ascent route: northeast ridge of Redcloud peak from Silver Creek
descent route: northwest face of Sunshine via Redcloud's connecting ridge.
14,001' Sunshine Peak
photo- A look up at the northwest face of Sunshine peak. photo by Joel Paula, 2011.
It was finally spring and I was on vacation for the better part of six weeks. I had plans to head down to Durango and then Chicago Basin with a group of friends in a couple of days but Joel and I were done with work for the time being and had a couple extra days free to ride peaks before meeting up with the rest of our group in Durango.
A couple weeks ago I had been given the gate combo to the Cinnamon pass road by a guy in a Hinsdale county truck that I struck up a conversation with when camping at the Nellie Creek Trailhead. He said that they had plowed all the way to American Basin but then got a snow storm that made the road too dangerous to be open to the general public. He commented that my Blazer would have no problem with the road and that we seemed to know what we were doing (???? thanks for the vote of confidence?).
photo- Base camp on Cinnamon pass at the Silver Creek trailhead. photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.
Anyway, since I had a combo to my own personal non-mechanized ski area we decided to head towards Cinnamon pass on the 4th. I had snowboarded Redcloud and Handies but had not ridden Sunshine yet (having only climbed it in the summer previously). Joel had not climbed any of these peaks so the Cinnamon pass area seemed like a good place to find some turns and good views.
We set up camp on the night of the 4th and were up well before sun up on the 5th for a summit attempt on Sunshine. We hiked for a mile or so and as the sun came into view we were able to switch over and start skinning pretty quickly. Joel had not climbed Redcloud yet and even though I had already summited it a couple times two mountains in a day are almost always better than one so we followed Redcloud's standard route up Silver Creek (with some variation for snow cover) to Redcloud's summit.
photo- Joel Paula skinning above Silver Creek towards the summit of Redcloud. photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.
photo- Zach Taylor contemplating lines in Silver Creek. photo by Joel Paula, 2011
We took a brief rest on the summit of Redcloud before heading across the ridge to the summit of Sunshine. I had already snowboarded off the summit of Redcloud previously via the WNW couloir and the 350' ridge ski from Redcloud's summit to the adjoining saddle with Sunshine did not seem worth the trouble of transitioning my splitboard, etc... so I just walked the ridge across while Joel skied down. He threw his skis on his back at the low point of the Redcloud/Sunshine saddle and we wandered on up to the summit of Sunshine from there.
photo- Joel Paula walking the ridge across to Sunshine with Redcloud pictured in the background. photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.
photo- Joel on the summit of Sunshine peak getting ready for some May turns. photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.
photo- Zach Taylor on the summit of Sunshine. photo by Joel Paula, 2011
We hung out on the summit for a few minutes enjoying the views and the sunshine. We rode off the summit of Sunshine back down the ridge towards Redcloud for about 100'-200' and then dropped into the north face. From the ridgeline it looked like the upper part of the north face would be bony but doable. It turned out to be a scree field with 3" or so of fresh snow. In the spirit of summit descent ethics we still billy goated through the rock fields. Joel and I made jump turns in scree, and many other ungraceful movements to get through the scree field with plank/planks attached. We made progress like that for about 300' vertical. Thanks to the mountain Gods for inventing P-Tex (and the guy in Durango that tuned my board afterwords)!
Pretty soon we got far enough down and consistant snow returned. We enjoyed some quality powder turns down the east face:
photo- Joel sking off the summit of Sunshine. photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.
photo- Joel adhering to the ethics of 14er summit ski descents. photo by Zach Taylor, 2011
photo- Joel skiing down the north face of Sunshine. photo by Zach Taylor, 2011.
photo- Zach Taylor riding Sunshine. photo by Joel Paula, 2011.
photo- Zach Taylor descending the lower northwest face of Sunshine. photo by Joel Paula, 2011
I felt a little silly sliding through the rockfield with my board still attached to my feet but since that was the only way to make the summit descent "official" in the eyes of the community I did it. With two summits of Sunshine under my belt and so many other mountains to climb out there I did not want to return to this basin only because I did not technically get a summit descent previously. Don't get me wrong here I like the basin but when/if I return to these peaks I did not want a list to be the reason for the return.
photo- Zach Taylor riding out the bottom of Sunshine's northwest face. photo by Joel Paula, 2011.