Date Climbed: 8/15/2015
Elevation: 14,058 Ft
Partners: Mom, Dad and Zachary
Green. One word that best describes this tame hike up one of the most "remote" 14ers in Colorado. Although the climb was a bit of an accident, it was a great way to wrap up a week long journey through the San Juans surrounding Lake City. Just the day previous, we had to rescue my stranded four-wheeler which had fallen off the road onto the steep grassy slopes below. Thankfully, it had not rolled and simply slid down about 100 feet off the road. The ordeal (chronicled in a previous article) resulted in a visit from my parents and brother. After a successful rescue, we returned the next day (from the Silverton side) for an attempt on Handies.
The day was beautiful with only a few clouds in the sky. The forecast called for late afternoon showers, by which time we should be off the mountain. Because of a recent experience, my brother and I were still leery of any thunderstorms in the area. This being Zachary's second 14er and his first being a disaster, I was determined that this would be a good experience for everyone involved.
The trail was relatively crowded, but nothing crazy as we began the hike up. Around every bend lay more flowers, occasionally interrupted by the steady stream of to the hiker's right. The thin air slowed our group down significantly; thankfully we didn't have far to go and the views made the effort that much easier! Around the first bend, the full scale of American basin lay around us- jagged peaks to the right, domes ahead, and the gentle, green slopes of Handies Peak off to our left.
About half way up the trail, we came alongside a small lake. It was at this point that American Peak captured my imagination, and I was certain I would be back to climb it (and hopefully ski it if my leg heals properly).
Once the green meadows gave way to a rocky trail, the going became even slower. My mom, who grew up in Colorado, obviously had the lungs for it as she was far ahead of my brother and dad. Like most Coloradans, she seemed to get faster with altitude, rather than slower. Just as the trail began the final switchbacks which led to the gentle slopes below the summit, I began to worry my brother and dad might give up as they seemed to be stopping every few feet now. At this point, I stopped and put on a layer and waited for them at the top of the switchbacks. My mom pointed out some other peaks in the area while I talked about what the rest of the week had been like.
Just as the other two arrived, I put my pack back on and told them we had less than 10 minutes to the summit. With that, they continued, aiming for the group of people already on top.
A little huffing and puffing, head down, one foot in front of the other later, and we were on the summit, greeted by some others who had followed our progress. The views from the summit were stunning; off in the distance lay Uncompaghre and Wetterhorn, alongside Sunshine and Redcloud. Once everyone had caught their breath, we took a look at the weather and decided to take a quick picture and head down.
After a quick picture, we began the hike down. As with most easier 14ers, the hike down was much quicker than the hike up. Once back on the green grass, I stopped to take in the views and snap some pictures.
Back at the trailhead, we hoped on the four wheelers and continued back to Silverton. This was the first (and only) time all four of us had hiked a 14er together. A great finish to a great week!