CT Part 3- Over The West and Through The Woods
After the long, flattish walk around the lake near Twin Lakes, my hike quickly turned vertical as I entered the Collegiate West (CW). I had originally planned to take this alternate, over the Collegiate East, as it offered more distance, elevation change, and endless views.
Day 10- Double The Passes, Double The Fun
As I would become accustomed to over the next few days, my first morning on the CW started with a long, gradual climb 3,000 feet to the top of Hope Pass. Having been a long time trail runner, it felt so amazing to finally experience such an iconic part of the Leadville 100. I am in complete awe of the runners climb that pass twice, once from each direction.
A long, hot hike around and up from Winfield was fortunately rewarded with a refreshingly cold dip in Lake Ann and a short sunbathing session to dry.
After the brief reprieve from hiking hard, a quick ascent up over Lake Ann Pass was in order. It was said to have been the “crux” of the entire trail with a path of steps running over the lefthand side of the cornice, as seen above. The 3 steps on loose gravel felt sketchier than the 10 steps up the firm, well-trodden snow.
The day continued to be my longest mileage, covering roughly 29 miles, to reach Texas Creek for the night. Several days of no rain and little cloud build up meant each tiny bit of cloud and moisture were more appreciated than otherwise.
Day 11- Early AM Number 2
I was concerned about thunderstorms on a 16-mile stretch that is above treeline and Texas Creek was 6 miles away from Cottonwood Pass, where it starts. So, naturally, I started my day at 3 am to ensure I got over the alpine section before noon. While this meant hiking for nearly 2 hours in complete darkness, the sunrise on Cottonwood Pass proved well worth it.
After crossing over the first two out of five total high points, these 4 elk crossed in front of me. Even from a couple of hundred yards away, they noticed me and trotted off as I continued walking the trail towards them.
The heat piled on even around 10 am with shimmers visible coming a few feet off each of the ridges, at least from up close. I didn’t feel like I was melting quite like in Camp Hale, but I still certainly felt like I was being slowly baked alive. Once I reached the creeks at the end of the segment, I firmly planted myself there for the rest of the day, having done 22 miles by 1 pm.
Day 12- An Inconvenient Resupply
I normally avoid camping out in open meadows in valleys, as clear skies at night create inversions and make those spots colder than in the nearby trees. However, a strong wind and mixed stands of dead trees had me deeply worried about blow downs and gave me little choice. As a result of my sleeping location, I had the first bit if frost on the footbox of my quilt in the morning, but no frozen water bottles.
In this stretch I saw 3 more moose, bringing my total to 5 for the trip so far. On the old railroad bed, I spotted a moose and her baby and waited for them to walk off the trail, as I was once more not going to mess with those massive plant eaters.
I made the mistake of picking up my resupply box at Monarch Mountain Lodge, even though I would be going into Salida the very next day. I carried that full backpack of food over the last 12 miles of the CW as I made my way towards the Monarch Ski Resort ridge for the night. This grouse didn’t diverge from the trail for a bit and gave me a bit of temporary company.
Day 13- Into Salida
I was camped less than 4 miles from Monarch Pass, so a short hike led into a hitch into the town of Salida. As a Coronavirus prevention technique, both the driver and I wore masks for the duration of the ride and drove with the windows down for ventilation.
Salida offered my first full zero and lots of good food to celebrate my birthday in addition to lots of hikers for some socially distant socializing.
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