CDT Day 119: 23 miles /37 km

CDT SOBO: Mile 1722.0 -1745.0

Tuesday August 13, 2019

Camp (12,500ft) – Herman Gulch (10,300ft) – Grays Peak (14,250ft) – Mt Edward’s Summit (13,800ft) – Peru Creek (10,500ft) – Camp (10,600)

It was a very chilly night. I was bone shivering cold and could not sleep. Trying not to wake Hammer, I got up and made myself a warm drink at midnight. I fell asleep only to wake up at 3am, Hammer was awake soon after. We decided to break camp and start moving. Ahead of us was the climb of Grays Peak which at 14,250ft is the highest point on the CDT.

It was beautiful hiking under a canopy of stars. It promises to be another beautiful clear sky day.

We made Hermans Gulch/I-70 just after sunrise. The gulch is a super narrow valley and it was freezing cold, there was frost on the ground. We crossed the I-70 and started our official ascent of Grays Peak. We didn’t realise that its possible to drive part of the way up to the trailhead and then walk the rest of the way to the summit. A car stopped and the driver offered us a ride up to the trailhead but Hammer, being a purist, refused.

It was 9am by the time we reached the trailhead. Even this early, the carpark was overflowing. It was going to be a busy morning on the mountain. We were the only ones carrying big packs. Some people we passed were surprised and asked what we were doing. Generally people were very friendly.

It was a hard trail right from the start. Large steps and immediate rise got the heart rate even higher then the 6 mile hike up to the trailhead. Hammer took off like a mountain goat while I lagged behind questioning why was I carrying my house on my back, like a snail, while trying to go up this huge mountain. I was envious of the small daypacks most of the hikers were carrying. It was great to see so many people out and enjoying the great weather at this beautiful spot.

Slowly we made it up to the summit. And almost immediately all the huffing and puffing was forgotten. The views from the summit were spectacular, especially since it was a clear sunny day. We found a spot out of the wind and had lunch while enjoying the views. A couple of curious mountain goats with a baby came very close to have a look. They seem to be used to people.

While all the day hikers took the trail back down to the carpark, Hammer and I had a tricky 2 mile traverse across the adjoining ridge to the Mt Edward’s Summit. It was probably the worst trail we’ve ever encountered. Loose rocks and very steep drops on a knife edge. It was nerve wrecking. I’m not a fan of heights, so I tried to focus on my footsteps and not look over the edge as it would have made me doubly nervous.

There were so many sections where my throat tightened and I could barely speak. It was very slow going. We were pleased to get over the summit and start seeing cairns and some visible tread. It was hard to believe that this was the official CDT. Hammer had to give way to a couple of mountain goats, they passed within a couple of feet of us.

We descended off Mt Edward’s accompanied by a snow shower, out of nowhere, the sun was still shining. It was quite surreal. It was a huge relief to finally start descending to a river valley. We followed the Argentine Pass Trail down to the incredible Peru River. It was a long winding trail on shingle rock that was quite hard on the feet.

The river is an incredible minty green colour with calcium carbonate covered rocks giving the river a white appearance from a distance. The valley has a history of mining with quite a few remnant mining artefacts.

As we headed down it was obvious that the area has had significant avalanche activity over the past season. The road was cleared of downed trees but sections of the river were clogged with trees.

Walking by the river in the warmth of the afternoon sunshine was quite soporific. The lack of sleep was catching up with me. We crossed the river one more time before starting the ascent – back up to the Argentine Spine. We stopped early at the first suitable campsite. It has been a tough and challenging day. We were grateful for another great weather day.