As Tom Vervaeke and I awoke it felt like the first day of fall as the temperature was 9 degrees with a heavy frost over everything. The skies were clear and full of stars at 5:00am. I started a fire while Tom started the coffee and bacon and eggs… hey, who says you have to rough it. We waited for first light to start so we did not have to carry headlamps and left up the trailhead on the other side of the road from Handies at 6:45am. Again, we did not stay in tree line long and were soon paralleling Silver Creek up a narrow rock strewn valley. At about 12,000 the valley opens and you come across a small lake.
We had elected the long easy approach to these two peaks so the trail meanders around the backside of Redcloud then gains the ridge at about 13,000′ Here we donned our shells as the wind was again blowing very strong. With our experience on Handies fresh, we had decided we did not need our ice axes and again we step kicked up in new snow up the slope. Tom led the way today and I gamely followed. We reached the summit at 9:45 and decided to sign the register on the way back as we would be traversing back over the summit on the return.
At this point it is important to note the connecting ridge is 1.5 miles long; not difficult but long. We descended to the saddle losing about 300′ and we decided to drop our packs here as the weather was completely blue skies. I stuffed some water and food into my jacket and we set off. It became clear quickly that Sunshine was a long way away. I shared some water and food with Tom before the final ridge climb as we both had started to bonk a bit. I led the way up step kicking up the steep snow. The views were fabulous and soon we were on top a peak only 1′ over 14,000′.
We were careful not to knock off any rocks as we did not want to be known as the guys who made it 53 14ers in Colorado! :-). We returned via the same route to our packs where we rehydrated and stuffed some food down. When will we ever learn? I half wanted to take one of saddle routes off the peak from here but the trail down Redcloud is so good we knew it would be easier to walk the longer distance. Back up the 500′ (total 1,000) to the summit of Redcloud we went. After signing the register, Tom led at a furious pace plunge stepping down the mountain. I followed and soon we were on the ridge where we started to meet a group of women climbers.
They were from the Gunnison area, maybe from the college, who were out to climb the mountains we were had just finished. They were all very nice and they continued to stream up the trail, seven in all with a den mother who we found 1,000’lower waiting for the others to return. The walk down the valley went quickly after changing into shorts by a stream and we were back at the trailhead by 1:45pm. We half talked about staying here and driving to San Luis in the morning but opted to break camp, head into Lake City and check in with our wives, Debbie and Susan before going off to San Luis, a mountain in the middle of nowhere.
Lake City is an interesting hamlet and there were more Texans there than in Dallas!
Did I mention that the last few days were the highlight for the aspen colors? A lot of leaf watchers were everywhere. We left Lake City about 4:00pm in search of San Luis…. a great adventure in itself that will be detailed in the next trip report on climbing San Luis!
Beta: Silver Creek Approach, Class 2 11.4 miles and 4,700′ elevation gain 7 hours