Handies Peak - 14,048 feet
Handies Peak - 14,048 feet
|Handies via a handy route|
Spring skiing - still going strong in the San Juans
Climb of Handies Peak via American Basin; summit ski descent via Grizzly Creek
Crew: Grant, Gerlinde (telerina13), Matt (pioletski)
6 miles, 2800' climbed, 2400' skied
Though he wouldn't admit it, I'm sure Grant was a little disappointed at not having summited Yale when he joined me for a recon mission. Hoping to make up for that a little, Gerlinde and I invited him on our tour of Handies Peak, and it turned out to be a spectacular day.
Handies has a nice built-in feature; the American Basin trailhead affords a fast and efficient way to the summit once the road is plowed and melted out. Hikers who adhere to the 3000 foot rule will consider this cheating. I'm glad to report that ski mountaineers have no such scruples - in fact we live for the traverses that allow us to ski more vertical than we climb. We came close to achieving that on this trip.
We left the American Basin trailhead at 5:30 am; note the darkness:
Put a camera in Grant's hand and he becomes a total goofball:
We started out booting on the intermittent snow but soon stopped to apply skins:
American Basin is a north-facing bowl, fairly well protected from the wind, which makes for a pleasant climb:
My Trails Illustrated map marks the route touching the shore of Sloan Lake before swinging east to climb Handies' flank. This turned out to be unnecessary, though consistent with my observation that man-made features are often inaccurately marked on these maps. Still, it gave me the opportunity to get this photo of the lake and headwall:
Spectacular views of Mt Sneffels...
... and of Gerlinde...
... unfolded as we climbed. The basin itself is an amazing piece of terrain. I need to come back and ski these couloirs one day:
Handies must be one of the most scenic summits anywhere. The Grenadiers and the Windom group lie to the south:
Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre to the north:
Here are my happy companions...
and myself, getting ready to ski:
We started off down the north ridge...
... passed above a prominent cornice, then dropped into the eastern basin:
Sunshine and Redcloud look more prominent from 13,000' than from the summit:
The snow was perfect spring corn, though the rough suncupped surface kept us on our toes. In some spots the suncups had deepened into craters, which didn't stop Gerlinde from making some elegant turns:
... and Grant. The guy can ski...
but I think I mentioned the equation, Grant + camera = goofball:
Handies may bear repeating, as the east face has several worthy ski lines:
Form this point, the snow gradually softened to mush. We stayed on the south side of the creek so as to keep our skis on as long as possible. We took them off at 11,600 feet and immediately made our way across the creek to the dry north side of the valley for the hike out to the Grizzly Creek trailhead, where a cooler of beer awaited:
Thanks, as always, for reading!
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