made it back up to the summit of 13,811 around 8:00. I burned the rest of my roll of film and started the long hike back home. If the weather looked like it would hold, I had thoughts of hitting Cooper Creek from the south but that looked less and less likely.
A look down 13,811's North Ridge
Getting closer to home
We followed the trail, passing below 13,832 and turned the corner at 9:30 and saw a nice rainstorm heading our way. 20% chance of storms after noon and this was my sight at 9:30 am.
Nothing electrical and it looked as if it may stay to the north. It was on top of Precipice Peak when I first saw it so I knew we only had a half an hour to an hour tops. Uncompagre and Wetterhorn were right in it's path and I was now very glad in my decision not to stay to the north of 13,811/13,832. Right at 10:00, just above the saddle with Redcloud we got a nice dose of sleet. It only lasted for a minute or two since we were on the very southern tip of the storm but getting pelted in the side of the face in that wind was not comfortable. On the bright side, it was clear behind this small system.
I figured we both had had enough and Floyd's pads were starting to look pretty worn. We descended the nice path into the basin, passing many debating on whether or not to head up for the 14ers. Many asked me where in the world I was coming from since they saw us descending the east part of the saddle. One guy actually said, "Don't you know Redcloud is that way?" pointing to the west. When I replied yes, he asked "Were you lost?" When I said I set out for a couple of 13ers he appeared less than interested and a little puzzled as to why someone would want to do that. I didn't have Floyd leashed (I offered to before we approached anyone) but no one had an issue with him and everyone wanted to pet him. Shouting out "You may not want to pet him!" in reference to an unleashed dog had some a little unsettled. But, I confirmed he is a great dog, just covered in crap, which led to more than a couple of laughs.
I think I was in pure peak-bagging mode last time I visited this area because I didn't recall this basin being so lush. The wildflowers were out in full force and Floyd found a tarn to bath in for a minute or two (luckily knocking off most of the poo). I snapped a few pictures and we enjoyed the hike out to the trailhead. The car is always a welcome sight and we were on the road by 11:30.
I starved myself to get ready for my Palisades recovery meal in Gunnison. I called my friend who owns the place from Lake City and I told him I could be there in an hour with minimal tourist interference. I had a very enjoyable lunch and caught up with him. The drive home held a lot less traffic than I expected and no trip is complete until I get to Wendy's in Aspen Park for my Baconator and Vanilla Frosty and I picked up a couple of Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers for Floyd – he earned them and seemed pretty grateful for the gesture. Once home, first priority was to get Floyd thoroughly bathed. For a water dog, he hates baths.
No trip is complete without a few lessons learned. I wish I would have known what I was getting into down in that other basin, I would have just done the 5 peaks as a day trip and come up with something else for Sunday. I could have gotten to experience a few more mountains and I wouldn't have had to lug that darn pack all over the place. 13,130 was the peak that tied the whole loop together and without that, it pretty much fell apart. I did all the research I could and have plenty for when the time comes to revisit that drainage. I now have a lot more confidence in my ability to read maps and learned to not trust every trail you see. Disappointed in the outcome? Maybe a little, but a great experience once again and I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend – Floyd seemed to like it too. Floyd's been left at home for the most part the last couple of years as I've broadened my horizons to mountains/routes not fit for dogs. I'm now making it a point to save one trip a year for just him and me and I'm already thinking of next year's trip… maybe Cataract Gulch?
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):