[Cdt-l] another CDT hiker in need of help

Peter Shaw pnuteater at gmail.com
Sun Jun 26 10:08:55 CDT 2011


I just made it to Stony Pass yesterday. I am very proud of myself that I did
it solo from Wolf Creek Pass but I have to tell you it was the hardest six
days of hiking I have ever done. There is still a large, no enormous is the
more appropriate word, amount of snow and there are numerous places that my
self-preservation instincts told me that I shouldn't attempt. I did take a
spill on the previous section (Cumbres Pass to Wolf Creek Pass) and luckily
only have a few scratches and bruises when the scree slope arrested my slide
so after that I have been a lot more cautious.

Navigation was really difficult, at least it was for me. I have the Ley maps
and a PN60W gps. On the gps I have Jerry Brown's CDTA waypoints and the
tracks that Out of Order made on a computer from the Ley maps. Neither of
those give you a detailed track of exactly where the trail goes. And, I can
tell you it rarely goes where you expect. I am still not very good with
working out all of the subtle changes of direction just using the maps and
because I have to get out glasses and then a magnifying glass just to be
able to see the details on the map I have tended to use them for general
direction and the gps for setting a near-term course. What
I typically did is move the cursor up to a waypoint (because I knew they
were on the real trail), get a bearing and distance, use my eyeball where I
think that point might be by looking at the terrain and using the compass,
fix on a feature and then head for it. There was often no point looking for
the trail although I often happened upon a short stretch before it
disappeared again. Cairns and  marker posts were never there when I needed
them the most so they cannot be relied upon.I was continually getting off
trail even using this approach, mainly because I was improvising, often
guessing, where the trail might be and I was batting no better that 500 to
use a baseball term. The subtle changes of direction were always present.
Does the trail go over a pass or run up the ridge instead - that happened
three times in one day and the first time before I knew it I was a quarter
of a mile off trail and had a massive hill in between me and the trail.
After that I was much better prepared for the next instance and was really
careful about confirming where the trail really went. This time my gps said
I was only 50 ft away from the trail but that it was up a steep grade. I
went up there anyway just to confirm where it went next and good job I did
because this time it went over the pass. Backtracking and bushwhacking were
a major part of the day's hike - you just have to accept that and not get
mad with yourself (easy advice that I rarely followed myself). In the trees,
I just got a bearing and followed it until the forest opened up or I reached
a creek or some other notable feature.

Many times I came to a bowl and the trail went high enough that there was a
nasty, steep traverse on a side slope. Depending on the time of day and the
snow conditions I would make a judgement whether I could safely get across.
When the answer was no, then I had to improvise. The usual approach was to
cross the bowl down low enough there wasn't a safety issue and then find a
way back up on the other side. Sounds logical but several times I got myself
into just as difficult a situation. Twice I had to climb over knife-edged
ridges of boulders with massive vertical drops on both sides just to get
back to the trail. If you have the Ley maps, I would urge you to consider
his note on CO40 about taking the divide. I didn't heed that advice and
there were two areas that I wished I had. I can't advise you on the
alternative but I doubt it was more difficult than the route I took.

With the gps you will also have a power management challenge unless you want
to carry a boatload of batteries. I typically would turn the gps off for a
while if I was really confident of where to go. Otherwise I would turn off
just the gps chip to save battery life and then switch it back on just for a
confirmation - that was quicker than restarting the unit and it also showed
my track so I could see if I was getting off course or, more often, whether
I was heading in the right direction to get back on course. Even with that
approach I was getting through a pair of AA 8X super lithium batteries in
two days.

Please don't take this as a reason not to do the San Juan loop. It was not
only the hardest thing I have ever attempted, it was also one of the most
rewarding. If you have the time to just sit back and take in the scenery you
will be heartened and motivated to continue. If you have someone else to do
it with then that would be a great help as you can share the chore of making
first tracks. I was overtaken by another hiker who used my tracks and I
quickly found it was much easier following his. He was less than half my age
and unfortunately I couldn't keep up his pace. The snow was melting so fast
his tracks were gone in less than a day. I am currently at trail angel
Wiffer's house after she came and picked me up in Silverton. By the way the
road over Stony Pass is now open and there was just enough traffic for me to
yogi a ride down. Unfortunately for you, I doubt you will get here in time
to enjoy her wonderful hospitality as she is only here until the end of
June. There are a very nice couple, Jill and Ben, who live in Chama who are
new to trail angeling, but I think they would be very helpful to you. I can
give you their address if you call me. If you get this reply before you set
out, I will be available to discuss further until Monday morning. My cell
number is 310 901 7198. Please call if you want to hear any of this in more

Best of luck,

Peter Shaw, aka Peanut Eater.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: cdt-l-bounces at backcountry.net [mailto:cdt-l-bounces at backcountry.net]
> On Behalf Of Robert
> Sent: Thursday, June 23, 2011 2:10 PM
> To: cdt-l at backcountry.net
> Subject: [Cdt-l] CDT hiker in need of help
> My name is Robert and I am currently thru hiking the CDT. I made it 20
> miles
> north of Cumbres Pass when I got incredibly lost for hours. Due to lack of
> food and bad navigation skills I turned back around and now I'm back in
> Chama. I'm going to hitch hike to Pagosa Springs to go to the outfitter to
> get better maps and maybe a GPS. There lies my problem. I don't know
> anything about GPS. I'm not good with electronics. What should I do?
> *Is there anyone on this list that can talk me through the steps of getting
> a GPS?
> *Or, is there anyone who lives in, or close to Pagosa Colorado, who can
> show
> me how to work and sit up a GPS?
> *Or, even better, is there anyone close to Pagosa that would sell me there
> old used GPS, or let me rent there GPS? (money is kind of an issue - I'm a
> college kid on a budget)
> All I know, is that it was pretty scary being lost in the woods of Colorado
> and, I know that there is a lot of snow ahead of me. Is there any Angels
> out
> there?
> My e-mail is rbrtshivers at yahoo.com. Drop me a line with you phone number
> and
> I will call when I get to Pagosa in a few hours. For now, I'm going to be
> hitch hiking and that might take awhile.
> Thank you in advance for anyone's help.
> Sent from my iPod
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