I did Handies Peak before lunch, and decided to continue with Redcloud (4278m) and Sunshine Peak (4268m) in the sunny afternoon. People often do the two latter peaks in a day, but it’s quite unusual to do all three peaks in one day, as this requires more than 2100 metres gain of elevation in one day. During the long day I also added one more peak on my list, Sundog (4094m).
Redcloud Peak (4278)
I started at Silver Creek-Grizly Gulch Trailhead (3170m) around 12 o’clock (see the trailhead description in the Handies Peak article). There were still no clouds to see, so this proved to be an exceptionally sunny day and no thunderstorms to be worried about. I hiked very fast on the well trodden trail, and when I emerged from the warm forest and came into more cool and sparsely vegetated terrain, I almost started to run up hill. After a while I reached the basin north of Redcloud Peak and rested for 10 minutes in order to study the beautiful ptarmigans, which seemed to accept both me and my camera on a very close distance. I could almost touch the wild birds, before they calmly walked away from me.
I continued up to the 3900 metres high pass northeast of Redcloud, where I bypassed a group of four slow Americans who called me an animal, because of my extraordinary high pace. From the pass, I ascended on a strong climber’s trail up the northeast ridge. I chose the steep direct route instead of the switchbacks, and soon reached a levelled area just beneath the final summit cone. I followed the gentle slope to the summit (4278m), and the entire climb had only taken me 1 hour and 50 minutes, including breaks. I ate some snacks and took some photos, before I continued on my next target, Sunshine Peak.
Sunshine Peak (4268)
I descended Redcloud’s south ridge to the saddle (4100m) between Redcloud and Sunshine. This is the point where Sunshine’s north slopes route reach the ridge, which was my planned descend route after I had done Sunshine. But there was a posted message saying that this gully was very dangerous because of steep and loose scree, and it was only recommended when the gully was covered with snow. I briefly studied the gully from above, and I very much agreed to that warning. However, first I had to summit Sunshine before I started to decided upon my route of descend. So I continued up the very rocky trail to the summit of Sunshine, which I reached 35 minutes after I left Redcloud. I met a father and his daughter in company with a old dog on Sunshine‘s summit. Their plan was to descend the dangerous scree gully in order to avoid the strenuous uphills back to Redcloud. I started to consider my own alternatives and soon found an interesting option that would both avoid the scree gully and the rather boring re-climb of Redcloud. Secondly, this route would include a ranked 13’er peak (Sundog), which was an extra bonus for me even though it would require some gain of elevation.
I started down from Sunshine, first along the main trail, then I parted from it and started to descend the west slopes of Sunshine in order to reach the saddle between Sunshine and Sundog. There were some trails here and there in the rocky slopes, but no distinct ones. When I reached the lowest point of the saddle (3980m), I started to climb the steep part of the ridge (class 2+). After that it was easy scrambling along the 1 kilometre long ridge to the highest point, which was the summit of Sundog (4094m). This is a ranked 13’er that rises at least 300 feet above its connecting saddle with Sunshine. Sundog is also a “Tri”, one of Colorado’s 300 highest peaks.
From the summit of Sundog, I watched how the father, daughter and dog descended the same slope as me from Sunshine. But instead of continuing on the ridge to Sundog, they started to descend a very steep gully in order to reach the basin under Sunshine and Sundog. This was surely not a good decision, as I could see a less dangerous gully to the right. I watched in horror how the father started to slide down the gully, dislodging big rocks on his way down. I was too restless to sit and watch their progress, so I started to descend from Sundog. It turned out to be easy scrambling down the ridge until I reached the forest. Several times I looked back to see if the other group had safely reached the basin, but I could not see them. I hoped they would be ok, and continued down the dense forest. There were no trails, so I tried to find a bearing through the woods that eventually would take me down to the main trail in Silver Creek. I easily found the trail and reached the trailhead at 5pm, rather exhausted after 4 peaks and 2200 metres gain of elevation in one day.
I rested for a long while at the trailhead before I started to make dinner on the stove. There were still no signs of the father and his daughter when I left the parking lot and drove back to Lake City. Most likely they would be ok.
(I’m referring to the YDS class rating system throughout this article)