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Climbing the entire Sawatch Range in one trip

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports
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Climbing the entire Sawatch Range in one trip

Postby freepancakes » Sun Dec 22, 2013 2:24 pm

Hello All,

This summer I am planning to climb the entire Sawatch Range by hiking or biking to each peak starting with Mt. of the Holy Cross and heading South. Having completed 13 14ers already, I feel confident that I will be able to do this. I am seeking advice on how to plan such a trip, where I can go to find trails or routes to take me down through the entire range. If anyone has done this before or knows someone who has I would love to talk to you about your experiences and accomplishments so I could continue to learn more before I head out on the trip. I have never done a trip of this length before so equipment advice would also be helpful. As of now, I am planning on doing this solo with a few friends who are meeting me for one climb about every 5-7 days to help bring more supplies if needed and knock out a peak or two themselves. If anyone is interested in joining me on this trip I would enjoy to have a climbing partner or two. Thanks in advance to the helpful advice everyone! Keep on climbing.

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Re: Climbing the entire Sawatch Range in one trip

Postby litote312 » Sun Dec 22, 2013 2:57 pm

There's probably a couple threads about this, but you'll be directed to Nolan's 14 at some point.

http://mattmahoney.net/nolans14/

This route will knock out all but the Holy Cross. If you're starting with that, getting from there to Leadville may be the only biking you need to do. Obviously feel free to ignore the time limit/any rules you're not interested in, but that's probably the most common way to do (almost) all of the Sawatch range.

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Re: Climbing the entire Sawatch Range in one trip

Postby Wish I lived in CO » Mon Dec 23, 2013 7:11 am

Sounds like an awesome trip! Best of Luck. I don't have much advice to offer either other than that the Colorado trail goes thru a portion of the Sawatch.
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Re: Climbing the entire Sawatch Range in one trip

Postby ezabielski » Mon Dec 23, 2013 9:10 am

I looked into doing this as a thru-hike last summer (I ended up doing the CDT from Twin Lakes to Salida instead). You can do the Sawatch, excluding Holy Cross, entirely on trail in ~120 miles (whereas on Nolan's 14 there is more routefinding and off trail travel). Getting to or from Holy Cross could be a good bike ride or you can use the Colorado Trail.

Get the Colorado Trail Databook, as the Collegiate East runs along the front side of the Sawatch, and will probably serve as the main connecting trail between peaks. You can also look into other CT resources such as Pmags, Yogi's guide or the CTF for more information on trail conditions and resupply points.

Note that connecting these peaks by bike might be difficult because of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and Holy Cross Wilderness that won't allow bikes.

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Re: Climbing the entire Sawatch Range in one trip

Postby Jim Davies » Mon Dec 23, 2013 9:32 am

The Colorado Trail will take you near almost the entire range. You might check out the thruhike by two guys last summer, which did all but Holy Cross in one segment.
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Re: Climbing the entire Sawatch Range in one trip

Postby jdawud » Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:47 pm

You can certainly do it as one trip. In fact we think in retrospect that it may have been better to do our trip with Holy Cross to start the Sawatch rather than including it at the end of the 10mi-mosquito range. You probably could do some of the miles on bike, but logistically it will be easier to just walk it all rather than arrange for bike drop offs & pickups. I suggest getting Garmin's Basecamp and the southwest map set. You can use it to create and modify a custom route for your trip. I also suggest taking a zero day at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs.

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Re: Climbing the entire Sawatch Range in one trip

Postby justiner » Sun Jan 05, 2014 2:30 pm

doing it with a bike is doable, although the Colorado trail will be of limited use and unless you're a beast, or carrying Ul everything, you'll be walking. taking the hw from wigwam road to leadville would be faster than taking the Co trail by bike for the short part it covers.
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once you get to massive, the Co trail is handy but resupply would be few and far between on route. you're looking at twin lakes and MT Princeton.

ill have to map this out, how I'd do it with a bike. has the potential to be easier than just walking, but the total mileage would def. be more.
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Re: Climbing the entire Sawatch Range in one trip

Postby justiner » Sun Jan 05, 2014 8:37 pm

So looking at the map, here's a rough sketch of how to hit them all up, by bike - let's assume you're starting in Leadville.

From leadville, take 24 N towards Holy Cross - you wanna make sure to have supplies for a few days, you're not resupplying until you get back to Leadville.

You can stay on this till Wigwam Road, or divert to the CO trail near Tennessee Pass - before that, it's not kosher for bikes. The CO trail can take you all the way to Camp Hale. In a pinch, there could be the potential for some Trail Angel food depot stuff, but don't count on it, unless you're really stuck, as it's really for thru-hikers - it's a loooong way for their resupply.

Have a blast at H.C., and come back to Leadville to resupply, and you're off to Massive/Elbert! Take Halfmoon Rd to the Mount Elbert Trailhead/Mt. Massive Trailhead and get those done - Elbert can be summitted WITH your bike, if ya like. (there's a convenience store, right before the turnoff to this road for more food options - you'll need a lot).

You can then get back on the CO trail to ride, and hit up Twin Lakes for resupply. You'll then be on HW 82, with access to La Plata, So get 'er done, and return to the CO trail, which will take you up and over the shoulder of something or another, S. of Twin Lakes. It'll eventually dump you on 390, and that'll be your pay dirt, as you have access to Oxford, Belford, Missouri; Huron; La Plata (again!)

Once those are done, I got some bad news, as you gotta take 390 East, all the way back to HW 24, all the way to Buena Vista. That's OK, as you're out of food. So rest up in BV, as you're gonna have to get a little creative on where you wanna start, as you don't want to go back and forth from TH back to BV.

Perhaps ride up to Harvard Lakes TH to do Harvard/Columbia, and perhaps even Yale via its East Ridge and then, (sigh) back to BV for R'nR, and to get back to the job at hand, taking now 306 W, and grabbing Mt Yale (if you didn't before) , and then getting back to the CO Trail to go South, where you can get to the TH for Mt. Princeton - I guess you could also take the HW out of Buena Vista (285) to Chalk Creek Dr, but that doesn't sound as fun.

Resupply op. at the restaurant @ Mt. Princeton hot springs (slow service!) or at the convenience store, and then back on the CO Trail to Shavano and Tabegauche (Antero fit in there?)


After that, think your done! Congrats! Salida becons you to sample its burritos.

You'll want to be familiar with the CO Trail bike detours an where the Wilderness areas start and stop. The trail in these sections are VERY fun and VERY rideable, but you don't want to be WAY loaded down. If you're unfamiliar with bikepacking, you may want to research the type of gear used these days. I would def. prefer a setup without panniers or a bob trailer, as you're going to be going a lot slower, and doing a lot more pushing if you have one. Food's going to be the topic: how ya gonna bring it all with you, with so little room? I guess consult the tricks of the trade for UL thru hiking.

Hope that helps - something like this is def. on my radar too, so it's fun to do the, "how'd I do this whole thing, too?" I have to check out how Junaid made their line, as it seems going over Cottonwood to get the 14ers on the other side of the pass would be enticing.
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Re: Climbing the entire Sawatch Range in one trip

Postby jdorje » Sun Jan 05, 2014 9:17 pm

I don't see why you'd want to include HC. The other 14 make a nice backcountry route; throwing on holy cross makes it close to double (?) the distance.
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Re: Climbing the entire Sawatch Range in one trip

Postby KyleS » Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:50 am

jdorje wrote:throwing on holy cross makes it close to double (?) the distance.

There's no way that's accurate. The Colorado Trail goes north from Massive straight to Tennessee Pass.

You could even jump over Galena Mountain to Homestake Reservoir and approach Holy Cross on The Fall Creek Trail from Holy Cross City. Either follow Holy Cross Ridge all the way to the summit, or spend a night at the Notch Mountain shelter and run Halo Ridge instead. Or just follow the Fall Creek Trail all the way to the standard route TH.

You might spend a day or two hiking without summiting anything, but it certainly wouldn't double the length of your trip.

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Re: Climbing the entire Sawatch Range in one trip

Postby freepancakes » Sun Jan 12, 2014 2:14 pm

I really appreciate all of the responses. I've started to gather a lot of the resources you all suggested and am starting to plan a route. I definitely an throwing in Holy Cross though, wouldn't be complete without it. I have a few people meeting me for certain peaks, one of which is going to bring me a bike so we can bike from Massive to HC. Figured majority of everything else can be on foot. Thanks again for the large support and information from everyone!!

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