SAN LUIS PASS PLUS
CDT Day 133: 24 miles /38.5 km
CDT SOBO: Mile 2007.0 – 2031.0
Tuesday August 26, 2019
Camp (10,200′) – Stewart Creek (10,300′) – San Louis Pass (12 ,750′) – High Point (12,800′) – Snow Mesa Campsite (12,250′)
Today we head back into the mountains. We were camped high above Cochetopa Creek. Even though we were above the creek the morning was super cold. As we broke camp and started heading up the valley, following Cochetopa Creek towards San Luis Peak, it just kept getting colder. The ground sparkled with frost. With dry but cold feet and icy hands we eagerly anticipated the sunrise. As we walked uphill towards the first pass the sunrise was coming down the mountain to greet us. It was nearly 3 hours of bitterly cold hiking before we could thaw out in the sunshine.
The climb up to the first pass was relatively gentle at first as it followed the creek upstream. But it got a little steeper closer to the pass.
We reached the top of the pass and were not even remotely tempted to climb another 14’er, the San Luis Peak which looked like a gigantic slag heap.
We descended down the pass, then climbed another pass before descending to a small stand of dead pines where we stopped for lunch. The pines, although dead, provided some wind protection. The surrounding peaks were certainly intimidating, mainly because of their craggy and highly eroded nature.
We were passed by a CT hiker moving very fast. We thought we’d never see him again. But as we descended down to the Creed Cutoff trail after lunch we found him sitting and contemplating his options.
Creed cutoff is 38 mile hike versus 117 miles through the San Juan mountains. We had decided to go through the San Juan mountains if the weather permitted. Today was a brilliant blue sky day and more are on the way. We said goodbye and as we started to ascend away from the trail junction we saw him hiking down the cutoff. It was just too tempting , especially if you have someone special waiting for you at the end.
From the Creed turnoff the trail got a little bit more nasty. It was even more of a roller coaster then the four passes we have already crossed. It was over a pass down to a dead pine forest and up another pass. At least the weather was nice, bright clear blue sky and hardly any cloud. A little windy and cold on top of the passes. It was just hard work with intimidating landscape stretching out from the top of each pass.
Near East Mineral Creek I spotted two huge moose feeding. We watched them for a bit hoping they would move but no, they stood their ground and continued grazing. We had to give them a wide berth by stepping way off trail. Even though the pine trees were destroyed the lush green understory provided plenty of food sources. We even saw some fresh bear doppings.
Towards the end of the day we reached a high point on the trail and from there it was a slow descent through a tallus field lining the side of a mountain and then onto a mesa. We were going to run out of daylight before we crossed the mesa so we had to camp out in the open.
We passed 3 other tents before we found a small dip behind which we could put up a tent. Not ideal but we hope it will do. As I’m finishing this post Hammer is already asleep, it’s just after 8pm and it’s dark outside. Cayotes are howling somewhere nearby and frequent planes are flying overhead.
I’m too exhausted to more fully recollect the day and hope that in the rereading in the morning more detail will come to mind (Ps: it didn’t). It was a roller coaster day, hiking up an down so many passes that I lost track. One of the passes was the San Luis Pass I wasn’t sure which one. I pray it’s not too cold and windy through the night.