San Juan Adventure

With the practical climbing season starting to wind down, I still had one goal of 2005 left to achieve; that was to climb a peak in the San Juan Range. I have climbed at least one peak in the highest hundred in each of Colorado’s 7 ranges that house one, except the San Juans. The one limiting factor is that even the closest peaks are at least a 4 hour drive away, making it too far to climb in one day. I have been trying to convince people to head down with me, but it seems those plans have never panned out. I took it upon myself to go explore this range and hope that maybe my photos will inspire others to join me on more trips there next season. This weekend was a beautiful fall weekend, and despite some light snow in the high country on Thursday, I decided to head down before the peaks got any more snowed in. I chose to head to Lake City one of the closest towns in the San Juans but still a 4 hour drive from my house. The town has 5 fourteeners nearby and several centennial peaks as well. The initial plan was to get a hotel on Saturday night and head to the trailhead, about a half hour away, on Sunday morning. That didn’t quite work out, the problem was the wine and music festival in town had all of the rooms booked! I had brought a blanket “just in case” I had to sleep in my car, and it was good that I brought it because I needed it. I drove to the trailhead, had a sandwich, and went to bed. I slept okay considering, and woke up at around 5.15 in the morning. I decided that rather than try and squeeze another hour or so of sleep before sunrise, I would just get up and start early by headlamp. I hit the trail at 6, and after an hour the sun was starting to light up the basin enough to turn the lamp off. I made the summit of Redcloud Peak (14,034’) at about 8.30, with only a minimal amount of snow to deal with on the trail. The snow was hard packed in the cold morning, and not more than a couple of inches deep. Most of the ridge and summit had blown clear of all the snow and it was only confined to a few spots that get less sun. From here I made the mile plus traverse over to its companion, Sunshine Peak. At 14,001’ it is the lowest fourteener, and my 20th overall. The summit lived up to its name, as it was basking in warm sunshine. I found a spot out of the wind and had a nice 20 minute break for snacks and sunscreen.

The return route required re-climbing Redcloud, and made it back there at around 10am. From there I descended to the saddle on the trail and decided I had the time to make the extra mile traverse over to the next neighboring peak, unnamed Point 13,832. This peak is the state’s 90th highest summit, and was soon to become my 35th peak in the highest hundred. Not bad for two seasons of climbing! These peaks are all relatively close together, but still it made for a long day with climbing three peaks (one of them twice). I was back at the car at about 1pm, after 14 miles of hiking and over a mile of total altitude gain. I was glad to get back so early though as it was a 4 1/2 hour drive from the trailhead to my house. I stopped for lunch and gas in Gunnison on the way back and was home at around 6. Perhaps the best part of the whole hike though was the amazing display of fall color! All of the aspen trees were a brilliant golden color, and combined with the dark green pine trees, blue sky, and white capped peaks it was a perfect fall day. If the weather keeps holding up, hopefully there will be a few more peak excursions this October, but if not at least this past weekend will have made for a perfect to end to the season.