[Cdt-l] Trail conditions from Chama to Pagosa

tonightmrkite at gmail.com tonightmrkite at gmail.com
Sun Jun 7 19:02:02 CDT 2009

Daniel, glad to hear you're safe. Are you in Pagosa? 

As for me,

I'm a long-time lurker on backcountry.net, but didn't feel I could substantively add to the conversation until now. For some brief background, I am hiking the CDT for a few months this summer, until I begin law school. I was only able to quit my job a few weeks ago, so in the interest of time,I decided to cut out the water-poor section of NM and begin from Grants. The CDT is my first multi-month hike. I hiked on the PCT for a few weeks above Kennedy Meadows and then various other small trails in Washington. Nothing compares to my time spent so far on the Divide.

(Note: my description gets a little lengthy here, I'm excited to talk about how stupid I was)

I type this msg on my BB from Pagosa CO, having just had about the most harrowing hiking experiences of my short backpacking existence. I left Cumbres monday June 1st, ice axe and microspikes (not crampons) in hand, alone, and with the understanding there would be considerable snow and ice with which to contend. 

I took the logging roads and quickly elevated to the ridge. The going- although tough and frustrating - was steady. This was my first snow experience and it was alarming how much energy was spent simply moving around.  More times than I'd like to remember I found myself out-of-control, having failed to properly self-arrest, sliding into an icy lake (blue lake, for one) or large evergreen (ellie saw the butt tracks) with my hiking poles and ice axe at the top of the hill, wedged neatly in the snow at the inception of my fall.  

I found myself eventually screaming into the blue winds: "I'm a hiker! Not a mountaineer!"

The majority of my next 3 days, 23 miles, was spent squinting at my GPS, watching my arrowhead  avatar crisscross the dotted line of trail 813. I'm sure the trail was spectacularly marked, but it was unfortunately under a few feet of snow.

On wednesday morning I found myself attempting to circumnavigate an ice covered rock above Small Lake (the source of Ellie's Navajo River). After a morning of throwing myself at the frozen slope, I decided to take trail 574 to the west.  

Following an afternoon of trudging up snow covered hills, I arrived at Fish Lake, only to discover the trail traversing  glistening ice atop a hill shaped like michael gorbachevs' head ( just as smooth and bald, and his ears are about 1000 feet from the top). I decided (you know, perestroika and all) to refrain from dancing across the bald mountain and try to bushwack down a frozen river. 

3 miles of frozen river later, I'm at the edge of a 40 foot waterfall of ice. Yeah, I was pretty frustrated. After an aborted attempt at climbing the crumbling rock walls out of the riverbed canyon, I walked back up to Fish Lake and camped. 

After a sweaty, indecisive night, I decided to head NE and bushwack my way towards Portero, a small collection of cabins near forest highway 250. I wasn't even sure if there would be cars or food or even people in Portero, but I had to try. The route there was trailed about half the time. The remainder of the travel consisted of my stammering collection of slides and jumps across ice chutes and tributary falls(sometimes ending up in the flowing river below).    

Thursday night I arrived at the Portero Hunting Lodge, tongue strewn across my chin, sunscreen streaked across my face like an exhausted tribal warrior, hungry, and at the end of my rope. 

To my good fortune, the good folks at Portero took care of me. And even better, I came across the trio of JB, Special K, and Robocop who wisely decided to roadwalk on 250 and 380 on the way to highway 160 (hitch to Pagosa). They most generously lent me a few days worth of food and we took off on a beautiful, sarcasm-filled road walk. Fine gentlemen they are. 

Best of luck to anyone yet to attempt Chama to Pagosa, congrats to those who conquered it (and my sympathies), and to all of you that did the road walk, I will paraphrase a quote from Mr Charles Schultz: you're a wise man Charlie Brown. 

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

-----Original Message-----
From: Daniel Alvarez <alvarezdtjunk at gmail.com>

Date: Fri, 05 Jun 2009 13:28:38 
To: <cdt-l at backcountry.net>
Subject: [Cdt-l] Trail conditions from Chama to Pagosa

Hi everyone,

I just hiked that section and it is indeed beautiful, but also slow going and rough. The altitude, snow, thunderstorms, blowdowns and route finding slowed me to about half my normal pace. There were a few tricky snow crossings (fyi, I am not an experienced snow hiker) where I was very glad to have an ice axe and lots of slow slogging through snow whenever you are under tree cover. The trail was hardest in the begining and middle and got better towards the end, although never easy. I pretty much winged it coming out of cumbress since I lost the alternate somewhere and ended up in the blowdowns/logging. Difficult going there, but once through, very pretty ridge until you reach the point where the alternate comes in. The views along the entire section are worth the fight, I think, but you'll earn them for sure.

Hope that helps,
Out of Order

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