Climbing for Pizza

After such a wonderful time in Breckenridge, it was hard to get back on trail. All the more so because of the formidable challenges ahead: the Tenmile Range, Searle Pass, and Kokomo Pass. In Breck I met the first thru-hiker I could match pace with, Ash. We decided, given the crazy fear-mongering we were getting from the CT Facebook group, to coordinate hiking in proximity for at least the next few passes in case the snow became dangerous. At least I had a friend to conquer these challenges with. As I left town, I already longed to turn around and go back. But it was time to leave the luxuries behind, I knew. It’s time to get moving again.

Just west of Miner’s Creek Trailhead, here we go…


Time to Climb…

The Tenmile (segment 7) is the hardest climb on the entire Colorado Trail. This is because, unlike the rest of the CT, Segment 7 doesn’t just take you up to a pass– it takes you all the way up to the top of the range, near Peak 6’s summit at 12,489 feet. As the Summit Stage bus dropped me off at the trailhead, I looked back at Breckenridge, and sighing, turned to start the painful climb. The trail wound up through patches of lush forest and stark clearcut beetle kill. About a third of the way up, I discovered the incredible Honey Stinger Waffles (not a sponsor, just really, really good haha). Those delicacies got me up many a climb after that day. Around the snow line, I ran into Ash (she had begun hiking ahead of me that morning), and we continued through hip deep postholing a 1/2 mile or so until treeline.

Thankfully, the snow here was relatively firm 🙂

There are moments in life that you realize, in retrospect, were a foundational shift in the direction of your life. Breaking out of the treeline and into a high-altitude winter wonderland, I began the slow, slow shift towards feeling like a thru-hiker. This change wouldn’t be complete until several weeks later, but it began here, doing something that felt impossible all but six days before.

After climbing through a canyon-like area, the trail makes its way up cross-slope 2 miles and 1000 feet to the top of the Tenmile. These two miles were some of the sketchiest traverses on the trail. There were many drifts laid across the trail, and without ice axes, we were left to hope trekking poles would be sufficient for self-arresting if we slipped. On several of these drifts, a slip would have meant a thousands foot slide and falls over cliff bands.

Top of tenmile cornice

Wooowheee cornices

Carefully traversing a sketchy snowfield

Luckily, we made it to the top unscathed, but a little shaken up. My level of anxiety was quickly blown away by the insane views over the surrounding areas. Breck down to the left, and the massive Tenmile Creek valley to the right, with the high peaks of the Mosquito range ahead… I was in heaven. From here, I could see all the way back to Kenosha, and almost as far away as Twin Lakes. To see such a massive landscape change from one spot is something I’m unfamiliar with being from Arkansas.

Top of tenmile

The dramatic rise of the Tenmile Range


And here the fun begins

But what goes up, must come down. I spotted some storms off in the distance, and so we booked it down the steep trail towards Copper. Even though it looked so close, Copper was still about 8 miles away, but the thought of town food helped keep us going.

Tenmile looking down towards interstate in valley

What a beautiful valley…. wish it wasn’t full of mining tailings ponds though. (You can see the massive Climax mine peeking out a little ways down the mountain chain)

An excruciatingly long walk later, I stumbled into Copper Mountain Resort. The place was still teeming with tourists, many there to ride the MTB tracks built on the slopes. Receiving our fair share of odd, confused, or concerned looks, we found Sawmill Pizza. While waiting for the order to be ready, I stepped outside and called my family and friends, a bad move. I missed them so badly, feelings brought closer to the surface talking to them.


We have here some INCREDIBLE pizza. Not pictured… some awe-inspiring ranch

I had this hostel room to myself 🙂

After eating, we were left with a dilemma. The nearest you’re allowed to camp out of Copper Mountain is 6 miles up the trail, but we were exhausted. So instead, we opted to take the free Summit Stage bus back to Silverthorne, to stay in The Pad (aka, the nicest hostel on planet earth).  So, after one day of hiking, I found myself back in town. *Sigh*, the town vortex is real, let me tell ya.

The next morning, after an incredible night’s sleep, the bus brought us back to Copper for round 2 of snowy hiking. That story will have to wait until the next post though. Kokomo and Searle Passes, here we come!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

What Do You Think?