-members of group: Mike Bannister, Ben Jordan, and Zach Taylor
-ascent route: east ridge
-descent route: west couloir
Redcloud Peak 14,034'
photo- Mike Bannister sking the west face. photo by Zach Taylor
Despite the fairly dry winter it had been a very snowy spring so far. We had just climbed and snowboarded Wilson's northwest face a couple days prior and Handies west face the day before, both in whiteouts. We woke up excitedly to clear skies at 3:30 am. It was the first time I had seen clear skies at the begining of a mountain climb in some time. We ate breakfast, Mike and Ben brewed coffee, and we were off at 4:20am.
I had climbed the standard summer route last summer and new the way. We had debated whether to climb the west face we intended to ride or ascend the east ridge. We decided to ascend the east ridge for several reasons. I had already been that way previously so route finding could be kept to a minimum. The west face was supposed to be a fairly straightforward descent. Since we were ascending the solar aspect(east) first we would be able to have a decent idea of any wet slab danger despite not climbing our intended descent line.
We hiked up to about treeline before hitting continous snow. Mike and Ben elected to skin up the creek. I hiked above the creek close to where the summer trail runs. We made our way up the basin like this until meeting back up in the head of the basin. We climbed up to the pass between Redcloud and Point 13,832'. The sun's warm rays finally hit us here. We turned right and continued up the ridge towards Redcloud's summit.
Redcloud is one of my favorite "hike up" 14ers because the view from high on this mountain rivals that of any other peak in Colorado. It is one of the few peaks in Colorado's most beautiful, remote, and rugged mountain range, the San Juans, that you can hike without having to pay attention to handholds or rockfall hazards.
We summited around 8:30am. We had blue skies above us but a dark wall of clouds was moving towards us from the west. We had considered climbing and riding Sunshine too but that was out after looking at he storm fast approaching.
photo-Mike Bannister marveling at the view from high on Redcloud's east ridge. photo by Zach Taylor, 2010
We took some summit shots......
photo-Zach Taylor on the summit of Redcloud. photo by Ben Jordan, 2010
photo-Ben Jordan(left) and Mike Bannister(right) on the summit of Redcloud. photo by Zach Taylor, 2010
.....and began our descent. There are two primary snowlines you can take down the west face of Redcloud. One drops from the ridge just to the north of Redcloud's summit and the other from the ridge just to the south of Redcloud's summit. We choose the northerly line because it had continuous snow from the summit. We rode down the ridge to the top of the couloir and then dropped in one at a time. The snow from the top to the bottom was probably the worst snow I have ever ridden. Indeed it bordered on being unridable. The snow through most of the line looked like the product of an unholy union between Colorado suncups and South American penitentes. We still had fun because of the area and the company but the snow conditions were no good. Here are the obligatory action shots(taken between repeated falls hehe):
photo-Ben Jordan sking the west face of Redcloud. photo by Zach Taylor, 2010
photo:Mike Bannister on the west face of Redcloud. photo by Zach Taylor, 2010
photo-Zach Taylor descending the west face of Redcloud. photo by Mike Banniste, 2010
The couloir dumped out into the drainage a bit above treeline. We were able to ride to within a couple hundred vertical feet below treeline before the snow petered out. We hiked out the drainage until it intersected with Silver Creek and the summer trail which we hiked out on.
The pitch angle I would guess never exceded much over 40 degrees. There is not alot of technical difficulty on this line as far as 14ers go. It is a very large avalanche path so depending on snow conditions and the time of year you have to be very careful of this hazard. I would have liked to hit this line on a sunny day where the snow may have been softer. It clouded over too quickly for the snow to ever thaw.