Elk Creek

I woke up at 4 and never really got back to real sleep. I should have used the time to go out to breakfast but instead I just laid there and then ate crap for breakfast, which had my stomach not feeling well most of the morning.

There were three of us on the 8:00 shuttle back to Molas Pass, including another northbounder. We have very different daily mileage goals though so I probably won’t see him again.

The day started with a 2000′ descent to the Animas River, and then I spent the rest of the day climbing, 4600′ in all. I entered the Weminuche Wilderness and followed Elk Creek up its very long valley. I did stop and talk to some sobos along the way and got some info for upcoming sections.

The main thing I kept waiting for today was all of the avalanche debris fields I knew were in this segment. There were three short fields after lunch and then one longer field a few miles later. The snow was so bad this year that there were a ton of avalanches. The Colorado Trail Foundation wasn’t able to clear the debris but they did sort of make a path through it and marked it with tape. I can’t imagine how they even got it looking as good as it does, let alone how it might ever be cleared.

The climb up Elk Creek took me forever and I had to stop to breathe more frequently the higher up I got. The weather was looking good today, with storms removed from the forecast, but you never know at elevation what could happen. A few grayish clouds did join all the white ones as I climbed but everyone coming down said it looked okay up top. I figured I’d take a break at treeline and see what was going on but it took me so long to get there, the gray clouds had moved on so I just kept climbing.

Eventually I was getting closer to the final push. I saw an old miner’s shack and mine. And then I made it to the switchbacks, 28 in all. I counted while I climbed. They did make it easier to get up to the ridge.

Soon after that the Colorado Trail joined with the Continental Divide Trail. I will be on both for a while, just rolling up and down between 12000′ and 13000′. I didn’t stop often or long for breaks today since I wanted to just get the climb done. I should have stopped at the top but at that point it was only a few more miles to camp. I definitely need to eat and drink more tomorrow.

I finally stopped to camp after 17 miles at a lake. The campsite is exposed, just like everything else up here, but at least there are a few little knolls and bushes for me to hide my tent among. I got really lucky with the weather today and I hope it continues because I will be above treeline all day tomorrow and most of the next day. I was hoping others would be camped at the lake too but I’m here solo. I’m not a fan of being up here alone. I’m camped at 12543′, only a little lower than my high point for the day. I expect it to be cold tonight although at least the wind has mostly died down.

1 Comment

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  1. Thank you so much for sharing this great adventure with us. Your pics are wonderful. Breathtaking!
    Keep on keepin’ on! You are an inspiration.

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