Peak(s):  Redcloud Peak  -  14,034 feet
Sunshine Peak  -  14,001 feet
Handies Peak  -  14,048 feet
Wetterhorn Peak  -  14,015 feet
Date Posted:  07/30/2013
Modified:  06/26/2018
Date Climbed:   07/30/2013
Author:  hikerdawg
 A few days in the San Juans   

The last 2 summers (moved to CO in July 2011) I've taken a few days off during a week to do a little overnight camping/hiking. Went down to the Sangre de Cristo's last year and wanted to see the San Juan's this year. I'll probably never climb all the peaks, so my goal for this year is to see the last 2 ranges I haven't been to yet (Elk and San Juan). Planning on a trip to Castle/Conundrum later this month to complete that. This trip took me through Lake City, which I enjoyed very much and plan on vacationing in the future. I suggest a trip there if you've never been. The plan for this trip was to get Redcloud/Sunshine, Handies, and Wetterhorn during the week.

I left work at 3:00pm on Monday (7/30) from Lakewood, drove by my future summer retirement home close to Lake San Cristobal,
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and got to the Silver Creek TH around 8. It had rained there during the day and started back up about half way down County Road 30. The rain filled up a lot of the potholes but the road was still as described and only got rough in a few spots. I saw one passenger car at the TH and all others there had high clearance and most were 4WD. I have a RAV4 which was fine for this part.

Redcloud/Sunshine - July 30, 2013
6:30 start
8:50 Redcloud summit
9:45 Sunshine summit
10:30 Redcloud summit
1:00 finish


It rained on and off during the night with a low around 42. I overslept and didn't get moving until 6:30. It was very damp and in the upper 40's but not raining. Here's a look back after the hike up through the forest and rock piles by the creek below 12,000'.
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The trail up Redcloud is one of the easier hikes up that I've done to a summit. Easy to follow and not many areas with rocks. If you leave early enough, most of the hike up Redcloud will be in the shade and away from the wind but once I got up above 12,500', the wind started and didn't stop until I got back down to this point. Due to the strong winds, I didn't spend a lot of time picture taking or enjoying the summit views. Heading up
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Redcloud summit
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Looking over to Sunshine
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The hike over to Sunshine was a little more challenging since the talus going down was wet from the rain and frozen since it was still in the shade. So it was slick going down and the hike up to the Sunshine summit has some loose spots that make the summit push not just a walk up.
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Looking back over to Redcloud
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Looking at the talus going back up to Redcloud after the sun hit it
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I came back over Redcloud because I generally follow the standard routes when hiking but I talked to a few people who went over Sunshine and did the Class 2 down and back around saving a couple of miles. I'd probably go that route if I had to do it again but dealers choice on distance versus difficulty.

Handies - July 31, 2013
6:20 start
6:50 upper TH start
8:30 summit
10:50 upper TH finish
11:20 finish


I was unable to get the RAV all the way up and parked in a small pull off just below 11,200', about 1.25-1.5 miles from the TH. I think I could have made it but it wasn't worth the risk of car damage. Part of road that turned me back
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No rain all day and all night Tues or Wed, low temp overnight Tues was around 45. The plan for today was to take it easy and slowly hike Handies to get the legs loose without burning them up too much for Wetterhorn. I had planned on taking a day off in between but thought if I felt good, I would do 3 days in a row.

It took me a half hour hiking up the road to get to the upper TH and to my surprise, there was not a single car up there. The creek crossing is a little tricky to cross (hiking) in the morning if you want your feet to stay completely dry as I didn't find a good rock path to jump/walk across but the RAV would have made it across fine. I saw 4 vehicles, all larger SUV/trucks, parked along the road up but none in the big upper parking lot when I started . This is a wide open beautiful hike. Approach up to the valley
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It does wind around a good bit when you head up towards Sloan Lake (which you won't see until you get up there) away from Handies and I started questioning which peak I was actually headed for. Then you turn back away from the lake and head straight towards Handies across a rock field. You can see paths where people have avoided all this and cut straight up or down through very loose gravel. There's a sign asking you to stay on the trail going down and I didn't see anyone out there that day trying to shorten the hike. Look back at Sloan's from just above the rock field
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After the rock field, it's a few switchbacks up to the saddle/ridge before the final climb. Because I got an early start, I didn't see the sun until I was almost at the ridge but unlike yesterday, there was no wind today at all. You could have stayed on the summit all day, it was warm and beautiful in the mid 60's. On the ridge looking south on the mountain side opposite the trail
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Final climb to summit
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Back down to Sloan's Lake along the ridgeline
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Summit
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Wildflowers coming back down
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When I got back to the upper TH, it was packed with Jeeps and SUV's all over, some were hiking and others just site seeing. I'll explain a little more about this in my final summary. After driving back down the almost 19 miles of County Road 30, I spent the day in Lake City eating and relaxing around the small town park before heading up to the Matterhorn Creek TH. I didn't even try for the upper TH because of how little it saved in distance/elevation.

Wetterhorn - August 1, 2013
6:15 start
9:30 summit
11:50 finish


The night was a little warmer with a low of only 50 and I was planning on an early start but when I woke up at 5:15 it was still very dark out. I had a headlamp but also had all day to climb, so was in no hurry and waited for the light. I soon realized why it was dark, there was heavy cloud coverage and it looked like it might be a wet morning. This was going to be my first full Class 3 hiking to a summit and I was already about 70/30 on whether or not I would try for the summit since I was alone. I decided to get up there and see how I felt and when the light rain started about 30 minutes in to the hike, I was even less sure. I kept moving forward as there were some people in front of me and rain would come and go. I was hoping that it would clear up and move out by the time I got up there but no such luck. The hike up is very easy up through the woods and open area and then through a land of rocks or marmot and pika hill as I will always know it.
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Once through the rocks you head up maybe 2 switchbacks and then you hit the ridge
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When I got up to the ridge, I saw something I was never expecting........sheep, loud sheep
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On the ridge, I caught up with a nice man that I'd talked with on Sunshine 2 days prior and he gave me all the details since he camped down in the valley the previous night and ran into the shepherd. The shepherd was from Peru and keeps about 2,000 sheep up in the mountains during the summer. He sleeps in a tent and has 2 dogs managing the sheep all over hillside. Who knew.
Once you get up the ridge a little way up through a few rocks, you hit what I think is the hardest part of the hike, the 400 feet up to the "Prow"
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There are trails and carins going in all directions with loose rock and scree and no clear easier path up. You basically pick your route and hope it doesn't dead end into something you can't get over. It looked like once you got to the foot of the "Prow, you can stay just to the right of it's base and the far left of the path up. Here's a look at the summit once you get up through the 400 feet. You don't see the route up to the summit from here, you have to go over a small section and then it opens up.
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You can't see it great here, but you have to climb up a few steps and then over to flat area you'll see better looking back down in the last picture.
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Summit shot
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Uncompahgre Peak over my shoulder in the background
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Looking back down the final pitch
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The final 100' up was very stable and not too difficult. No one had ropes up there and about half the people climbing had helmets and the other half didn't. I found the 400' prior to the final climb more difficult going up and down because of how unstable it was. Wouldn't want to be under others coming down that area. You can make it up the final 100' by going straight up but it's easier going a little left, especially on the decent. It never got out of the 50's during the hike and even with the rain, never felt cold.
The rain stopped long enough for me to get up and then started back up heavier halfway back down to the TH and didn't stop completely stop until I got through Gunnison.

There were plenty of people doing both Wetterhorn and Uncompahgre on the same day but I never considered doing that distance in one day on this trip. I've also seen where people will do Handies later in the same day after doing Redcloud/Sunshine. I could see that if the weather holds but I had time on my side and don't like hiking after lunch up that high. Be prepared in the summer to see a lot of people out there 4-wheeling. I'd guess for every 1 hiker, there were 30-40 people up there in ATV's and Jeeps of all kinds and it seemed like most were from Texas. Lake City is not a hidden gem to our southeastern neighbors. Everyone is nice and polite but don't expect a lot of quiet time up there during the summer.



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
deflatormouse
great report!
08/13/2013 16:23
I'm planning to do pretty much the same trip in late august. It will be my first time in colorado and my first 14ers. Just wondering if the trails for these peaks are easy to follow, or if you need to bring a map and have some route-finding skills.

Thanks,
Justin


hikerdawg

No map
08/13/2013 18:06
Very easy to follow, no map needed. All I used is the 14ers app on my phone if I ever had a question but rarely checked it. I have a GPS and didn't use it once. Out of these 4 peaks, the only time you might want some help is the scramble up Wetterhorn but you don't need a map, just the description from the route.



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