CDT June 15-19: Creede to Monarch Pass

Summer finally arrived in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, with warm, even hot, days with clear skies (no thunderstorms for five straight days), and rapidly melting snowpack!  As Mr. Snowman says: “Oh no!  I’m melting…melting!”

Oh no! I'm melting...melting!

Oh no! I’m melting…melting!

It was 96 miles between the tiny, historic mining town of Creede to Monarch Pass, and I hiked that distance in five days thanks to snow-free trail for the vast majority of that distance.  While the warm temperatures and snow-free miles let my mind wander and contemplate how much I desired a lighter & cooler pair of hiking shoes, I enjoyed the high, snowy traverses the most.  The campsite I chose just a few miles east of San Luis Pass on June 15 was my favorite so far.

My campsite in a lovely cirque north of Creede and San Luis Pass.

My campsite in a lovely cirque north of Creede and San Luis Pass.

I was treated the amber glow on the west-facing rock face in a grand cirque while I prepared and ate dinner!

Suppertime at 12,000 feet!

Suppertime at 12,000 feet!

A visitor briefly came on the scene:  a marmot.

This marmot visited my campsite near San Luis Pass.

This marmot visited my campsite near San Luis Pass.

I left camp early the next day, June 12, to take advantage of snow hardened by the nighttime cold temperature.  Wearing microspikes and hanging on to my ice ax, I completed the trip around the cirque and up the next pass.

In the early morning I took advantage of the hard, still frozen snow which made hiking easier.

In the early morning I took advantage of the hard, still frozen snow which made hiking easier.

I was in the La Garita Wilderness and began a long, long descent into the Cochetopa Creek valley.  That is where I lost the snow and began three straight 21+ miles days, something I had not done since New Mexico.

 

After the Cocketopa Creek valley I chose to camp on the upper ridges after enjoying the mild, evening temperatures.  The clear nights, embellished by the nearly full moon, provided the opportunity pitch the tent without the rainfly.  I seemed to sleep much better, although the 10-degree sleeping bag was a bit too warm at times.

The view looking south toward the Cocketopa Creek valley.

The view looking south toward the Cochetopa Creek valley.

On June 18  I camped on the crest of the Cochetopa Hills at 10,550 feet, where the CDT began a long climb back above treeline.  This is where I enjoy the CDT the most, with sweeping views and long traverses, sometimes across the lingering snowfields.  On June 19 I was confident I could cover the 18 miles to Monarch Pass before evening.

A half-day out of Monarch Pass and the town of Salida I decided to cook up some delicious Annies Mac & Cheese. And I enjoyed watching the snowfields melt in front of me!

A half-day out of Monarch Pass and the town of Salida I decided to cook up some delicious Annies Mac & Cheese. And I enjoyed watching the snowfields melt in front of me!

It was Sunday, when the large number of weekend travelers would make the odds of getting a ride to the town of Salida pretty good.  The only problem I encountered along the way to Monarch was a new blister on my left heel, which was caused by the excess heat on my feet combined with water-soaked boots.  I knew it was time to get new, lighter shoes for the higher mileage days ahead.

On the CDT about 7 miles south of Monarch Pass.

On the CDT about 7 miles south of Monarch Pass.

The eight miles between Marshall Pass and Monarch Pass were a joy to hike.  The snow had been melting fast, but there was just enough left to make the scenery breathtaking and the traverse pleasantly challenging.  One obstacle involved climbing over a little cornice, which I am sure would have been much harder going down than up the nearly vertical 12-foot wall of snow.

I was able to climb over the snow field to the right of the cornice.

I was able to climb over the snow field to the right of the cornice.

Once again, Paul and Chantal were hiking with or near me, sometimes ahead, sometimes behind me.  But they easily passed me one final time while I applied moleskin to the new blister on my left heel, and by the time I limped into the Monarch Pass store (for a hot dog, of course) they had hitched a ride to Salida.  I did the same.

In Salida I ordered new shoes (Merrell Moab Ventilators) which will be lighter, cooler and faster.

Goodbye boots, hello Merrell Moab (pair #5 on the CDT).

Goodbye boots, hello Merrell Moab (pair #5 on the CDT).

I used the opportunity to take THREE zero days in Salida to let my feet heel and get some quality rest.  The motel to Post Office Yo-Yo on city streets did not help my feet at all, and Salida is such an enjoyable town.  20160619_211220During my time in Salida (June 20-22) I ran into fellow CDT hikers Earlybird and Squirrel at the Brown Dog Coffee Company.  They have a nice blog, which I promised to read during my restful time here.  I also met The Third Monte in Salida, and chatted with Wilderness and Hikerbox while ordering the Merrells from a sidewalk bench in town!  Next, it’s on to Twin Lakes, Breckenridge and a reunion with my lovely wife Cindy at Berthoud Pass in about 16 days!

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The stats:

Day 59, June 15: 12 miles; Gain 3940′ / Loss -730′

Day 60, June 16: 22 miles; G 2250′ / L 4460′

Day 61, June 17: 22 miles; G 3650′ / L -2740′

Day 62, June 18: 21 miles; G 3590′ / L -3750′

Day 63, June 19: 18 miles; G 3280 / L -2430′

Highest elevation: 12650′ (on day 60)

Total miles to date: 857 (30% completed)

 

14 thoughts on “CDT June 15-19: Creede to Monarch Pass

  1. I bet that hot dog tasted good. Vienna Beef? I bet the time in town was just what you needed. Really nice pics from the trail. Stay safe!

  2. Roger, glad to hear you’re doing well and making great progress. Cindy will be so excited to see you. The girls and I just got back from a cruise in Alaska and we enjoyed the incredibly beautiful cool scenery. I thought of you often as we viewed snowy mountains and glaciers and was excited to see you had another post with pictures. Thank you for sharing your adventure.

  3. How fun to actually know you as you travel this less traveled road, so to speak! Keep up all that good energy and may the blisters heal rapidly!

  4. Your snowman narrative combined the wicked witch in Oz with Mr Bill.

    The Progress Map is very helpful.

  5. Roger,

    You put thought into action. I’ve enjoyed the pictures and the dialogue. Are you feeling like “Greg” 2.0? Keep grinding and safe traversing.

  6. I am counting the days until I meet you at Berthoud Pass! You will be filthy and smelly and I won’t care!

  7. Roger! I enjoy reading your blog and seeing the pictures. How cool to have the marmot visit you. Marmots are my favorite furry mountain creature. Also, I have been hiking/backpacking in Merrell Moabs for years (I recently purchased a replacement pair). Hope they work out for you :)

  8. It looks like you are managing the CDT hike very well! The scenery is breathtaking!
    Ike Garst from Iowa once owned Berthoud Pass Ski Area. Don’t know if he still does. Anyway, a friend of mine knew Ike well and we spent a day there with him. Nice guy!

    Have a safe hike and we will all wait for the next adventure!

  9. Roger, I always look forward to your updates and pics. You’re looking healthy and strong. Continue to have safe adventures.

  10. Thanks to everyone for reading my blog and writing comments. I love reading all of them and I appreciate your kind words of support. You can follow my progress on a real-time map. The link is on the Home page at http://www.elkpass.com.
    Hugs, Roger.

  11. Go Roger. Shelly and I are heading to Bend for 4th of July weekend.
    Keep the updates coming
    Safe travels
    Matt & Shelly

  12. So glad we get to live your trip through your
    Adventures and the real story without all of the hard work. Always look forward to the next chapter. Get good rest when you can. Bob/Marian OOO

  13. Great progress! Hope the new shoes fit you well in the coming hiking days and not irritate your healing blister!

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