Pfiffner Traverse Days 6+7: Devils Thumb Pass, Rollins Pass, Rogers Pass, James Peak, Mt. Bancroft, Parry Peak, Mt. Eva, Mt. Flora (Indian Peaks Wilderness, James Peak Wilderness)
Trip dates: August 14-20, 2018
These days: August 19+20, 2018
I got pinned down in my shelter at Columbine Lake by rain till about 2pm. At some point I just got fed up and headed out anyway. Luckily the rain mostly stopped by then. The late start made this an easy day.
I stayed as high as possible hoping that the weather would eventually improve and I could move to primary route. It never really did but I found some fun game trails and scrambles on easy ledges. No water though.
This turned out to be my coldest night. I was glad I had my down jacket to supplement the insulation of my fleece midlayer and quilt. I got some good ice on the inside of my shelter overnight.
Once I made it to Rogers Pass at about 4pm I had a decision to make. I got my stove out and cooked dinner at 12,000 feet. My family was doing weather recon for me (thanks!!) and it looked like the next day was supposed to have lousy weather. The last section was 100% above treeline and mostly above 12,500 feet. This was the worst possible place to have bad weather.
I could camp at Heart Lake and wake up really early to try to beat the afternoon storms. Unfortunately, my track record on this the previous days hadn't been so great. It seemed likely I would wake up late (ie: 8am), not have enough time to reach Berthoud Pass, and wind up running down some horrible scree field to outrun a storm. Luckily I had an extras days worth of food for situations just like this but this seemed like it would be a crappy ending to an incredible trip.
The other option was to make a push for the finish that night: sunset was around 9pm so I'd have 5 hours of daylight. This should be enough time provided I didn't get knocked out by the altitude.
Some CDT hikers had told me there was obvious running water on the back side of James Peak but I don't now what they were talking about. The only thing I found was the snowfield on the backside of James Peak. My bottles were too large to collect the melting water--the best I could do was eat snow and cram a bunch in my bottle. It was completely dry to Berthoud Pass.
This was easily my toughest day.
Very glad to have a reliable headlight and Gatorade waiting for me at the finish (thanks!).
I'll never forget this trip. There is no question that this is my best adventure so far.
In the months of planning leading up to D-Day I kept thinking "why didn't I pick something farther away and more exotic?" In some ways, this was the most glorified backyard camping trip imaginable. Afterall, with some dedication, I could have visited any of these places on a long weekend. The past year has held some uncertainty regarding life/job plans and where I'd ultimately wind up. I'd envisioned this trip as a possible "last goodbye" to an area that I've called home for the last decade. The outlook changed in the final weeks before the trip and it looks like I'll be here for a while longer. (Besides if I moved I'd have to change the name of my website). I'm looking forward to more adventures in Paradise Park and Hell Canyon. What will I find in the Never Summer Range? Is a true continental divide traverse possible?
It's hard to overstate how powerful the emotions are when you to venture into an area devoid of human trails, with only the things carried on your back and be able to call a small patch of flat land your "home". Last year, I took my Dad on a tour of RMNP along Trail Ridge Road and pointed out where my various adventures had taken me. I remember saying after emphasizing some of my favorite peaks in the Mummy Range, "you'd think this would get old at some point but it just doesn't." It really doesn't.
I'm already scheming for next summer. Wyoming? California? Alaska?