Mountaineering – San Juan Peak Bagging Extravaganza, Day 1

Today our schedule for the day was to climb Handies Peak (I also did the bonus bi-centennial, Pt 13,795) and then set up base camp (somewhere above 12,400 ft) in American Basin. We had a great day and it went exactly as planned.

Summit of Handies Peak (14,048 ft)
On the summit of Handies Peak (14,048 ft)

Clare on Summit of Pt 13,795
On the summit of bonus Bi-Centennial, Pt. 13,795

Handies Peak and Pt. 13,795 Topo Map
The Topo Map, with our approximate route and camp spot.

Handies Peak and Pt 13,795 Elevation Profile
The Elevation Profile, for Handies and the bonus point, showing 4,900 ft of gain with 9.5 miles.

We left the trailhead at around 7am.

American Basin Hiking is Beautiful
Erin took this cute picture of me being super psyched about American Basin!

Erin and Clare Backpacking American Basin
We reached the upper lot (at 11,700 ft) at around 7:30am. Here we are at 8am…less than an hour from our base camp spot.

Erin Hiking Up American Basin
Looking back at the beautiful American Basin.

We found our camp spot at 12,400 ft and dropped our overnight gear. After the peak bagging, we’d come back there and spend the night. We left there around 9:30am, to climb Handies Peak!

Sloan's Lake and American Peak
Sloan’s Lake, at around 10:15am. We had a very nice pace the whole time up Handies Peak. Erin did an awesome job and the weather was perfect.

Handies Peak Trail Above Sloans Lake
Erin on the trail, above Sloan’s Lake.

Erin Up High on the Side of Handies
Erin on the final push up Handies. American Peak is behind her.

Erin on Handies Peak (14,048 ft)
Erin on the summit of Handies. Yay!

Here’s where we have a discussion about what to do next. It’s approaching 11am, and Pt. 13,795 would add about 4 miles onto the total trip odometer. Also, in order to do this peak, one would have to go back over Handies, to get back to camp.

Erin wasn’t feeling it, so I gave her a radio and asked her if she would mill about Sloan’s Lake while I had an adventure. Thankfully, she was willing to hang out and she wished me good luck! Some other people on the summit parroted her comment and with that, I was off. Time to jam!

I went running down the south east ridge of Handies Peak, heading to Pt 13,735. I soon encountered a steep 3rd class section. It was pretty solid where it was the steepest, keeping to the left side of the ridge.

The South East Side of Handies Peak
When I got off the top section of Handies, I turned around to snag the picture of the 3rd class bit. In this picture, the path I descended is to the right (since I’m now looking back). It took me about 5 minutes to get to this spot from the summit.

On East Ridge of Handies
I jogged for 5 more minutes, along the ridge. As I approached Pt. 13,735, I turned around and got this picture of Handies.

East Ridge of Handies Near Pt.13,735
Another 5 minutes along the ridge, I’m now 15 minutes from the summit of Handies. I turn around and get another picture. The rounded knob is Pt. 13,735. To the lower left of the Pt, there is a dark brown band of rock. There were some really fun 3rd class moves in this area…which could be avoided if one would rather do boot skiing down scree.

East Ridge of Handies Near Pt 13,700
Still looking back at Handies, I have now gone about a mile. I’m at Pt. 13,700 ft. It took me about 30 minutes to get here from the summit.

East Ridge of Handies Peak Looking To Pt 13,795
Another 10 minutes go by, and I think I spot my target! Finally, Pt 13,795!!! It’s the dark point in the right of the frame.

Looking Back at Handies East Ridge
Another 10 minutes and I’m standing at the base of my final destination. Looking back, I see Handies on the right and Pt. 13,735 on the left.

Handies Peak and East Ridge Taken from Pt 13,795
Finally, after 1 hour and 10 minutes, from the summit of Handies, I reach the summit of Pt 13,795. YAY!!! Here’s the final photo of looking back at Handies. The entire South East Ridge stretches out before me. How beautiful!

Then, it dawns on me that I need to reverse the route and get back over Handies Peak. With an abundance of clouds in the sky, I feel some pressure to do it fast!

I start jogging back to Handies Peak. The weather is just about perfect and I make sure to stay hydrated and eat plenty of snacks.

I think about a note on the summit register of Pt 13,795. It was by a Mr. Ott, who says “This peak deserves a name”. I couldn’t agree more. It was totally fun running over there and the view from it’s summit was just as pretty as other San Juan named peaks.

Pt 13,795 From East Ridge of Handies
As I start ascending Pt. 13,735, I turn around and get this shot of Pt. 13,795. Mr. Ott is right, it does need a name!

Pt 13,795 from Summit of Handies Peak
Here’s a final parting shot of Pt. 13,795 from the summit of Handies!

Climbergirl on Handies Peak
My 2nd Time on Handies Summit, in one day! It took me 2.5 hours to bag Pt. 13,795 ft from the summit of Handies.

Now, it is ~1:30pm and it’s time for me to go down.

A mountain bike rider is also headed down from the summit, so I let him go first. I watch as he expertly maneuvers his bike down the switchbacks and then in a snap, he disappears down the mountain. Wow, that was awesome!

American, Jones, and Niagara From Handies Peak
American Peak and Sloan’s Lake, below it.

Erin has been down at Sloan’s Lake for nearly 2 hours and when I radio her, she’s in the process of leaving the lake. She took a nap, wandered around the lake taking awesome pictures, and chatted with other hikers. She is going to start setting up our tent, when she gets back to camp. What a gal!

Handies West Slopes Trail
Looking at the trail below the lake. Some folks are still heading *UP* the mountain!

I start jogging down the trail and am amazed at the number of people still going for the summit. At nearly 3pm in the afternoon, it’s a little risky. Some are trail runners who will undoubtedly fly *down* the trail, so I’m not worried about them! It’s just the folks without backpacks and in jeans who I second guess!

American Basin Camp
Finally, I spot Erin and our tent! I am so grateful to have such a rad camp buddy…She’s hanging out in the shade waiting for me to get back. I am ravenous and can’t wait for dinner, but first I want to enjoy the shade, myself!

American Basin Dreamy Campsite
At 3:30pm, I get back to camp and we start setting up the campsite. The area for the tent is fairly flat, but it’s full of jagged rocks and odd clumps of grass. So, I do my best to flatten it out a bit.

Erin Enjoying the American Basin Vista
I then French braided Erin’s hair, to keep it out of her face for the remainder of the trip.

Clare and the Outdoor Kitchen
Then, Erin and I lift up a 30 pound rock and make our mess bench, for the stove. Here I am waiting for dinner to finish cooking.

Alpenglow on Handies Peak (14,048 ft)
The view of Handies Peak in Alpenglow, from our little camp is just incredible!

Alpenglow and Moon Rising on American Peak
Just before bed, I capture this amazing Moonrise over American Peak.

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