Sunday, August 17, 2008
| Objectives: || Handies Peak (14,048’) – CO Rank 40 |
| Route: || Up Grizzly Gulch, Down American Basin |
| Total Distance: || ~11 miles |
| Elevation Gain: || ~3700 ft |
| Participants: || Jim, Karen, Jeremy, and Kevin |
I remember back in the summer of 2002, my friend Jesse asked me if I wanted to go for a hike over the weekend. He suggested we hike Mt Yale – a 14er, and I said “sure, what’s a 14er?” For Karen, it was a backpack filled with 5 nalgene bottles of water and 12 AA batteries for her cheap headlamp headed up Longs Peak. We were both hooked. Six years later, our adventure comes to its culmination of our 50th 14er on Handies Peak!
Car camping at the Grizzly Gulch trailhead
There was a storm moving its way up from the south over the weekend, but the forecast around Handies was shaping up like a typical summer day in Colorado: 20-30% chance of thunderstorms mostly afternoon. According to the radar, the bulk of the storm was going to stick to Tenmile/Mosquito and Front Ranges. Kevin was in the midst of a 3 day 13er fest, so we planned to meet him at the trailhead Saturday afternoon. After picking up Jeremy, we made the long drive from Colorado Springs to Lake City and arrived at the trailhead around 5pm to set up camp for the night amongst about 10-12 other people. Kevin showed up a few hours later after a side-trip up Engineer Pass, in time to catch leftovers of a fine pre-game dinner of Pizza Hut take-out and cookies.
The plan was to hike up the Grizzly Gulch trail to the summit and then return down the trail through American Basin. We debated about hiking up in the dark to catch sunrise from the summit, but ended up making a wise choice to leave just before sunset so we could catch the morning alpenglow off the east face of Handies. After some maple frosted donuts for breakfast we headed up the trail at about 5:15am. We spent a lot of the trip up telling stories about our first 14er hikes and enjoying an amazing sunrise. The early morning clouds made for terrific lighting effects on the surrounding peaks. It was truly one of the most beautiful morning hikes I’ve ever taken!
The trail was gradual and easy to follow as it cut back to the north above treeline and gained the ridge between Handies and 13er Whitecross Mtn. The wind picked up as we started up the last 200 feet to the false summit and American Basin came into view.
Karen and I walked hand-in-hand up the last 100-ft and across to the summit, topping out at 8:15am – woohoo! #50! We donned some ceremonial garb as Kevin and Jeremy joined us to celebrate. Thanks for joining us on this and many of our other trips guys! Jeremy gave us a pair of Colorado mountain glasses and had lugged up a bottle of white grape juice for us to all share at the top – thanks Jeremy! It was fairly windy on the summit, but we stayed there for about 45 minutes to take pictures and enjoy the views. I was glad the storm weather had stayed east as the views of the surrounding peaks were some of the best I had seen!
Kevin was interested in getting Whitecross on the way down and Jeremy decided to join him. Karen and I wanted to head down into American Basin to check out Sloan Lake so we parted ways and made plans to meet up again somewhere on the 4wd road below American Basin. The descent to Sloan Lake was pleasant and I was still focused on the beauty of the surrounding peaks. We spent about 20 minutes enjoying the lake and listening to rockfall across the water on American Peak.
Sloan Lake and American Peak
Below Sloan Lake the wildflowers in American Basin were out in full force and made for more great pictures. Once back on the road we picked up the pace a bit and met up with Kevin and Jeremy again about 2 miles down from the upper 4wd trailhead.
Highlights from their trip over to Whitecross included more great views, Jeremy taking a spill while crossing the creek dropping our loaner trekking pole in the process, and Kevin’s clutch save of that trekking pole further downstream. Back to the cars at 12:25pm to successfully finish off #50. Thanks for being there Kevin and Jeremy!
Karen and I never set out to finish Colorado’s 14ers, it’s actually something I never thought I had the ability to do, but rather a way to get out and enjoy the mountains. I remember reaching the catwalk on Mt Eolus back in 2005 and choosing to stop there because the exposure and scrambling ahead just looked too intense for me to want to keep going. I also remember the night before Karen and I hiked El Diente, when the anxiety of being on that mountain nearly caused us to just get up in the morning and drive home. But along our journey we gained experience and the skills to hike progressively more challenging mountains. We found awesome instructors with the Colorado Mountain Club that taught us the basics of rock and ice-climbing, and basic snow travel. We also had a lot of support from Kevin, and as a result were able to summit some of the challenging peaks we never thought we’d even attempt. It wasn’t until the summer of 2007 when I started to realize we had the technical ability to take it all the way. But we learned an important lesson since then, one about understanding your limits and being out there for the right reasons. This summer we managed a fantastic snow climb up the hourglass on Little Bear with Kevin, and returned to conquer the fear we had experienced on Mt Eolus. Both were fantastic trips that showed us how far we had come on our journey, and pushed us to our limits. But along the way, I realized how obsessed I had become with “the list” and we found ourselves in situations that just weren’t fun anymore. So we’re putting “the list” behind us and getting back to the fun where it all started. Hiking the 14ers has been an amazing journey, one that’s shown us the great Rocky Mountains all over Colorado and resulted in several great friendships. We’ve come a long way since those first trips up Mt Yale and Longs Peak, and we’re looking forward to many more trips with friends on all the other great peaks Colorado has to offer! 50 14ers – not too shabby for a pair of Virginia and Kansas transplants!
| || Karen || Jim |
| Overall Favorite 14er: || El Diente Peak || Mt. Sneffels |
| Most Enjoyable Climb: || Crestone Peak || Crestone Needle |
| Least Favorite 14er: || Challenger Point || Mt. Columbia |
| Most Challenging 14er: || Mt. Eolus || Little Bear Peak |
| Biggest Conquering Feat: || Little Bear Peak || Little Bear Peak |
| Favorite Summit Views: || Quandary Peak || Mt. Sneffels |