Wednesday 31 July 2019

Off to the Colorado Rockies! Unfinished Business on the Continental Divide Trail

View from James Peak, September 12, 1985, Continental Divide Trail

Back in 1985 I hiked the Continental Divide Trail from Canada to Mexico. Winter came early to the Colorado Rockies that year - on September 7 I crossed the inappropriately named Farview Pass in a blizzard in the appropriately named Never Summer Wilderness. After that snow became more and more of a problem, forcing me to take lower routes and often meaning I saw little. This entry from my journal is typical 'took three hours struggling up to 12,700' unnamed pass, last 6-700' in knee-deep breakable crust snow .... saddle on far side corniced. No chance! Snow just impossible'.

Eventually I conceded that I had to stay lower where the snow was thinner and I was out of the clouds and bitter wind. That meant much road walking, often in rain and wet snow. Rather than enjoying the mountains I was looking forward to leaving the Rockies for the lower, drier deserts of New Mexico.

I've meant to go back and see the mountains I missed ever since and finally this summer I'm going to do it.

Camp on the shoulder of James Peak, September, 1985

In 1985 there was no set route for the CDT in Southern Colorado. The first guidebook only came out a year later, Volume 5 of Jim Wolf's Guide to the Continental Divide Trail. I'd used the first four volumes and before the walk had contacted Jim who was very helpful with my planning. The route I tried to follow in Southern Colorado was suggested by Jim. The year after my walk he sent me a copy of the Southern Colorado guide. This summer I'm finally going to use it. My plan is to walk the route in the guide from Copper Mountain to Cumbres Pass, a distance of some 410 miles.

On this trip I'll be supported by my Colorado friends Andrew Terrill and Igloo Ed, both of whom I hope will be able to join me at times. My original plan had been to walk the Colorado Trail, which coincides with the CDT in places and goes through the same areas. However on hearing of this plan Andrew commented that the Colorado Trail 'seems to miss the best of the regions it passes though, skirting the finest parts of the Lost Creek Wilderness, the Holy Cross Wilderness, the Collegiate Peaks, and the Weminuche', all  areas I wanted to see. On looking at the maps I saw he was right and that the CDT took a higher line more in the heart of the mountains, so that's what I'll be doing. Snow permitting.

Before the snow. On Lost Ranger Peak in Northern Colorado

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