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May 27, 2007

Partners: Frank Konsella, Jordan White

Route Description: Began at American Basin. Followed standard route up to summit. Skied E or NE face down to Grizzly Gulch. Shuttled cars between the two trailheads

Data: Began at American Basin at 5:55 am. We were able to get past the 4x4 road, but we were not able to drive all the way to the actual TH due to snow, so approximately starting elevation was 11,400 ft. Skinned all the way to the summit via the standard route. Summited at 8:30 am ( 14,048 ft). Skied down E and NE faces and chutes down to Grizzly Gulch. We skied to about 11,150 ft and then had to hike down from there. Arrived at Grizzly Gulch TH (10,400 ft) at about 10:30 am. Total vert climbed: 2,650 ft. Total vert skied: 2,900 ft. How many 14ers do you get to ski more than you climb??? :) Total time: 4.5 hours.

Relevant Links: TGR Trip Report

Jordan, Frank, and I skied Sunshine and Redcloud on Saturday. That night we stayed in our camping spot at the Silver Creek and Grizzly Creek trailheads. We were tired from a short night of sleep, so we spent the afternoon eating and lounging around camp. Jon Turner knew we'd be at this trailhead and had intentions of hitting Handies with us the next day. It was lucky that Frank had his ski boots in obvious view, because Jon and his friend found us without any problems. We welcomed them into our camp and we had a good time hanging out that night. But with the short night before and the upcoming 4 am wake up call once again, we were in bed before dark even hit!

From Redcloud and the Silver Creek trail, the east face of Handies could be seen easily. We'd taken pictures of this face and plotted out a tentative line. We choose not to approach Handies from the east via Grizzly Gulch. Frank and I had already attempted this route on April 1st, but we were forced to turn around.... this was back when the road to the trailhead was not open, making for a long day. Instead, we chose to climb the shorter route from the north starting at American Basin at 11,400 ft, about 1000 less feet of climbing. But we wanted to ski down the east face. So, we ended up shuttling cars between the two trailheads.

We began driving up the road in the dark toward Cinnamon Pass. By the time we'd reached the turn off to the 4x4 rd that goes to American Basin (at 11,300 ft) it was light. We were able to drive a bit up this road, but I believe you'd be able to go a bit further in the summer. No matter, the climb wasn't going to be bad from 11,400 ft :)

Frank getting ready for the skin in the morning, at 6 am.

The views in American Basin are spectacular!

A short way's up, Jon and his friend opted to take a more direct route to the summit. Frank, Jordan, and I opted against this, being tired from the day before and with a big day ahead the next day. This picture shows them attempting to skin up the north face of Handies. That attempt was short-lived and they eventually ended up booting up the face.

Jordan, Frank, and I followed the standard route to the summit. It was an easy route and we were able to skin all the way up to the summit! I wasn't feeling well on the way up however. Earlier in the week I found out I had strep throat and was recovering from that. Short nights and hard work didn't help my recovery and I ended up hurling a couple of times on the way up. Nevertheless, 2.5 hours after starting we were at the top!

Redcloud on the left, Sunshine on the right.


Sneffels, looking so good!

Quoted from Frank himself, these are "Needles and Grenadiers, a sub-range of the San Juans. Eolus is in there. More impressive, however, are the peaks on the right. Left to right are Vestal (famous wham ridge facing camera (read roof of the rockies), Arrow and Pigeon."

We waited until about 9 am for Jon and his friend to summit, but we couldn't wait any longer. The sun was quickly warming the east face and if we didn't hit it soon the snow would turn to slop. So, we decided to go for it. As we were dropping in, we could see them booting up the north face. We found out that they wanted to descend their ascent route and I wished them well. Later we found out part of the reason for this is because some equipment had fallen out of one of their packs and they wanted to go back to retrieve it!

Frank dropped in first while I shot video from the top.


Jordan skiing the upper face.

The upper east face was actually pretty steep and had my adrenaline pumping a bit. The snow was prime and that section was one of the best things I've skied all season!!!!

Me on the upper east face.

We then all went down a bit further to the entrance of a couple of couloirs. There was one to our skiers left and to our skiers right. We opted to drop into the skiers left couloir. I went first with the intention of setting up video part way down the couloir in a safe zone.

When I stopped, I shouted back up, "It's a bit icy still!" (it was slightly north facing). Jordan dropped in next.

Jordan found that the same snow which had supported me, did not support him (he IS a whole foot and 2 inches taller than me afterall!) For him it turned to breakable crust. Because of this, Frank opted for the chute on skiers right. I shot video of him from below.


Me skiing the last couloir.


When we reached the basin we still had a lot of skiing to do! The snow was still wonderful corn!!!



When we reached treeline, the snow became collapsable and unsupportive. We rallied through it for quite a while however!

We were able to ski to about 11,150 ft (nearly 3000 vert of skiing), which was 250 ft lower than we started! It's a great day when you can ski further than the elevation you started from! :) We did have to hike about 750 ft down on the trial to the trailhead. After a leisurely day, we were back at camp by 10:30 am, 4.5 hours after we started.

We met up with Jon and his friend back at camp and shared stories. Handies is a great mountain no matter what you ski. There are options for everyone of every ability. I would gladly go back and ski Handies again.

After hanging around camp for a bit, we packed up and headed in to Lake City to stay with jwhite's grandparents who were visiting from Texas. They were staying in their family cabin in Lake City. Grandma's cooking was oh so good! I think the deer liked it too!


The next morning we headed on over to Creede to tackle San Luis.

Route Pictures

Click for a larger view.

Line skied on Handies, seen from below. Blue marks the line that Jordan and I skied, green marks the route Frank skied.


Photos contributed by Frank Konsella and Jordan White.