Monday, August 8, 2011

Trip Report: Handies Peak

As the last hurrah of summer 2011, we planned a trip up to Colorado this past weekend to get into some cooler air and beautiful scenery.  Oh yeah...we were going to attempt to summit our third 14er too :)

Accompanying us on this trip were my brother and sister, Nick and Claire, as well as one of Leni's co-workers, Rob.

Nick, Claire, Leni and I left Los Alamos together early on Friday morning.  We made the drive up to the last city before the road to the trailhead, Lake City.  This is a delightful, small mountain community built upon a historical 19th century mining boom.

If you ever go to Lake City, you MUST go to the restaurant pictured above.  Three words: pulled pork nachos.  I would trade an average to better-than-average friend for these.

After hanging out in the city for a while, it was time to begin the journey up the 20 mile road to the trailhead.  The first 12 miles were smooth sailing driving.  The website that gave details concerning the road had called this a "rough 2WD road".  We were braving this in our 1988 Toyota Corolla and Nick and Claire were in their much newer Pontiac Vibe.  This was no problem when the road went from pavement to packed dirt and when it transitioned to gravel and rocks, it was okay at first.  But the rocks started getting bigger and closer together and it became a pretty stressful drive.  Here's some video of Leni getting Nick and Claire's car over a particularly rough spot.

We all made it up and over but not without some scraping, some bottoming out, and almost getting high-centered.  If I were authoring that website, I would have labeled the road as "High Clearance Only".

We found a parking spot about a mile below the actual trailhead.  The views were really breath-taking.

Not too long after we arrived, Rob arrived too.  It was dinner time.  Rob's dinner cracked me up.

The morning came quickly and we got up, ate, packed our daypacks, and were off!  

Virtually all of the trail is through fields of wild flowers.  The word on the street is that the peak season for viewing these blooming beauties is the last week in July and the first week and August...perfect!

Not too far up the trail, we happened upon this waterfall.  I hadn't seen pictures of it or read about it in online trip reports so it was a nice surprise.

This was Nick and Claire's first 14er so it was nice that the trail was relatively easy.  I say relatively because there's really no such thing as an "easy" 14er.  But the nice thing was the steep parts weren't too long and they were usually routed with switchbacks.  That said, it was still challenging.

Nick, Claire and Dottie

Rob plowing ahead with our pooches

Leni and the dogs with the peaks that watched over us all day
At about 12,800 feet in elevation and about 2.5 to 3 miles in, we came upon a clear lake called Sloan Lake.  The online pictures of it were good but didn't do it near enough justice.  It was a perfect place for a snack break.

We kept going.  The trail was well-defined and we were moving at a good pace, given the varying levels of experience in the crowd.  A bit above the lake and we came upon a scree field crossing followed by some of the steeper switchbacks of the climb.

From the saddle, the summit was looking pretty close.  The trail was generally steep but that was compounded by the gravel that covered it.  It was exhausting because the gravel caused us to lose footing and sometimes slide back a bit.  This was the toughest spot for me.

Here are some summit shots:

Looking southwest back to Sloan Lake

Looking east into Grizzly Gulch, home to another route that summits Handies
Rob, Leni and the dogs were waiting for me when I got to the summit

Nick, Claire and Dottie arrived not too long after me

Me and the dogs enjoying the long rest on the summit

The Moores with Sloan Lake in the background

The Moores and Porters
It was time for the journey down.  That gravel just below the summit was hell and I slid out a little.  Before too long, we were back down to the lake where we had another snack and pumped some water.  Just below the lake, we ran into a couple making their way up the trail with their two goats.  Awesome.

When we got back down to the waterfall, we left Nick and Claire there, as Claire wanted to do a little water color painting of it.  Rob, Leni and I pushed on the final stretch to camp.  My feet were very tired and wanted badly to get out of my hiking boots.  I settled down for a little nap and when I woke up, Nick and Claire were back and it was time to start dinner.

The next day, we started the dreaded drive back down the awful road.  Things were much easier going down than coming up, a major godsend.  We stopped for lunch in Pagosa Springs and then made our way home from there.

It was another good trip to summit a 14er.  We are SO blessed that we've always had good weather for these trips.  I read trip reports all the time about people making big trips to CO only to have their bid for the summit destroyed by storms.  Here's hoping for similar blessings in the future!

Keep It Real!

1 comment:

  1. Nice outline! I really enjoyed it. Looking through my rose-colored glasses, I can't even remember how much I hated that last push up the summit. Thanks for a fun trip!