15 December 2009

Redcloud Peak

Redcloud from near Sunshine
4 July 2004

We hit the Redcloud trailhead by 7 a.m. beneath partly cloudy skies and less smoke, perhaps due to the otherwise unpleasant and chilly wind. Today’s treat was watching the gibbous moon set on the previous day’s bagged summit three times. As we climbed, the moon kept popping back into position over stately Handies.

We made slow progress ascending Redcloud, but the standard approach features several long, forgiving portions. Wildflowers didn’t seem as abundant as the day before on the opposite-facing slopes until we reached the tundra, and the variety didn’t seem quite as wide. Wild onions were plentiful, however, and I had not seen them in full bloom on Handies.

Redcloud has another stunning summit view, but we didn’t stop for even the customary summit shot, fearing the weather wouldn’t hold for Sunshine. We pressed on in the exuberance of my first-ever back-to-back summits a day apart and the sheer exhilaration of anticipating my first-ever dual official 14er summit day. (Conundrum does not count as a 14er in some circles because the elevation gain from the Conundrum/Castle saddle is not quite 300 feet. Big deal! Conundrum stands 14,060 feet tall. It's a 14er as far as I'm concerned!) Woohoo!

The ridge walk initially was a kick, and I celebrated by singing out loud every patriotic song I could think of until clouds building to the east and west zapped my enthusiasm. At the base of the final summit push on Sunshine, my energy was depleted and the cloud directly above us had a black tinge. I stared up, up, up at the summit and knew there was no way I could make it up fast enough to escape this potential storm, should it materialize, and then still maneuver back down and then back up and over Redcloud again. I just don’t have the speed, even when I’m 100%.

The Lizard worried I would be upset if we turned back when the destination was oh, so close, and I was worried he would be upset upon being cheated out of a new peak on his list, particularly since he had already climbed Handies and graciously offered to climb it again to get me up there. But turn back we did, without a second thought.

My attitude was lower than the valleys below us as I visualized trying to get back up Redcloud, and trying to do it fast, before lightning could move in. I knew I was dangerously close to bonk, but we felt we couldn’t afford any delay whatsoever. Redcloud seemed miles and miles away to me, and it appeared to be running further away from me with every step. To keep from crying on the climb back up from the saddle, I tried to cheerfully ask The Lizard if this would count as a second summit.

Once we were off the ridge proper, we stopped to eat. It was cold and windy, but the stingy storm had not shed a single drop of moisture, and the sun was now fighting for equal time.

The storm never became a storm; we could have kept going instead of turning back. I was back to my normal self within a few moments of devouring half a package of sweet and spicy tuna and a handful of yogurt-covered berries. Nevertheless, I did learn an important lesson. I found I skip a night of sleep here and there (driving cross-state to pick up my climbing partner and then another four hours to trailheads) and then attempt to climb high peaks with insufficient carb intake. My dream of five peaks in four days was utterly spent.
Red Redcloud


  1. As my mobility is limited, it is such a treat to read about your activities. You describe things so clearly that I feel like I have been there with you. Thank you so much.

  2. The muted colors are so awesome. Those craggy things look almost like statues. I can see how it might tire you out to try and climb ALL that. What a beautiful hike though!
    Hey that lacy flower crochet is beautiful!

  3. What a wild, untamed landscape:)

  4. What a wild and spectacular landscape:)

  5. Wow! Two awesome shots. Excellent job.

    Sad but true that we can sometimes push ourselves a bit too hard.

  6. Breathtaking images! Gone are the days when I had energy to make long drives and stay up late. I'm such a whiner when I'm tired.


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