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    Taking in the view from the summit of Crystal Peak - Tenmile Range, Colorado
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Handies Peak

July 21, 2000 - via American Basin


My trip to the San Juans in early June was during a stormy period and I was unable to climb Handies when I had originally planned.  I called home after Uncompahgre and told Debbie I would stay over and try for Handies.  I broke camp, headed back to the prepared campground at Mill Creek for the night, and got an early start the next morning.

I am not sure where my map reading brain was because the next morning I parked at the wrong spot, thinking that an old mine road just shy of the cut off to American Basin was the Basin.  As an engineer, I should be able to read a map, every time, but I sure blew it and spent about 15 minutes wandering around trying to figure out where the hell the trail to the peak was.  Then the light came on; I drove up the road another ¼ mile to the obvious and well-signed cut off and onto the Handies trailhead parking spot.  I still ended up with an early start as the trailhead campers were just coming out of their tents and starting to get some breakfast on.  Rather than dilly-dally about any more, I headed up valley and made good time toward the summit.  The trail from start to finish is obvious and there is never any route finding but after about the ½ way point, the topography does give one the opportunity to guess a bit, about just where the trail is going as it weaves and bobs to surmount the saddle above Sloan Lake.  From the saddle, it is just a switchback slog to the top.

I shared the summit with a curious marmot but no other persons were even close.  I had a bite to eat and headed down to the truck.  To say that I passed a few people on the way up would have been an understatement, a few climbing types and a boatload of Cottoneers.  It only got worse at the trailhead where a fleet of yellow rental jeeps were massing for an assault on the road back to Lake City or Cinnamon Pass.  Each one had a full load, standing three wide, holding onto the roll bar, and they were out taking in the scenery of American Basin and beyond.  I know, we all enjoy the high country in our own way, but I’m just not a fan of the hootin’ hollerin', “hey . . . there’s a set of tracks across that field, we gotta drive everywhere” rental Jeep crowd.  However, . . . that is OK, I wanted to climb Handies, I accomplished my goal, and I moved on my way.