Handies Peak

14er Report #36: Handies Peak (Very Late Summer Conditions–Snow!, East Slopes Route)

Handies, #3. San Juan Mountains, CO, 2017
Handies, #3. San Juan Mountains, CO, 2017 (Both autumn and winter are approaching at the same time!)
Memories made in the mountains stay in our hearts forever.

With a pending move to Barcelona this year, I thought I might get motivated and finish the basic list of 58 14ers this year but, alas, ’twas not to be. Rock climbing seemed to be the outdoor priority for me this year. So, I guess I’ll be back from Spain for a month or two next year with the remaining 14ers in my sights! Who wants to join me?

This particular trip up Handies (and the one to follow, up Uncompahgre) was special in that I was able to team up with a very close friend from way, way, waaay back in junior high and high school days–Rik Fritz. In fact, he called me up and got me going back to the big mountains on this trip instead of the local rock climbing crag.

Rik is an amazing guy and really needs to write a book about his exploits with rattlesnakes, on Yosemite big walls, on long, high altitude, cross country flights in his hang glider, and on his seriously salty sailing adventures. He is definitely a man who has lived life to the fullest–and continues to do so. (See my near-death blog post from June 27, 2017, “The Fall” to catch a bit of what I mean.)

It was great to catch up with him and talk about all that “Back In The Day” stuff! Ahhh…the stories…the stories…and all included at least 10% truth!

Our initial goal for the 3-4 days we had available was to haul our fannies up Sneffels, Uncompahgre, and Wetterhorn, starting with the Class 3 scrambling route on this last one, “Weather Peak”. Handies wasn’t even on the list. But, ah, the best laid plans…In mid-to-late September in the Colorado Rockies, weather can be tricky and fickle pickle, as we quickly discovered.

A pounding, hours-long, cold rainstorm the night before–as we camped at the Wetterhorn/Matterhorn Trailhead–made us rethink things. There would surely be snow above and, sure enough, morning revealed a heavy coating on the high peaks tapering off finally at about treeline. Hmmm…best not to do exposed Class 3 scrambling on icy and snowy rock without the proper gear and attitude, we both said. So, instead of Wetterhorn, off to Handies we bounced in our 4×4 pickups–Handies would be a much easier peak, even with a wet, white blanket o’ schnee.

What follows, then, is what eventually transpired, to the best of my sometimes-faulty recollection, along with my usual merry montage of inspiring images…

…Click here for the rest o’ the story!

14er Report #32: Redcloud and Sunshine (Very Late Spring/Summer, Northeast Ridge/Traverse)

Moonrise, and Redcloud Peak Shadow. Redcloud Peak, Colorado, 2016
Moonrise, and Shadow of Redcloud Peak. From Redcloud Peak, Colorado, 2016
“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”
Edward Whymper, Scrambles Amongst the Alps


“…a momentary negligence…look well to each step…” Yep, that was it. Not paying attention. Complacency. Luckily, it wasn’t near the scale of accident that Ed Whymper suffered on the slopes of the Matterhorn. Still, it could easily have been much worse.

But, more on that later.

For this first 14er trip of the season, I thought the Redcloud-Sunshine combo down south in the San Juan Mountains would be just the ticket. The standard route is not particularly difficult, not too torturously long, and you get two for a bit more than the price of one. It sounded like a nice motivational way to get started after nary a big Colorado mountain ascent since last fall.

It turned out to be quite the adventure, with some spectacular sunset and sunrise photo ops from my overnight solo bivvy above 14,000 feet, and even an unusually eventful return to Boulder after the hike…along with the little “incident” alluded to in the first paragraph, of course.


Here is the full report, along with 38 images to help you plan your own trip into the sensational San Juans…

Click here for the report and images!