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Colorado's fourteeners: Sunshine Peak

By: Josh Friesema Special to The Gazette
August 7, 2017 Updated: August 7, 2017 at 7:29 pm
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Sunshine Peak

Elevation: 14,006 feet

Range: San Juan

Sunshine Peak earned its name from the red rocks that constitute the mountain's summit as well as neighboring fourteener Redcloud Peak.

A colorful trail connects these mountains on a rounded, gentle ridge, but the combination trip often leads hikers astray. Sunshine easily is accessed from the summit of Redcloud, but once hikers reach the top of Sunshine, many attempt to cut the return trip short by dropping off the saddle and taking a more direct route back. This mistake has been made so many times that a trail has formed off the saddle, which leads farther away from the best route. The false trail quickly disappears as it enters a nasty scree slope that becomes quite steep.

Take my advice as one who fell for the shorter route: it is shorter, but it is miserable. Go back over Redcloud and enjoy the return trip.

Sunshine and Redcloud are neighbors of Handies Peak. For those who have increased their endurance for fourteeners, this group of mountains makes for a nice weekend trip. It's a long drive from Colorado Springs, so you might as well get the most out of a weekend. Camping spots can be found at the trailhead. Hike Sunshine and Redcloud on the first day, enjoy a night of camping and then hike Handies from the same trailhead the next day.

Sunshine is probably the easiest San Juan fourteener to climb during winter, though San Juan and winter never should be in the same sentence with easiest. So let's just say that Sunshine is the least difficult in winter. But it does require strong route-finding skills as very little of the winter route is anywhere near a trail. The best part about a winter climb is the patriotic combination of red rock at the summit, deep blue skies and white snow. As a reward for your effort in reaching the summit, depending on snow conditions a long glissade can be had that will take you from the top almost to treeline.

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