14er TBT: Handies Peak (27 May 2007)

(Last Updated On: June 30, 2015)

This is part of an ongoing series re-telling Brittany’s fourteener-skiing story. Look for the reports every Thursday, as part of a Throwback Thursday theme.

We were on a roll during Memorial Day weekend, 2007. We were trying to ski four fourteeners in three days, and make it back to work for Tuesday morning. After skiing Sunshine and Redcloud, Handies Peak was on the docket for day two. Below is a modified version of my original trip report for Handies Peak, which would become my 27th fourteener skied.

TR: Handies Peak (14,058′) 5-27-2007
Frank, Brittany, Jordan White
Special appearance by Jon Turner and Keith

Jordan, Frank and I hit Sunshine and Redcloud on Saturday. That night we stayed in our camping spot at the Silver Creek and Grizzly Creek trailheads. We were tired from a short night of sleep, so we spent the afternoon eating and lounging around camp. jon turner knew we’d be at this trailhead and had intentions of hitting Handies with us the next day. It was lucky that Frank had his ski boots in obvious view, because jon turner and 3DB found us without any problems. We welcomed them into our camp and we had a good time hanging out that night. But with the short night before and the upcoming 4 am wake up call once again, we were in bed before dark even hit!

From Redcloud and the Silver Creek trail, the east face of Handies could be seen easily. We’d taken pictures of this face and plotted out a tentative line. We choose not to approach Handies from the east via Grizzly Gulch. goldenboy and I had already attempted this route on April 1st, but we were forced to turn around…. this was back when the road to the trailhead was not open, making for a long day. Instead, we chose to climb the shorter route from the north starting at American Basin at 11,400 ft, about 1000 less feet of climbing. But we wanted to ski down the east face. So, we ended up shuttling cars between the two trailheads.

We began driving up the road in the dark toward Cinnamon Pass. By the time we’d reached the turn off to the 4×4 rd that goes to American Basin (at 11,300 ft) it was light. We were able to drive a bit up this road, but I believe you’d be able to go a bit further in the summer. No matter, the climb wasn’t going to be bad from 11,400 ft 🙂

Frank getting ready for the skin in the morning, at 6 am.
Backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

The views in American Basin are spectacular!
Backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

A short way’s up, Jon Turner and Keith opted to take a more direct route to the summit. We opted against this, being tired from the day before and with a big day ahead the next day. This pic shows them attempting to skin up the north face of Handies. That attempt was short-lived and they eventually ended up booting up the face.
Backcountry skiing on Handies Peak

Jordan, Frank, and I followed the standard route to the summit. It was an easy route and we were able to skin all the way up to the summit! I wasn’t feeling well on the way up however. Earlier in the week I found out I had strep throat and was recovering from that. Short nights and hard work didn’t help my recovery and I ended up hurling a couple of times on the way up. Nevertheless, 2.5 hours after starting we were at the top!
Brittany Walker Konsella on the summit of Handies Peak.

Redcloud on the left, Sunshine on the right.
Sunshine and Redcloud seen from the summit of Handies Peak

Uncompahgre
Uncompahgre seen from Handies Peak.

Sneffels, looking so good!
Sneffels seen from Handies Peak.

Quoted from Frank himself, these are “Needles and Grenadiers, a sub-range of the San Juans. Eolus is in there. More impressive, however, are the peaks on the right. Left to right are Vestal (famous wham ridge facing camera (read roof of the rockies), Arrow and Pigeon.”
View of San Juans from Handies Peak.

We waited until about 9 am for Jon and Keith to summit, but we couldn’t wait any longer. The sun was quickly warming the east face and if we didn’t hit it soon the snow would turn to slop. So, we decided to go for it. As we were dropping in, we could see them booting up the north face. We found out that they wanted to descend their ascent route and I wished them well. Later we found out part of the reason for this is because some equipment had fallen out of 3DB’s pack and he wanted to go back to retrieve it!

Frank dropped in first while I shot video from the top.

Jordan skiing the upper face.
Jordan White backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

Jordan White backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

Jordan White backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

The upper east face was actually pretty steep and had my adrenaline pumping a bit. The snow was prime and that section was one of the best things I’ve skied all season!!!!

Me on the upper east face.
Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

Frank on the upper east face.
Frank Konsella backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

We then all went down a bit further to the entrance of a couple of couloirs. There was one to our skiers left and to our skiers right. We opted to drop into the skiers left couloir. I went first with the intention of setting up video part way down the couloir in a safe zone.
Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

When I stopped, I shouted back up, “It’s a bit icy still!” (it was slightly north facing). Jordan dropped in next.
Jordan White backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

Jordan White backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

Jordan found that the same snow which had supported me, did not support him (he IS a whole foot and 2 inches taller than me afterall!) For him it turned to breakable crust. Because of this, Frank opted for the chute on skiers right. I shot video of him from below.

When we reached the basin we still had a lot of skiing to do! The snow was still wonderful corn!!!

Frank
Frank Konsella backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

Frank Konsella backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

Jordan
Jordan White backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

Jordan White backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

Me.
Brittany Walker Konsella backcountry skiing on Handies Peak.

When we reached treeline, the snow became collapsable and unsupportive. We rallied through it for quite a while however!

This pic is looking back at Handies. Blue shows the line that Jordan and I took down the coulie. Green is Franks’s line.
Backcountry skiing lines on the east face of Handies Peak.

We were able to ski to about 11,150 ft (nearly 3000 vert of skiing), which was 250 ft lower than we started! It’s a great day when you can ski further than the elevation you started from! :biggrin: We did have to hike about 750 ft down on the trial to the trailhead. After a leisurely day, we were back at camp by 10:30 am, 4.5 hours after we started.

We met up with Jon and Keith back at camp and shared stories. Handies is a great mountain no matter what you ski. There are options for everyone of every ability. I would gladly go back and ski Handies again.

It was great to meet Jon and Keith! Hope we get to actually ski together sometime soon!

After hanging around camp for a bit, we packed up and headed in to Lake City to stay with Jordan’s grandparents who were visiting from Texas. They were staying in their family cabin in Lake City. Grandma’s cooking was oh so good! I think the deer liked it too!

Handies Peak marked the halfway point of my fourteener skiing journey. In just 1.5 seasons I’d managed to get 27 fourteeners skied – with a full time job. The snow was still in great shape, so I knew I’d ski a few more fourteeners still that season….


Like this report? See more of Brittany’s 14er skiing journey.

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things,Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate 🙂 Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

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Summary
Handies Peak (27 May 2007)
Article Name
Handies Peak (27 May 2007)
Description
Handies Peak is one of the best fourteeners to ski in the Lake City region of the San Juans. Find out more by reading this report!
Author

Brittany Walker Konsella

Aside from skiing, biking, and all outdoorsy things, Brittany Walker Konsella also loves smiles and chocolate :) Even though she excels at higher level math and chemistry, she still confuses left from right. Find out more about Brittany!

One thought on “14er TBT: Handies Peak (27 May 2007)

  • May 18, 2015 at 8:42 am
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    Halfway there! We need to ski this one again sometime. Easy access and a great line!

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