Handies Peak - East Slopes
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(WINTER) HOLD ON! If you don't have much high-elevation, winter climbing experience, be careful in your planning and take a partner. Even the "easy" 14ers (Quandary, Sherman, Grays & Torreys) can be deadly in winter.
|Difficulty:|| Class 2 |
|Trailhead:||Silver Crk/Grizzly Gulch|
|Total Gain:||3,650 feet|
|RT Length:||8.00 miles|
|USGS Quad.:||Handies Peak|
|County Sheriff:||Hinsdale: 970-944-2291
From Lake City, drive about 2 miles south on Colorado 149 and turn right on County Road 30 toward Lake San Cristobal and Cinnamon Pass. From the start of the 30 road, it's nearly 16 miles to the trailhead. Stay right near 11.8 miles. After 12.5 miles the road becomes more rough, and between 13 and 14.5 miles it's a shelf road that hugs the south side of Sunshine Peak. Before 16 miles, reach the trailhead in an open area. Parts of this road are rough, but when it's dry good-clearance 2WD vehicles should be able to get to the trailhead.
From the trailhead, follow the signed trail for Grizzly Gulch (behind the restrooms). Walk a few hundred feet and cross the bridge that spans the creek - Photo #1. Walk up through and meadow and enter the forest at 10,500' - Photo #2. Follow the solid trail through the forest for about a mile and reach a point where Handies is visible ahead - Photo #3. Continue for another mile as you cross several clearings (avalanche runouts) between 11,400' and 11,600', and finally exit the trees above 11,600' - Photo #5. The view opens up and Handies is dead ahead. Continue past the last trees (Photo #6) to reach 12,000' in a flat area ( 37.92231° N, -107.48898° W) where the trail is next to the stream. Photo #7 is the view of Handies from this area. Cross the stream once or twice and hike southwest up the center of the gulch, directly toward the peak - Photo #8 and Photo #9. Taken near 12,300', Photo #10 looks back down on the area. Near 12,300', the slope eases and the terrain again becomes flat. Walk a short distance to a trail sign just below 12,400' - Photo #11.
From the creek crossing, it's 1.5 miles more to the summit, but the next mile takes a bit of a tour to the north to gain the easiest terrain leading to the summit. Cross the creek ( 37.91922° N, -107.49467° W) and follow the trail north up a hillside - Photo #11 and Photo #12. Near 12,600', the trail turns left and enters a large flat(ish) area just west of Handie's North Ridge - Photo #13. Cross the flat area to reach a rock moraine - Photo #14. After hiking over the rocks (Photo #15), turn left and follow the trail southwest up grassy terrain - Photo #16. Continue southwest up to 13,300' where the terrain eases again and much of the remaining route is visible - Photo #17. Your next goal is to gain the North Ridge up to your right (west). Photo #18 shows the hike up to the ridge and Photo #19 looks back on recent terrain. Follow the trail (or the general location of the trail if this terrain is snow-covered) as it climbs from 13,400' to 13,600' (Photo #20 and Photo #21) on the crest of the North Ridge. Photo #22 shows the area where the trail meets the ridge ( 37.91736° N, -107.50496° W).
Once on the ridge, turn south to see the next challenge - Photo #23. The upper North Ridge is the steepest portion of this route and there is a bit of loose rock on the upper trail. Walk over to the base of this pitch and start up the steeper terrain - Photo #24 and Photo #25. Taken above 13,700', Photo #26 looks down on the lower half of this pitch. Photo #27 shows some of the rock near the top of the ridge and Photo #28 is a broad look at the hike above 12,600'. After reaching the top of this pitch, the summit ridge quickly comes into view - Photo #29. Follow the trail along the ridge and over to the summit ( 37.913021° N, -107.504478° W) - Photo #30 and Photo #31. Photo #32 looks back on the summit ridge. Photo #33 and Photo #34 and other views from the top.
The views of Handies during this hike can be stunning.
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