Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Another day, another 14er (Handies Peak)

Yesterday we enjoyed hiking Uncompahgre Peak, today we are off in search of another one. We're planning to drive to Salida this evening to meet a friend of Jill's, so we wanted a relatively short hike. We chose Handies Peak, 14048'. From the 4WD trailhead it is only a 2500' 6-mile round trip, or from the regular trailhead 2800' in 7.3 miles. The creek crossing to the 4WD trailhead is a bit ugly for a long wheelbase vehicle, not worth scraping the back bumper just to save a mile of easy walking. The drive from Lake City took about an hour, the last couple miles would have been doable 2WD high clearance but it was less stressful with the gear lever in 4WD. The road is part of the Alpine Loop scenic byway, there was a vehicle every few minutes including lots of rental Jeeps and ATVs.

Handies Peak is supposed to have better than average views, as Colorado 14ers go; based on a sample size N=2 I would agree. The weather was once again almost perfect, but with 20-25 mph winds on the summit we only spent about 15 minutes there. It took us 2:35 to get to the summit, all easy walking on a good trail at a comfortable pace, and 1:45 to get back down, not counting the lunch stop at Sloan Lake (a small scenic lake at 12900').

At the summit, I was impressed by one guy we met there. He said Handies was the first peak he climbed after moving west from the flatlands at age 65 just after retiring. He hiked it every few years since then, this year he is 79, and says next year at age 80 he might hang it up. It took him two hours to summit from the upper trailhead. You gotta have role models....

It is a very busy trail, as you might guess by the relatively easy access. As we were ascending the last few hundred feet, stopping to add layers against the wind, we were passed by this guy demonstrating another way to gear up for a 14er hike -- T-shirt, headband, no water, no nothing. We overheard him say it wasn't his first time there...

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