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Sunrise from Handies Peak

Sunrise from Handies Peak, Handies Peak Wilderness Study Area, Colorado

Sunrise from Handies Peak, Handies Peak Wilderness Study Area, Colorado

After hiking out from my Windom Peak adventure, I spent a few days recovering and exploring for wildflower shots, then headed for the American Basin trailhead below 14,084-foot Handies Peak. Unknown local miners probably made the first ascent of Handies Peak sometime in the early 1870s. When the Hayden Survey climbed the peak in 1874, they found prospect holes as high as 13,500 feet. Today a good trail, constructed by the volunteers of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, leads to the top, so shooting sunrise from the summit is mostly a matter of being fit and being willing to get up ridiculously early. The Hayden Survey team found that the summit offered a superb vantage point for mapping. Climbers today will also enjoy the spectacular 360-degree view, because Handies Peak sits squarely in the center of the San Juan Mountains.

Starting with a view to the east and going counter-clockwise, the Fourteeners most easily visible from the summit are Sunshine, Redcloud, Uncompahgre, Wetterhorn and, looking northwest, Mt. Sneffels. Looking almost due west on a clear day, an experienced eye can pick out Wilson Peak and Mt. Wilson in the far distance. Finally, to the south rises the mighty ramparts of the Fourteeners that dominate the Needle Mountains: Sunlight, Windom and Eolus. Although the view is superb in all directions, my favorite image from the summit is this almost abstract image taken looking east 15 minutes before sunrise, when the clouds lit up intensely red and orange.

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