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Split & Two Step
Begins: May 1, 2017
Date: Mon, Jul 3rd, 2017
Start: CDT mile 1099.4, Monarch Pass
End: CDT mile 1119.2, Alpine Tunnel Trail
Daily Distance: 19.8
Trip Distance: 907.9
Hours Hiked: 10.2
Daily Ascent: 4194
Daily Descent: 4201
Max Elevation: 12522
Entry Visits: 365
Journal Visits: 49,758
Guestbook Views: 692
Guestbook Entrys: 57
Climbing the West Collegiates
Climbing the West Collegiates
We had reserved a taxi for a 7:30am pickup to take us the twenty miles from Salida back to where we left the CDT. First, we rebandaged Two Step's wound, and there was noticeable improvement. There was also less pain when Two Step almost sits on it. Definitely good news.
The ride back to the Monarch Crest Store started out under clear blue skies, but as we approached the pass, clouds began to obscure the sun. We started out of the store's parking lot at 8:15, late enough that we didn't wear our warmer morning clothes, since even though it was chilly, we knew we would start with a big climb.
And climb we did, immediately and steeply from the road. We would climb almost 1400 feet to 12,600 feet in about seven miles. We soon crossed the ski boundary for Monarch Ski Resort, and began to walk by chair lifts, gondolas, and many snow fences. About an hour into our climb we paused at a tent site with a hiker packing his gear away. We introduced ourselves and found out his name was GM, for German Mormon, and he had hitchhiked up from Salida yesterday afternoon. It had taken him 4 hours to get a ride. We were very glad we had invested in a faster method of transportation.
We reached the first high point of the day at about the three-hour mark and paused to take pictures and have a snack. The view from 12,600 feet was remarkable, but within a minute or two our attention focused on a gray storm coming at us quickly from over the adjacent mountain range. Shoving our snacks in our mouth, we started a quick traverse to drop down from the high point. Just as we started downhill, a few water droplets reached us, and over the next few minutes, the drops transitioned to a sprinkle, and we dropped packs and donned rain gear. Almost immediately, the sprinkle turned to hail, and small hail stones began to bounce off us and onto the trail. Between the hail, the sudden drop in temperature, and the stinging wind, our rain jackets felt comfortable. But ten minutes later, the clouds raced by and the warm sun forced us to remove our rain jackets.
So it would go the rest of the day. The sun was mostly hidden behind clouds through the late afternoon, and sudden showers would come through with just enough duration and intensity to cause us to drop our packs and put on rain gear, and then just as abruptly stop. Although it was a little annoying, I was mostly thankful not to be walking through a downpour.
We descended to Boss Lake Reservoir and saw dozens of people at the lake or walking towards it. About a mile after the lake we came to the Middle Fork of the South Arkansas River and stopped for lunch. Here we found a parking lot from which all the day hikers had emanated. The lack of packs should have been a clue.
We then started our big climb of the day. Starting at 10,500 feet we would climb 1600 feet up and along about five trail miles to Chalk Creek Pass. This proved to be a challenging and slow climb. Again the CDT obstacle course was in full force. We started with downed trees and flooded trails, both of which impeded our progress. After climbing above 11,000 feet, we began to encounter short snow fields that we sometimes could go around, but often had to walk through. Finally, we came to long traverses of boulder fields. Some of these had been engineered with pulverized golfball-sized rocks making a fine trail. In other places the snow forced us off the trail into the big boulder fields, which posed a danger of breaking ankles or legs as well as being slow. The final 500 feet was a straight climb up a snow field to the top with frequent rest stops to catch our breaths. When we reached the top, the wind was howling and we beat a hasty retreat down into the valley below. We passed one southbound CDT hiker when we were going downhill named Dr. Bob. He gave us some heads-up about the ice fields around St. Anne's Pass - as had our friend Driver in a text yesterday.
But today we would drop out of the snow as we dropped into the valley and walked past the long Hancock Lake. Again we saw day hikers, and passed two parking lots that had brought people into the mountains for the 4th of July weekend. We briefly filtered water then began walking up our next hill along a road that used to serve as a railroad bed in the early 1900's. It had a slow easy grade, and after about an hour it looked attractive as a campsite. We had climbed about 4200 vertical feet today and traveled almost twenty miles. Not a bad day after an escape from town!
From the CDT,
Split and Two Step
Split And Two Step's CDT Adventure
The Continental Divide Trail is a national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada via New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. This unfinished trail can potentially span up to 3,100 miles. Learn more: www.continentaldividetrail.org
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