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Sunshine Peak
Elevation: 14,001 feet
Climbed: Aug 6, 2003
Mountain Range: San Juan Range
Colorado Rank: 53rd
Class Rating: 2
Latitude: 37.922800
Longitude: -107.425000

Trip Report

Aug 6, 2003
After reaching Redcloud's summit (trip report), we planned to traverse to Sunshine and then return to Redcloud before descending.

After working so hard to get to the summit of Redcloud, it was kind of depressing to give back our elevation gains as we traversed to Sunshine. The traverse was steepest on the Redcloud end, with a long saddle connecting the two peaks. Redcloud and Sunshine are about 1 1/3 miles apart.

As we worked our way across the saddle, the clouds continued to gather. The trail was strewn with talus, and as it began climbing steeply toward Sunshine, the footing was very loose. By the time we reached the summit of Sunshine Peak, the weather was worsening.

We took a few summit photos and talked to some fellow climbers who had come up from the other side. Due to the weather and wind that was approaching, we discussed taking another way down. We decided against that option and proceeded with our original plan of descending via the same route we followed on the climb

We had a sense of urgency as we headed back across the saddle. As the wind began to blast across the trail, we looked at the blackening sky and Redcloud looming just ahead, blocking our path. With a last second reevaluation, we committed to climbing Redcloud and testing our luck against the weather.

As the wind and dark clouds blew in, we began to ascend Redcloud for the second time that day. To our surprise, we encountered a group of kids, no more than ten years old, descending Redcloud in shorts, T-shirts, and other light clothing. They were not carrying any supplies, such as rain gear, food, or even water. Trailing behind them were their apparent chaperones, who didn't appear to be any older than eighteen. They were carrying what appeared to be minimal supplies, but probably not sufficient for a party of their size.

The weather was starting to turn nasty as we reached the Redcloud summit, just as an older couple arrived at the summit from the other direction. The woman was wearing low-traction tennis shoes and was obviously cold as she clung to her husband for balance. Randy offered her his rain gear for the trip down, but she insisted she would be fine. She mentioned that she wasn't much of a mountain climber, but she was quite the quilter.

We left the summit of Redcloud just as the cold, driving rain moved in. We put on all of our rain gear, which included parkas and pants, and resumed our journey down the wet, talus-covered ridge. Randy was descending faster than I could manage. With the wind and rain blasting the ridge, Randy looked up at me; I gave him a hearty thumbs-up and a huge Yeehaw!

By the time we dropped below the saddle leading to the "Sound of Music" basin, the wind and rain began to let up. We hiked through occasional drizzle, but soon found we didn't need the rain gear any more. We stopped once to rest and snack, but for the most part, our focus was now on eating up the miles and getting back to camp.

The hike back down the trail was uneventful, though the miles were wearing us down. We once more plodded along the trail as it passed the snow bridge spanning the stream and crossed several significant talus fields.

Using his walkie-talkie, Randy tried to contact Wild Mike at camp. Eventually, we were close enough to make contact and let Wild Mike know we were nearing the trailhead. When we finally emerged from the forest, Wild Mike was there to meet us.

Josh and Wild Mike had already broken their camp, after spending part of the day in Lake City. Josh had experienced some altitude sickness, so Wild Mike took him to a lower elevation. That seemed to do the trick, since Josh was fine by the time we saw him.

Randy and I immediately broke our camp, as well. In no time flat, things were packed up and we were on our way to Ouray via Animas Forks and Silverton.


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