Sundog – 13,432

RT Length: 8.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 3219’

Normally you’d start this hike from the Silver Creek/Grizzly Gulch trailhead, the same one as used for Redcloud and Sunshine Peaks, but it’s Memorial Day weekend, and I knew that trailhead would be crowded.  Also, I’ve had porcupines visit me there in the middle of the night, interested in the wires underneath my truck.  Instead, I parked a little over half a mile further up the road, near Cooper Creek.  Not only did I have the site to myself, but I got to hear the creek rushing by as I slept. 

After an early night, I was still hesitant to get out of bed at 4:15am.  It took willpower, but I was on the trail by 4:30am.  As I passed the Silver Creek trailhead there were dozens of headlamps indicating busy activity.  I cruised by, and started up the trail.

At the top of the hill was a trail register I need of repair: The top isn’t fastened to the base.  As per usual, I didn’t see the register on the way in, as it was off to the side and didn’t have anything reflective indicating it was there. 

So, I didn’t sign the register, and instead followed the trail as it paralleled Silver Creek. The trail was very well maintained, with just a few downed trees here and there.

At around 11300’ of elevation, I left the trail to head down towards the creek.  I left the trail where an obvious, and massive, avalanche had occurred a few years earlier.  There was a faint trail closer to the creek.

My goal was to cross the creek and head up Sundog’s north ridge.  I crossed the creek near some willows, on a few logs that seemed to have been placed for just that purpose.  On my way in, and on my way out, these logs were coated in ice, which made the crossing interesting.

Safely across the creek, it was time to follow the ridge by heading south.  The ridge was easy to follow, but there was some initial avalanche debris to navigate. 

I noticed all the trees seemed to be leaning up, not down, which I thought was odd, until I looked behind me.  It was obvious a large avalanche had occurred on the opposite mountain, which crossed the creek, and knocked over trees several hundred feet up the ridge I was now on. 

I continued following the ridge to treeline.

Just before treeline I came to an outcropping, which I maneuvered by going to the right, staying at its base. 

Now at treeline, I continued to follow the ridge

As soon as the talus and scree started, it didn’t quit.  There were a lot of game trails all the way to the summit, none of which were consistent. 

Now is a good time to note the false summit

I followed the ridge to the summit. The ridge was straightforward, the only surprise coming at the end.

Just before the summit, I climbed up a class 2+ gully.  The rocks were loose, and microspikes helped.  I left behind my trekking pole and started climbing up.

At the top of the gully was more ridge (this is a false summit)

That led to the real summit

I summited Sundog at 7:15am

Sundog: 

And now to head back.  It was a nice day, but windy, so I didn’t stay too long on the summit.  I turned and headed back the way I’d came:

It was a long ridge!

The scree filled gully was easier to navigate on the way down

Then I followed the ridge to treeline

Once at treeline, I continued to follow the ridge, aiming for the avalanche runout, and Silver Creek below

I went left this time around the rock formation

And navigated the avalanche debris to the creek

I crossed the creek on the same logs, interested to find they were still covered in a layer of ice. 

I easily picked up the trail on the other side, and followed it back to the trailhead.

I then walked up the road to my truck, parked about half a mile away.  I made it back to my truck at 9:30am, making this a 8.1 mile hike with 3219’ of elevation gain in 5 hours.

Oh, and I found a stash of 8 track tapes near an old, abandoned mine. I wonder if they’re still good?

On to the next trailhead!

Author: Laura M Clark

Mom, Solo Colorado 14er Finisher, Outdoor Enthusiast, Traveler, and Girl Scout Leader with an MBA in International Business and Marketing. I value adventure, growth, courage, wisdom, integrity, accountability, and family. I enjoy yoga, wine, whiskey, traveling, reading, and the outdoors. I strive to be the person who inspires and motivates myself and others to succeed.

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