From Silver Creek TH
Saturday September 22, 2007
I had climbed Handies Peak on Friday afternoon from American Basin and then drove back down to find an excellent camp site within 150 yards of the Silver Creek TH. I pitched camp in my Sonoma and started a fire in the existing fire pit just as a short rain shower was moving through. The aspen leaves were brilliant with yellow and gold which brightened and high-lighted my camping spot. After making a nice dinner I bedded down just after nightfall; it had been a long day and I was way tired.
My watch alarm sounded at 5:00AM and I awoke to clear, starry, inky black skies and I stumbled around some gawking up at all the constellations; the Pleiades, and Orion were very dominate directly above on this first day of autumn without a cloud to be seen. Really splendid.
I couldn’t get over how dark it still was as I prepared my normal hiking fare of a short breakfast of instant oatmeal & black coffee, with a quart Gatorade. Since I really didn’t want to start hiking up in the dark, I moved slow and took my time as I readied my pack for the day. The morning was dawning slowly as well and the blackness finally gave way to grey-blue as I loaded-up my truck and drove the short jaunt to the trailhead parking lot.
Two cars and a road grader were at the lot when I arrived and I saw one person heading up the trail. At 6:46AM I started up the trail and after a brief climb I reached the registry and signed-in. The daylight was getting brighter by the moment and as I hiked the small aspen trees lined the trail and their yellow leaves actually appeared to illuminate the trail in some sections. I climbed steadily through the forest on the good trail and the sound of Silver Creek rushing to the right as the trail dipped a little and then proceeded right along the creek. Here I passed the young guy who had started ahead of me and I climbed up higher where the deposits in the creek had whitened all the rocks and stones; this truly was a “Silver Creek”.
Before long I was above tree line and the trail opens into a large basin with the trail very clearly defined and obviously well-traveled as it levels-out and then climbs steadily way around and to the right. The vantage from here now shows a saddle directly ahead and a large rock outcropping way high to the right and to the left of the outcropping was Redcloud Peak. I had seen many photos of this conical mountain with its rounded top and it was unmistakable. I climbed higher to where there sits a large square rock and here I sat and paused for a rest and a long drink. The young guy I had passed earlier now passed by me.
I made my way up a series of switchbacks and then again I passed the young guy just before gaining the saddle. From here it became a bit windy and I saw the long summit ridge with an edge of fresh snow up high, down to my left was a glorious view of autumn foliage all down below with steep rock gullies and some snow as well. I now climbed up a long series of rocky/scree switchbacks and reached the large rock outcropping as the trail levels some and then ahead was the summit ridge and a clear trail that just skirted the snowy edge line on the left. As I proceeded up the young guy cleared the rock outcropping and was right behind me.
I climbed the summit ridge trail and negotiated around some snow that was a dramatic contrast to the blood red dirt and rock forming this summit and the breeze kept things cool but comfortable. The summit was empty as I arrived at 9:38, and the young guy reached about 30 seconds after me. We exchanged greetings and congrats and took each others photos with our respective cameras; I introduced myself to “John” (I had seen his name on the registry and knew he was from Broomfield, CO) age 30. The views were fine from up here and Handies, Wetterhorn & Uncompahgre Peaks are all most recognizable, with Sneffels further west and many other peaks all around; too many for me to name.
We took some photos, rested, ate, and had a long drink and agreed to hike together over to a most visible Sunshine Peak due south with a very clear trail along a ridge and saddle system between the two peaks. You can only see Sunshine once you’ve gained the summit of Redcloud. From the registry we knew that there was another person some where presumable ahead of us, but we never saw them; however, just as we began our descent from Redcloud there appeared a person rounding the trail in the distance and heading back towards us.
I believe John said Redcloud Peak was number 31 for him and for me it was my 33rd 14’er.........sweet!! Now on to Sunshine Peak on this most beautiful morning...................