Sunrise from Sunshine Peak
Sunrise from Sunshine Peak, Redcloud Peak Wilderness Study Area, Colorado
The only feasible route to Sunshine Peak leads first to the summit of 14,034-foot Redcloud Peak, down 500 vertical feet to the Sunshine/Redcloud saddle, then back up 500 feet to the summit of Sunshine. I decided to make a virtue out of grinding necessity and see if I could get some photos of the Milky Way from the summit of Redcloud before I began the mile-and-a-half-long traverse from Redcloud to the summit of Sunshine. Astronomical dawn, the time when the sky would begin to brighten and the Milky Way begin to fade, would occur at 4:10 a.m. That meant I should arrive on the summit of Redcloud around 3:00 a.m. so I could shoot the Milky Way before I headed for Sunshine, arriving there in time to shoot sunrise from the summit at 6:01 a.m.
Partly cloudy skies greeted me when I emerged from my tent just before midnight. I arrived on the summit of Redcloud around 3 a.m., right on time, and switched off my headlamp. A few lonely stars gleamed through holes in the clouds that were closing rapidly. Mist began swirling up from the valleys below. After waiting for an hour, I gave up and resumed my nighttime walk in the clouds to the summit of Sunshine.
A foreboding scene confronted me as dawn began to break. Through a hole in the clouds I caught a glimpse of clear sky to the east for a few fleeting seconds, but the hole soon closed and I became immersed in a whiteout. I waited nervously for an hour, hoping for a photogenic break in the clouds, then headed back along the ridge toward Redcloud.
I crested Redcloud for the second time an hour after leaving Sunshine and started descending in earnest. As soon as I reached camp, I began packing up, concerned that the sun’s warmth working on the obviously abundant moisture would soon trigger a fearsome thunderstorm. A family heading up Redcloud spotted my tiny tent and stopped by to chat. They asked where I’d been, and I explained what I had just done. They seemed in awe and asked first if they could take a photo of me. After snapping a picture, they left, then returned a minute later and asked if I would pose with them for a photo. I’ve never thought of myself as a hero, but I obliged, and they wisely decided to descend. I followed as soon as possible, keeping a wary eye on the clouds, but managed to reach my truck before the skies opened.