Peak(s):  Redcloud Peak  -  14,034 feet
Sunshine Peak  -  14,001 feet
Handies Peak  -  14,048 feet
Date Posted:  09/13/2017
Date Climbed:   09/12/2017
Author:  WildWanderer
 Northeast Ridge, Gullies, East Slope  

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#24, #25, #26 Redcloud Peak ‚‘ 14,034, Sunshine Peak ‚‘ 14,001, Handies Peak ‚‘ 14,048

Quick Notes:
‚Ę If you're thinking about making Redcloud and Sunshine a loop and it isn't winter, don't.
‚Ę Don't do the loop unless you LOVE, LOVE, LOVE gullies (I don't love gullies)
‚Ę If you do decide to do the loop, wear a helmet and crampons (for the rocks & scree, not snow)
‚Ę Don't do the loop

Since I'm not a fan of sleeping at trailheads I woke up at midnight and drove five and a half hours to the Grizzly Gulch/Silver Creek trailhead. I missed a turn (I blame the lack of signs) and ended up not making it to the trailhead until 6:30am, which meant I didn't start until 6:45am. This is the latest start I've ever had on a 14er. Yes, I was pretty mad at myself. In any event, here's what the rough 2WD road to the trailhead looks like:

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There were a few bumpy spots, and a lot of puddles. Unless your car is lowered, it can probably make it.

OK, so I started at 6:45am, which meant the sun was already out. Here's the trailhead parking/bathroom situation.

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As I was leaving my car I saw a man rushing down the hill. Apparently his friend was visiting from out of state, and he'd forgotten the beer at his car. Luckily they weren't too far into the trail when he realized his mistake, and he was rushing back to get it. I wished him luck, and silently thought to myself it would probably be a better idea to enjoy the beer after successfully making it back to the vehicle. I any event, I appreciated his enthusiasm.
The trail up was very well maintained

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And the aspens are just starting to change color.

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The first part of this hike follows the Silver Creek. It was absolutely beautiful in contrast to the red rocks.

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For reference to those of you who do choose to do the loop, here's where you either turn right to go up Sunshine first, or where you come out after making the loop. It wasn't obvious, as it just looks like a trail to the creek. Note the placement of the mountains in the back.

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The trail did include a lot of scree

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Once I reached the basin the trail evened out for a bit, then climbed up to the right.

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Here you can see Redcloud

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It's important when you get to the saddle to turn right. A lot of people were turning left to head to a beautiful 13er, but it isn't on the trail to Redcloud.
Here's a look at the trail up Redcloud. As you can see, it has a false summit (right) and true summit (left).

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And once again, a view of the false and true summit

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From the saddle the final push wasn't too bad

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I took a shadowselfie because I do that type of thing

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And a picture of me at the summit.

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I had the summit all to myself. The pair of guys hiking behind me was about a mile behind me at this point.

I turned and looked south to Sunshine Peak. It was a good mile and a half to this summit. It looked like another double summit was in order!

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Take note here for those of you who wish to make this a loop instead of crossing back over Redcloud to head back to the trailhead: The topo map shows this as a blue line above #3,

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but when I passed the place this intersects I saw this sign indicating it's NOT a trail and not to use it as such (14ers.com states the same).

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The hike up Sunshine was long but steady. Here's my summit photo.

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Here I got out my maps and tried to decide which route to follow. I knew not to go down the saddle from Sunshine, and I really didn't want to go back over Redcloud (that 1.5 miles and another summit climb didn't sound like fun).

When I have the option I try to make my hikes a loop, and that seemed like an option when looking at my map (I took the loop below the 3). It included a gully, which I'm not fond of, but it looked like a doable trail. I brought up my GPX file and looked at the pictures. Yes, it looked doable as a difficult class 2. So I headed down the Northwest Face of Sunshine. It hugged a ridge, and was FULL of exposure, rock, and scree

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When I made it down the ridge this is what I saw. It looked like a pretty easy way to hike down

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Until I hit the top of the gully. This is what it looked like from the top

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I noticed several cairns indicating several different ways to go down the gullies, but I wanted to stick with my GPS route. So I did some investigating, looking over and around as much as possible. In the end I decided to go with the GPS suggestion.

I put my camera and hiking pole in my bag and took a deep breath. This was going to be an adventure! I slid more than I hiked, but I was careful and made it down my gully of choice without stopping/getting stuck. I carefully close each step/foothold, and hand placement, and thought to myself how one wrong move would result in my sliding down a rocky slope for several hundred feet. It was very slippery and a bit scary but it was obvious this was how I was intended to complete the trail. Here's what it looked like from the bottom.

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This is the route I took. I can't imagine hiking up this!!!

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I was deposited in a basin and could see the trail I needed to connect with further ahead, so I just started walking towards that trail. There were cairns, which was helpful, but not needed on the way back because I could see where the trail led. Here's a picture looking back at the gullies

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And a picture of the hike ahead.

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I came to the stream where two men dressed in camo, along with their black lab, greeted me: ‚You must have some big ovaries to have hiked that!‚Ě

I was a bit confused until they told me they'd seen me climb down the gully. They had binoculars, heard a few rocks drop, and thought they'd be seeing a rockslide. Instead they saw me descend the gully and were quite impressed. Their exact words were that I ‚seemed in control the whole time‚Ě. They also said two guys came down behind me, or at least they think they did. They saw two guys looking at the cairns and trying to descent to the right. I mentally thought about those two guys behind me and the beer. Ugh. I hope they made it!

I smiled, wished them luck, and tried to quicken my pace. I still wanted to get in one more peak today if the weather allowed.
Almost immediately it started hailing from out of nowhere. It was cloudy but didn't look like hail. The hail/rain came down quickly, and was over in 5 minutes.

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At this point I connected with the Silver Creek trail and headed back down to the trailhead.

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I'd started at 6:45am, and it was now 12:30pm. The hike had taken me almost 6 hours, 12.25miles, 4669' elevation gain.

Now I had a choice to make. Should I hike Handies Peak or spend the night in my truck and try to hike it in the morning? I was exhausted. I mean really, really tired. My lungs hurt and so did my calves. I hadn't eaten all day (besides some beef jerky and dried bananas along the trail) and I was running on 3 hours of sleep. And it looked like a small storm was going to roll through. The only thing keeping me from stopping and getting some rest was the thought of sleeping at the trailhead. I know from past experience this never ends well. Although I try I'm never able to sleep, and I'm always really, really cold. I have Raynauds, so I'm overly susceptible to the cold, no matter how much I bundle up. It makes for miserable trailhead camping experiences. I did not want t get up at 5am freezing cold and try to start out on a hike. It takes me forever to defrost!

I decided I'd attempt Handies. I knew I could always turn back, since I didn't really need to summit today. If the weather got too bad or I felt I couldn't go on I'd just head back to the truck, sleep, and try again tomorrow.
So I grabbed my new maps and headed up the Grizzly Gulch trail, crossing a bridge

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The aspen trees here were also beginning to turn

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I was hiking slow. I mean, really, really slow. I usually hike around 2mph when hiking 14ers, rarely stopping to do much but take pictures. However, on this hike I found myself stopping every 50 feet or so to catch my breath. This wasn't normal, especially for such an ‚easy‚Ě hike. I was embarrassed for myself, but explained it away: I'd hiked Mt. Lindsey yesterday, and Redcloud and Sunshine Peaks this morning. That's a lot of mileage and elevation gain/loss in under 24 hours. I was allowed to be a bit tired, right? I was still upset with myself. Breathing only got more difficult.

I continued on, rounded a corner, and I saw her: A beautiful mama moose! I knew she was a mama because I could hear her calf braying in the bushes somewhere like a donkey jumping in circles. It was an adorable sound! However, Moose are dangerous and known to charge, especially mamas protecting their babies. She was really close on the trail so I gave her a wide berth and didn't make eye contact. I took this one picture from behind a tree and hurried on. She kept her eyes on me the entire time I was in view. It was a bit daunting, but really, really cool. I usually expect to see Moose in meadows, so seeing on in the trees, and so close, caught me off guard. In fact at first I'd thought she was a horse. In any event, cool experience! I was already glad I'd made the decision to hike Handies today.

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Then I heard the thunder. Great. I looked up, but the clouds didn't look threatening. I exited the trees and came into the basin and caught my first glimpse of Handies.

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I saw a quick flash of lightening and began counting/mentally calculating my options. I looked up at the clouds again. Hmmm. Now I had a choice to make. The clouds really didn't look threatening, but I'd heard thunder and seen a bit of lightening. Thunder was rumbling in the clouds but there was no more lightening after that one bit (it didn't hit the ground, but stayed in the clouds). The wind was moving to the Southwest of me (I could see the clouds moving) and behind the peak I could see sunlight. I was hiking very, very slowly. I decided it would probably take me longer to summit than it would take those clouds to pass, so slowly I continued on. At this point I knew I was the only one on the trail (I couldn't see anyone ahead of me and no one else was signed in the trial register. I'd also passed someone who told me they were the last one up today).

I continued on at a slow but steady pace. By now I was stopping every 25 feet to catch my breath. I wanted to cry. This was an easy peak, and yet I hadn't been this tired/sore/exhausted since climbing my first 14er (Pikes Peak 26 mile route). It kept sprinkling off and on, so I kept putting my jacket off and on. It was a nice excuse to stop and still be ‚productive‚Ě. I kept my eye on the sky.

I was about 3/4 of the way through the basin when I looked up and saw sheets of ice raining down from the direction of Handies. It looked like it was going to hail again, and here I was, 2 miles above treeline, with no place to go. I'd known this was a possibility when I'd started this hike, so I pulled up my hood, turned against the wind, and braced myself. I knew these storms usually only last a few minutes or so, and this one was over in about 5 minutes. It left me with a wonderful view! Check out that layer of hail/snow (graupel?)

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This was cool! It was beautiful, and just as I'd predicted, there was sunlight after the brief storm. I stopped to take off my jacket and heard what sounded like a loud clap, then tumbling. The brief storm had caused a rockslide! I couldn't see where it was coming from, but I could hear a steady stream of rocks tumbling down. I tried to get it on video, but due to the wind didn't come out very well. For the rest of the hike I heard rocks tumbling. Geological time is now people!

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https://youtu.be/57s-BFs3lW8

The last mile and a half seemed quite steep. The elevation gain seemed more here than I was used to, but it was a short hike to the summit, so I guess I needed to make up elevation somewhere.
Did I mention I was hiking slow? I mean really, really slow? After the storm my paced slowed to hiking 10 steps, stopping to breathe for 5 seconds, and continuing. I was hurting all over, couldn't breathe, and even this pace seemed to be killing me. I was mad at my body, but kept going. I knew the storm threat had passed, and I could see the summit. I was going to make it: Just give me a second to breathe.

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At this point I looked down at my feet saw a rock shaped like a skull. It was about the same size too. This took me back for a second, but I decided to do the obvious thing and take it as a good omen and continued on. No pictures of the rock (it seemed morbid and too much like negative foreshadowing). The peak was once again in the clouds. Weather changes quickly on 14rs!

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The last ¬ľ mile was steep scree, with loose rocks wet from the recent storm. Read: slippery. I had to hike even slower, but I enjoyed it when I got to the rocky part because it meant using different muscles in my legs. Climbing was easier than hiking. This was actually a lot easier than it looked (besides being slippery).

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Woohoo! Another false summit! That's three for three for today!

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I turned around and looked back on the basin I'd hiked, with Redcloud and Sunshine in the background. Pretty awesome!

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I made it the final push to the summit winded, out of breath, and with a frozen face and fingers. I couldn't smile because my lips were frozen, but I'd made it!

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I was super proud of myself, but ready to hike back down. My body seemed to enjoy hiking down as compared to up (I didn't need to stop/rest/catch my breath). The clouds continued to swirl around the mountain

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After I'd hiked about a mile down the sun came out and birds/pikas/marmots started chirping. The rest of the hike was uneventful (I looked but didn't see the moose again). I was very, very proud of myself for making the decision to hike when I did. It was probably the most exhausting hike I've ever done. I started at 12:45pm and didn't make it back to my truck until 5:30pm. That's 5 hours for an 8 mile hike. Ouch!

When I made it back to my truck I was hungry and tired, so I made some Mountain House Lasagna, thinking I'd eat the entire serving and still be hungry. But I wasn't. I wasn't even able to finish half the meal. I sealed it up, put it away, changed my clothes, and hopped into my sleeping bag, exhausted. I pulled out Roach's book, and looked up my Sunshine descent today. His notes: ‚Avoid this route of Sunshine's West Gullies are snow free‚Ě. SMH.

I fell asleep by 6pm, intending to get an early start on the 5 hour drive home in the morning. I fell asleep almost immediately, but woke up cold at midnight to gravel noises. Something was moving under my truck, and it sounded bigger than a squirrel/marmot. It was playing around, but with the gravel moving sounded to be the size of a large raccoon. I was cold, and a bit worried something was eating the under-wires of my truck, so I decided now was as good a time as any to head home. I never did find out what it was because the windows of my truck were fogged up from my breath. See, I told you I never sleep well at trailheads!

Redcloud:https://youtu.be/wnwakmCweNg
Sunshine: https://youtu.be/_hlzdFs2NdQ
Handies: https://youtu.be/wkDyIDD28Rw



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
Tnesper
Sunshine Gully
09/13/2017 16:23
Really appreciate the detail of these trip reports you've been posting. Hoping to do Lindsey on Saturday and the trip reports aren't thorough, but yours was really helpful. I remember descending that gully on Sunshine and for me, it was my favorite part of the hike. It was walking along the rocks in the basin for what felt like 20 miles afterwards. The bottoms of my feet were killing me. Funny thing, we had the same debate as you with Handies and decided to sleep and hit it the next day. Had we done it that day, we probably would have hit your pace or worse. The weather was also bad and I think we made the right decision. Bagging as many peaks as you have in 1 year is impressive. Taken me years to get halfway.


nyker

Good job
09/13/2017 18:01
Especially with a 5.5hr drive to the TH before you started


WildWanderer

Not hiking due to weather
09/13/2017 18:03
Not hiking due to weather is ALWAYS a good idea! The mountain will still be there tomorrow (and next week, year, etc.) I only continued on because I have a lot of experience gauging the weather and knew it would let up soon (I used to be a park ranger and a summer camp counselor).

When I was 10 I had a really bad experience on a gully (I ended up somersaulting down uncontrollably most of the way) so I'm not a fan of gullies in general. They bring back bad memories so I try to avoid them, but it's an awesome feeling when I successfully complete one!

I'm hoping to get halfway by the end of my hiking season this year, but my original goal was to complete 11 this year so I'm pretty happy with my progress so far. I'd hike everyday if I didn't have 3 teenagers and a full time job

Good luck on Lindsey!


Trotter

sundog
09/13/2017 23:05
should have looked up bergstiegens TR about the better loop. You descend off sundog, the 13er, and its actually pretty nice


WildWanderer

Better loop
09/14/2017 06:17
@Trotter: agreed!


rob runkle

Sweet!
09/14/2017 11:05
Nice job. I clicked on the TR link and was going to skip reading it unless you had done all three in a day - a worthy task. Good job!! I did the same thing, back in 2006. I opted to take the regular route back down Redcloud, and was very happy with my decision, as I was able to literally run the lower trails back to the TH. Finished those in just over 5 hours. The run back to RC from sunshine is pretty easy, but the main trail off RC is cake.

I was also concerned about weather going up Handies in the afternoon. I was a little more fortunate than you were, with nothing landing on my head. I heard some stuff in the distance, but it stayed away. Having said that, you made a solid call on the weather. I have done dozens of hikes, in the exact same conditions. No problems with that level of weather, as long as you keep you eyes/ears pealed, and you don't have to worry about slippery rock and exposure.

My Handies RT was 3.5 hours, and I have no idea how I did that.


cougar

+2 on sundog
09/16/2017 21:58
Sundog loop is good, it's better rock than sunshine with a decent trail down the ridge.


DeTour

Congrats
10/02/2017 12:18
As I was reading this I'm thinking, "no way she summits Handies." Nice drama without being melodramatic.

I went up the gully you went down. A bit difficult, but probably less taxing mentally than descending. If I were to do those peaks again I would definitely do the loop again, but including Sundog.


rbbirrer
American Basin
09/17/2018 11:05
Hi WildWanderer - I like to follow your informative posts as they have been very helpful in my quest to complete the 14ers.

In your opinion do you think i'd be able to make it to the American Basin TH at Handies in a Nissan Rogue. I recently read a trip report which recommended hiking from Grizzly Gulch/Silver Creek. Really looking to keep my horizontal and vertical distance on Handies to a minimum next time I'm out in CO as I will be attempting 6-7 peaks.

Thanks


WildWanderer

Nissan Rogue
09/18/2018 20:45
You could definitely make it to the lower trailhead and most likely to the upper trailhead, depending on the time of year and snow/rain conditions (the upper TH is only a mile of 4WD).



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