Mountaineering – San Juan Peak Bagging Extravaganza, Drive Out

The San Juan mountains of Colorado have some of the most rugged, remote, and beautiful peaks. Erin and I wanted to try our hand at bagging several summits in one long weekend. Our three day schedule was jam packed:
Day 1: Handies Peak (With optional Bi-Centennial Pt. 13,795)
Day 2: American, Jones, and Niagara (As many as we could get of these!)
Day 3: Redcloud and Sunshine (With optional Centennials Pt. 13,832 and Pt. 13,811)

Thus, on a Wednesday, I drove to Erin’s and we filled Bertha with mountaineering gear, coolers, beer, and camp chairs. We were both giddy with excitement; to get the heck out of Denver and into the mountains.

Road to American Basin
Bertha on Cinnamon Pass Road

Our drive was pretty uneventful and went smoothly. We stopped in Gunnison, at The Bean for lunch. I ordered a turkey and cheese sandwich with a side salad and refreshed my coffee. The food was fresh and delicious, I wolfed it down in mere minutes.

We got to Lake City a couple hours later, I think it was around 6pm when we rolled through town. It was really cute, but we didn’t have time to stop except to top off on some gas.

We still had to drive another 22+ miles, down gravel roads, to get to the trailhead for American Basin. Driving up the Cinnamon Pass shelf road was exciting! Erin did a great job maneuvering her truck and it was fortunate the road was dry.

When we passed the Silver Creek-Grizzly Gulch Trailhead, the road became more degraded. Erin plowed up the road and more than once used the tactic of our forward momentum to make progress. At one point there was a steep rocky slab which I thought we would hit dead on, but Bertha just bounced right on up and over!

There were two main obstacles in this section of road and then we had made it to the 11,300 ft parking. We probably could have made it the last mile, up to 11,700 ft, but light was fading and there was a significant creek crossing which was questionable in the RWD truck.

When we pulled into the trailhead, there was another truck there and two dudes who were setting up their cots. Even in the remote San Juan’s, we were not alone at the trailhead! With an early wake-up time, we didn’t stay up much longer…just long enough to eat some bedtime oreo’s and get our packs ready for the morning.

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