Sunshine, Redcloud, and Handies peak skis

I’ve been wanting to do these in one trip to save drive time, so when I saw Mark was looking for partners I was all over it. He added Wetterhorn the day prior, but I couldn’t swing that – so I’ll have an extra few hours of driving and a quick peak while on the way to another San Juan peak at some point. I’d hoped to be on the road earlier but didn’t get in to the trailhead until almost midnight. Mark was awake when I got in and came to chat before I climbed in to the back of the truck with a 2:30am alarm.

We were moving right at 3:30, hiking in shoes. About 4:15am we saw what we later found out to be a StarLink train, which was quite a surprise – imagine a dozen satellites about the speed and brightness as the space station followed by another ~50 a minute later. We watched it go by for a few minutes, then continued on.

We were nearly to the summit of Redcloud at sunrise, still hiking in shoes.

We topped out on Redcloud at 6:30. This time on top wouldn’t be our “ski descent” of Redcloud so I elected to hike in my shoes to Sunshine, while Mark was antsy to get on his skis and switched over to get across the ridge. Turns out it was roughly a wash, both of us happy with our choice and getting there within a few minutes of each other.

It was a very pleasant morning, so I wasn’t in a huge rush – especially since it was only about 7:15am.

Having gotten all the way to our start-of-skiing point with hiking shoes, it was time to get my ski gear on and ready to go.

The snow hadn’t quite softened yet, but we had to ski and climb back to Redcloud before skiing, so we knew one of the skis wouldn’t have great snow.

It was firm but not awful, and we enjoyed our ski down to a chute that regained the summit ridge of Redcloud. We switched to crampons, then back to skis when it flattened out enough, and an hour later we were back on top of Redcloud getting ready to ski.

I didn’t get any photos on the Redcloud ski, but it was fast, fun, and pretty mellow. We skied by a couple of guys hiking up sans-shirts, and I can only imagine how bad of a sunburn they got that day. We skied out as far as we could, which got us within a mile of the trailhead. Mark stayed in his boots, I switched to shoes, and before we knew it we were done for the day.

It was a nice afternoon of hanging out and chatting, reading, napping, and getting ready for the next morning. It was a slightly-less-early morning, with a 4am start.

We bushwhacked and wallowed for a while through unsupportive, deep, and discontinuous snow drifts. It was a sufferfest for a while, but once we cleared treeline things became pretty straight forward.

Coverage on the east face was good, and we were able to keep skis on all the way to the summit ridge. The cornice on top was pulling back from the ridge, and the narrow strip of snow left behind was a good reminder of how far back the things can go.

It was another quick climb, with us on top at 7am.

A storm was rolling in to the southwest of us, so we got ready even though it was still early.

No pictures of the ski again, we waited briefly once we were down out of the wind, but figured we might as well just go and it could be hours if we wanted perfect snow – though it got almost perfect once we got a bit lower. We again skied as far as we could, and got within about half a mile of the trailhead. Having responsibilities at home to handle, I got ready and started the long drive about as quickly as I could after our 9am finish. It was a great couple of days away from it all, and nice to have some straightforward, easy peak days again.

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