Chief Mtn A - 13,014 feet
PT 13,010 - 13,010 feet
Chief Mtn A - 13,014 feet
PT 13,010 - 13,010 feet
|Moon to Full Moon in the eastern Wemi|
Chief Mtn A, 13010
With a wonderful sunny and clear forecast, I knew I needed to tackle a large route. It would also be a good test to see if I had progressed in my recovery enough to do a true enduro. Problem was, I was having a difficult time motivating for the route that Furthermore took. It looked... boring. Another long flat ridge run, and long boring valley walk. I wasn't going to go for the 12ers he did. The only excitement would be the 13,010 - Hossick saddle.
Tuesday night before the drive down, I was staring at my trails illustrated map, just trying to motivate. Even the trail looked boring on the map! That's when I noticed there was a trail to the south, that intersected the route at Squaw Pass. Hmmm... Randomly, I decided to google the trail number, and eventually I came up with a page (linked above) that gave me all the details I could want. The trail was well maintained, had mileage and elevation stats, and there were conditions reports! The trail Furthermore mentioned, were hard to follow in the dark. Good trails make for faster travel in the dark!!! So I got onto my mapping software and drew some squiggles. It seemed that I could do the more interesting route for slightly more mileage and elevation gain than the Furthermore route (minus those silly 12ers). "Slightly more", but better and more interesting trail. I didn't make my final decision until the drive down after skiing on Wednesday afternoon. Southern route for the fun!
Unfortunately I got down to the area after sunset, so I couldn't see how spectacular it looked. I knew the topo made it look good. But that meant I could easily camp at the TH without issues. There is an official spot marked by a sign on the north side of the road, a short bit from the actual TH, if you are looking for one. Lots of pay campsites nearby too.
Knowing it would be a long hike, I set the alarm for 2am. I woke up thinking, it should be time already. So I looked at my phone. It said ALARM, but wasn't making any sound. Arrrgh!!! At least it was only 2:30, I would still have time to get this hike in before tomorrow!
Made great time on the trail, and soon I looked up, and there was the Cimaronna Arch! I checked the stats on the webpage and compared it to my GPS, accurate. (Useful to keep track on long days). I tried to get my camera to cooperate with a bulb exposure, but it wasn't working. I didn't want to waste too much time, so I packed up after the short break to carry on. I hoped that I would be able to see in daylight/for sunset on the return.
After the eternity of switchbacks up the steep slope, they relent into a long mile and some change traverse into the drainage. After that, it's a steep up and another long traverse over to a pass. A higher pass that Squaw, but c'est la vie.
Along the way to the first pass, I was treated to a nice cinnamon sunrise on Cimaronna Peak. Soon after was the trail split with Hossick Lake.
It was quite nice to get up to the first pass so soon after sunrise. I figured I had a good chance to complete the route, and I was feeling pretty good foot wise.
The pass was pretty breezy and all the warmth I had acquired from the hike up, was sucked away quickly. So I moved to a nice spot on the trail, out of the wind for a quick break. I would have a ~600' hike DOWN to squaw pass from here. This would suck on the return!
The trail started to get a bit thin as I approached the Continental Divide trail at the pass. Once I even followed a dry stream bed, thinking it was the trail, until I saw the erosion down to bedrock. There are a few downed trees in the area, so the trail becomes more like a game trail in spots.
Once on the CD trail, I knew I just had to use it for a short bit to get up to the first bench below 13,010. From there would be the longest off-trail section of the day. My GPS mileage matched what the trail mileage was, so far so good.
As I got up higher, I could tell how marshy the area in-between the trail and the peak was. Lots of lakes. Lots of wet, moist travel. I went up the trail, until I thought I was above the worst of the wet, and found the path of least resistance through the willows. I saw a marshy area that if I went high on the right, where the ground was sloped, I could avoid the wet. NOPE. It's all wet. Odd feeling to be searching out higher ground, to find that it is wet too, despite the ease that water can run downhill. I went farther "uphill" on the return, and found dry land to cross. So I just didn't go high enough.
After the first marshland, I was presented with the option of using the willow land bridge in the center/direct route, or going far right/north to avoid it all, maybe. I decided on the willow land bridge. It wasn't terrible, except you do need to watch out for the stream in the center. Made me think of the dead marshes in LoTR. Don't step in the water!!!
Once across the willow bridge, there seemed to be a bit of a use trail to the right of the talus. Hmm a trail here?
When I got above the grassy/talus gully, I saw why there was a use trail to this point. It wasn't the peaks above, but the lake! Of course. The infernal hiker question: Did you make it all the way up to the lake?
From the lake I could see the weakness in the ridge saddle cliffs. From afar it didn't look that steep. Was it really class 3? Seemed like I could walk right up through it. Since this was going to be a long day, I wanted to choose the easiest route for my feet to take. The rougher the terrain, the more your feet pay, and the shorter the distance you can travel. Since I couldn't see if the slope directly below the saddle was grassy or talus filled, I decided on a high traverse over to the scramble section, since I could see that the path was easy and not rough. It was high angle grass, but better than talus!
Even when I got closer, it didn't look too rough to scramble. Though as I got on the section, it became steeper and more fun. The rock is solid, very solid for the San Juans. The worst part was the steep angled grass! There are many options for going up. So choose your adventure!
Once on the breezy saddle, it was a short scamper up to the summit.
I had planned a long boots off break on the summit. With a long day, keeping on top of foot comfort is paramount. The summit was unfortunately very windy, and even with layering up and putting on gloves, I knew I couldn't stay long with my feet in the air. So after a bunch of photos I headed back down to get out of the wind.
Made quick work back down to the saddle and down the scramble section for the day.
As I was descending, I could tell the main slope went without any talus rubble to torture my feet, so I went down that way on the return.
I went back to the lake and ate the snacks I would have on the summit, if it wasn't so breezy! Nice little picnic spot!
Hiking back to the CD trail, I went farther north and had a much drier experience! Even the willows weren't bad.
I made quick work back down to Squaw Pass, and assessed how I was feeling. My feet were still doing well. I felt like I had more distance in me. I had left Chief Mtn A for last, in case I had to leave it, since the route from the north would be shortest for it. But looking over at it from the pass didn't look all that bad. Nice gentle traverse on the CD trail up to just below the summit. Then it would be just a short off trail section along high open tundra to the summit. Easy Peasy!
My GPS was showing 14 miles at this point. I thought that was a bit high after just going up and back to 13,010. Maybe it had added in some extra with the lower signal scrambling up to the saddle? Chief A was 2.5 miles as the crow flies. So another 5, plus the 8.3 down. Ok got this!
The CD trail traverses and gains intermittently all the way up to the high pass. Somewhere along the way my body started protesting the uphill. Well, I was TOO CLOSE to turn back now. Once out of the trees and near the saddle, I got the first close view of Chief Mtn A. It looks close...
I got to where I thought the best contour traverse was, and left the trail. I found a thin use trail periodically that was headed where I thought I wanted it to go, the summit. But as I got just a tenth of a mile from the summit, the use trail contoured lower on the west side of the peak. I thought maybe it was avoiding a contour line drop that I could see on my GPS (it's not there in reality). When I had passed the summit, I had to go up the steep west face for a short bit to get to the summit. That was stupid. I could feel in my feet, that I had just shaved off a potential mile from my day, as the terrain was steep and rough. Stupid, stupid. I would pay for that later!
Another breezy summit, but the day was warmer, so I could better handle it, sheltered behind the summit cairn.
From the summit, I looked south to the flat area west of Pagosa Springs, and noticed a giant plume of smoke. On the drive in, there were "Prescribed Burn" signs up. I think that prescribed burn was misusing their prescription to over dose...
I tried to google the fire for info, since I knew the road I took in, went through the valley visible in the photo. Eventually I had to give up the search, and head down. I did have a long way to go to the trailhead. A LooOOOooong way! My Fitbit was saying I had already gone 22 miles today, my GPS was showing a bit less, thankfully.
Back in the trees on the traverse back to the pass, I met a through hiker, who remarked that I had to be a day hiker because of my small pack. He asked where I came from, and left quickly after my response of Cimaronna. He must want to get over the pass to the next campsite before dark!
Back at Squaw Pass, it was time for the last sustained uphill for the day. Uggg 600' here we go! I got up to that higher pass around sunset, but was too tired to take any good photos. Guess I won't hit the Cimaronna Arch for sunset. Not like I didn't know that wasn't really a possibility, but I had to have some motivation!
I was able to go without my headlamp until the start of the long traverse back to the steep switchbacks. The full moon was rising, and would help, but bright light makes for faster travel. Plus I didn't want to be stumbling or tripping, since every rock kick with my feet would shave mileage off them too!
I was still feeling good, if a bit sore by the time I got to the arch. After a bit of trial and error, I got a semi OK shot of the arch with the Friday the 13th Full Moon inside it.
After that point, the only milestone I was looking forward to, was the trailhead and the meat in my truck! Around 2-3 miles left to go, I was stopped admiring the full moon, and then everything went dark. In my slightly delirious state, I thought the moon went out. Then I realized my headlamp died! haha great, awesome, brilliant. Oh F! It's one of those fancy rechargeables. Guess it can't handle an enduro! Thankfully I had a backup. Thankfully. I had packed a SOL bivy, just in case. I didn't want to bivy, with the end being soooo near! My body was saying it would be good to be done now, but had a little left.
With about a mile from the trailhead, my feet said F YOU! So I had to slow to an almost crawl. I didn't want to cause any damage, so I had to tread lightly until the end now. Uggg, that steep summit snafu on Chief was biting me in the tail now. I kept checking my GPS every few minutes now, hoping that I had magically gotten closer than I had. The numbers on it, were making me cry a bit too. I was so ecstatic to see my chrome bumper glinting in the moonlight! I was done!!! DONE!
So at the owl hooting hour of 11ish, I was grilling up my guac burgers and peppers. Time to get a good sleep in, if I could!
In the end, the mileage ended up being 3-4 miles more than I had planned on. Oooops!
The next morning, I went into Pagosa for a nice soak in the hot springs. Along the drive out I got to see all that I had missed on the way in. Such a beautiful area! Much better than the northern approach, AND I get hot springs!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
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