Peak(s):  Handies Peak  -  14,048 feet
Date Posted:  07/02/2019
Date Climbed:   06/24/2019
Author:  hikebikeboardrocks
 Lost on Handies. Snow and Avy Debris   

I drove to Handies Peak on 6/23 with the intention of hiking the Southwest Slopes route.

First obstacle: If you click the Google Maps link from the trailhead, it might insist on taking you there from the West. DO NOT FOLLOW THIS - YOU MUST GO FROM LAKE CITY. The instructions written by the author are very good and I highly recommend reviewing them before your trip. The Google Maps link took me to a 4WD trail that was barely accessible to Jeep Wranglers - They told me absolutely do not take my Subaru Impreza up that road bc it is covered in avalanche debris. Took an extra 2.5 hours to drive all the way around to the correct route via Lake City.

Obstacle 2: The Silver Creek / Grizzly Gulch trailhead was inaccessible :( :( :( I had to settle for the East Slopes route. I had not skinned up anything before, so I wanted to stick to a Class 1 route, but I decided that the Class 2 East slopes would probably be okay. The problem was that I had only researched the main Southwest Slopes route, so I knew going in I'd have to be very diligent and careful of trail-finding since I had no cell service or photos of where to go.

Obstacle 3: The first mile or so is in great condition. Then you hit a snow pile. Then you hit another that covers the trail in an inconvenient way. Then you hit much bigger ones that are covered in debris that are pretty big and make it really hard to find the trail. Then you hit some pretty bad areas where trees have fallen over the trail. This makes it pretty tough to hike, especially with a Snowboard on your back. BUT, I did it, so you can make it to tree line too.

Obstacle 4: As you are probably aware in 2019, once above tree line everything is covered in snow. So the trail is gone. Having no photos to go on and only text instructions, I was able to follow the general direction pretty well all the way up until you get to the Trailhead sign around 12,000 ft. It is almost completely buried - I was able to locate the top of it poking out of the snow. For reference, there is a nice large boulder very close to this sign, so if you can't find the sign, the boulder is a good indicator that you're going the right way. At this point I put on my skins, but I probably should have as soon as I got above tree line. After all the avalanche areas, it's all snow covered.

Obstacle 4.5: Without photos, I was able to follow the general instructions of turning right up a hill, then turning left around 12,400. But the left turn I took was either at the wrong point, or the rest of the trail is not doable without really good snow/ice gear. Where I ended up was simply too steep and slippery to get up with options of only boots or skins. So I think around 13K ft after going up and down a few times and trying to find the trail (while not going too far off of it), I decided I was not going to safely get to the peak. This was a very sad moment for me hahah.

Best part of the Trip: THE SNOW IS EXCELLENT!!! Even if you can't get to the top, the riding down was so great. Soft, sweet turns. I would highly recommend attempting this route, especially if you're more experienced than me.

Last notes: If you are more experienced than me with hiking up snow-covered routes and feel like making a friend, please reach out to me and take me along! I'd love to learn from some more experienced people.

Advice: Be very careful locating the trail in the woods - it is very easy to lose the trail. I did all I could on the way down to clear debris and build cairns where possible, but upon looking back I often found it still very unclear where to go. Again, though, I did it so if you're careful so can you.

 Comments or Questions

Handies via silverton
07/10/2019 09:30
Does anyone know if you can get to American basin via Cinnamon Pass from Silverton? From what I can tell reading online Animas Forks might still be buried! Yikes.
Was supposed to climb last week of July.

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