Redcloud is the 46th highest peak in Colorado and is usually climbed in conjunction with Sunshine Peak. This is a very interesting Class 2 climb in the beautiful San Juan Range. The mountain gets its name from the beautiful red coloring of the peak. The peak is mostly Class 1 along trails but a bit of scree later in the hike make it a class 2 hike.
In Lake City begin measuring from the bridge crossing Henson Creek, heading south. Go 2.2 miles to the Lake San Cristobal Road and turn right. Go past the beautiful lake and up the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River. Continue to mile 14.3 where the road forks and a take the right fork up Cinnamon Pass Road. At mile 18.3 you will see the large parking lot at the Silver Creek - Grizzly Gulch Trailhead. There is ample parking available here and the trailhead also has toilet facilities.
Maps: Redcloud Peak, Handies Peak, Uncompahgre National Forest
The most popular route is to start from the Silver Creek- Grizzly Gulch trailhead. There is ample parking here as well as toilet facilities. From this trailhead you can climb both Redcloud and Sunshine in the same hike, then return to camp and climb Handies from the same camp. If you do the most popular route- the Redcloud/ Sunshine combo with a return over Redcloud the route is 11.4 miles with an elevation gain of 4700 feet. You can shorten the route to 9.8 miles by decending back to the trail from the saddle between Redcloud and Sunshine. However, this route is steep and full of scree and is not recommended due to the danger and the erosion. But if you are caught on the ridge when a storm hits it can be a quick bailout.
The main trail up Redcloud is the Northeast Ridge route and is rated Class 2. The route starts heading northeast past the south fork of Silver Creek. The trail gradually turns eas then south as it circles around the mountain with numerous switchbacks to the pass at 13,020 feet. From here it is up a steep trail that eventually becomes less steep up the ridge to the summit. To do the Sunshine combo is just a simple descent down the saddle and then up the other side to Sunshine.
As always, in Colorado during summer, weather can be a factor, especially in the afternoons. If you climb Redcloud and then go over to the Sunshine summit it can make for a 9-11 hour hike. I would suggest trying to be off the summits by noon if possible. If you only climb Redcloud the best descent is to descend the same route as the ascent. But if you climb Sunshine Peak also, the "approved" descent calls for climbing back to the Redcloud summit a second time and then descending the same route as the ascent. A faster, more direct descent route is available from the Redcloud/ Sunshine saddle if you need to get off the mountain quickly. However, this descent is quite steep and dangerous. More details are provided on the Sunshine Peak page for those who are going to do Sunshine Peak before descending.
Conditions on this mountain, like all Colorado 14ers, are subject to change rapidly- especially during the prime climbing summer season. The mountains are their own weather system, and weather forecasts from nearby towns often have little to do with actual mountain conditions. You can generally count on clear to partly cloudy in the morning, and heavy clouds and thunderstorms in the afternoon during the summer.
The following weather forecast is included as a guide and should not be used as a substitute for good judgement. Expect mountain conditions to be no better than forecast and possibly much worse. NOTE: The weather site is temporaily unavailable due to technical difficulties.
There is no substitute for getting an early start, and getting as much of the mountain "behind you" as early in the day as possible. Keep a good eye on the sky as weather conditions can deteriorate rapidly. The greatest weather danger is from lightning strikes, and climbers are killed almost every summer in Colorado by lightning strikes. July seems to be the most deadly month for lightning.
Two climbers were killed by lightning in Colorado within a couple days of each other in the summer of 2003. I think the following important information from Gerry Roach's book "Colorado's Fourteeners From Hikes to Climbs" bears repeating. Added here with permission from Gerry Roach:
Colorado is famous for apocalyptic lightning storms that threaten not just your life, but your soul as well. This section will have special meaning if you have ever been trapped by a storm that endures for more than an hour and leaves no gap between one peal of thunder and the next. The term simultaneous flash-boom has a very personal meaning for many Colorado Climbers
1. Lightning is dangerous!
2. Lightning is the greatest external hazard to summer mountaineering in Colorado.
3. Lightning kills people every year in Colorado's mountains.
4. Direct hits are usually fatal.
1. Start early! Be off summits by noon and back in the valley by early afternoon.
2. Observe thunderhead buildup carefully, noting speed and direction; towering thunderheads with black bottoms are bad.
3. When lightning begins nearby, count the seconds between flash and thunder, then divide by 5 to calculate the distance to the flash in miles. Repeat to determine if lightning is approaching.
4. Try to determine if the lightning activity is cloud-to-cloud or ground strikes.
5. Get off summits and ridges.
1. You cannot outrun a storm; physics wins.
2. When caught, seek a safe zone in the 45-degree cone around an object 5 to 10 times your height.
3. Be aware of ground currents; the current from a ground strike disperses along the ground or cliff, especially in wet cracks.
4. Wet ropes are good conductors.
5. Snow is not a good conductor.
6. Separate yourself from metal objects.
7. Avoid sheltering in spark gaps under boulders and trees.
8. Disperse the group. Survivors can revive one who is hit.
9. Crouch on boot soles, ideally on dry, insulating material such as moss or grass. Dirt is better than rock. Avoid water.
The following link is also helpful: Lightning Safety and Crouch
Also see this report by nchenkin
It will make you really think about lightning safety: Struck By Lightning!
Camping is readily available at no charge. There is ample space for camping and there is also a toilet facility at the trailhead. You can camp in the back country also.Try to camp out of sight as best as possible.
When To Climb
Summer is the best time and most crowded. July and August are peak months. Climb during the weekdays if you can to get a bit smaller crowds. As a rule of thumb expect afternoon storms or showers during the summer. Try to get an early start, and generally be off the summit by noon.
People Pics and Miscellaneous
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External LinksCOLORADO 14ERS INITIATIVE
LEARN MORE ABOUT COLORADO 14ERS AND VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
Leave No Trace
Check out the web site of LNT and learn some important minimum impact hiking tips.
Colorado Mountain Club
CMC’s web site will tell you all you need to know about Colorado’s largest and oldest hiking club.