[Cdt-l] longest continuous section above treeline?

Brett blisterfree at yahoo.com
Tue Jul 17 01:16:56 CDT 2012

Here's a trail trivia question I haven't seen anyone pose before...

Of the CDT and PCT (the two triple crown trails with extensive alpine terrain), which trail features the longest continuous stretch of travel above treeline? Just how long is the longest stretch, and where does it begin and end?

I recognize there are potential ambiguities here, so perhaps some definitions are in order...

On the PCT, since it's finished and that's what people hike, we're looking just at the official route, naturally. Whereas for the CDT, let's consider all regularly traveled route options; anything that's described in the official guidebooks, the Wolf guides, or on Jonathan Ley's mapset should be considered fair game in this case.

The term "treeline" (or timberline, etc.) has various interpretations, but what I'm getting at is the idea of remaining above the sheltering forest, in the alpine zone, for a continuous distance. Let's say that the trail dips down briefly or otherwise enters an area, however extensive, where you're immediately surrounded by trees, of a man's height or taller, as opposed to something smaller which might be called a shrub. By my definition, the trail's entering such an area would end the preceding stretch of above-treeline travel. But if there are full-sized trees at a distance from the trail, even if on the level, where the trail doesn't travel among them and is still exposed fully to the elements, then that would not end that particular stretch of above-treeline travel.

I suspect the devil may lie in the details here. Or perhaps the answer is actually cut and dry, especially if, say, the High Sierra features an obvious outlier that easily fits the criteria (such as the Muir Pass area?). Those that know the Colorado CDT (perhaps others sections too) better than I do may be best equipped to take a crack at such comparisons.

So who wants to take a stab at this one? Fascinating insights await!

- blisterfree
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