[cdt-l] Chama to Pagosa Springs

Garret Christensen garretchristensen at yahoo.com
Tue May 29 14:09:42 CDT 2007

Hey all.  I just rolled into Pagosa Springs.  First off, before Chama, there is a downed tree just after the confluence of the two rivers (one is the Rio Valencia, I think) that you have to cross just after the super steep cross country drop off before following the fence line.  It gets you to an island in the middle for free, and the second half is no problem.

Now, north of Chama.  Holy crap there is a lot of snow.  From 2 miles to maybe 32 miles out of Chama, I saw trail for maybe 100 yards.  The second half wasn't as bad.  Don't pay much (any) attention to this if you're not headed in the next few days.

There's a switchback 10 yards before you cross Wolf Creek, so don't keep following game trails upstream.  The banks are steep and snow-covered, and there aren't any safe snowbridges left--you're getting wet.

You can stay pretty close to the edge of the ridge and follow the edge of the "cutting zone" or logging zone signs until you run into the fence.  Following the fence is easy, and there is a spot of dry ground right at the fence corner where you could camp.  

Once you turn the fence corner and reach the ridge some trail shows, so things are OK for a mile or two, then, I kid you not, no trail showing for a long time.  Stay high.  Seriously, trail lake, green lake, blue lake I saw some cairns, but they're often not that helpful, and very little trail.  

At the Middle Fork Conejos, I didn't see how traversing was possible, so I dropped down and went straight up the other side.  The North Fork I also couldn't traverse, but you can see trail exposed on the other side so it's very easy to find your way back up.  Once you get near the Adams Fork and do the short traverse above the Rio Blanco, I think that you stay _really_ high rather than contouring around.  Contouring will get you there, but I think the trail goes up from the pass--see note #2 on Ley map 43.  Same when you get near Montezuma.  I think the trail is way high.  Contouring lower will get you there eventually, however.  After Montezuma my GPS called a mountain Long Trek mountain, and near there, the trail showed its face for the first time in a long time.  There is a confusing 2 foot high rock wall built across the trail just south of where trail 707 comes in.  I don't know what it's purpose is, but if you weren't paying attention, you'd probably just go straight
 on 707, which wouldn't be a big deal.  I basically just dropped East to the road and  took it to Elwood Pass, which isn't very much of a pass. 

Summit Pass north for a few miles is great but terrible post-holing.  Bonito Pass--I thought I got to it 4 times before I actually got there.  From Bonito, just go up following blazes/x's/snowmobile tracks.  Go north along the ridge at the top until you can see trail to the northwest on the south side of the next peak, then drop down and you can contour over there.  Contour all the way (don't drop at all--the trail passes just above a huge nearly vertical dirt slope) till you're just south of Silver Pass, then forget about the switchbacks, 'cause they aren't coming out for months.  There's nice dry ground at Silver Pass.

Silver to Railroad isn't too tough. Go straight up between the two peaks and then just contour and stay on the south side of the divide. I dropped from just past Railroad to Alberta Park Reservoir and walked road from there.  That's a nice shortcut, except for the extremely dangerous part where the reservoir has a crazy steep bank and the snow isn't solid so you fall into the freezing cold lake.  That part sucked.

Good luck everybody.  Have fun out there.  I used my ice axe a couple times, crampons never, and if anybody finds a Black Diamond deep powder trek pole basket near Long Trek peak, it's mine, the snow ate it.

The Onion

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