CDT Day 91

CDT Day 91: Berthoud Pass to Williams Fork via Silverthorne alt. – Tired Ridgewalk Camp to Weight is Lifted Camp

Miles hiked: 20.4

Total miles: 1602.4

Today was filled with undeniable natural beauty, pretty much from start to finish. SpiceRack and I have had more than our fair share of that on the CDT so far.  Today, I felt a new appreciation for it while freezing, sweating, gasping, and laughing along the Divide. In other news, pressure makes a habit of building slowly, imperceptibly until a final breakdown or healthy release. We were fortunate to feel the latter.

Finishing the climb from Berthoud Pass. The Divide, it’s out there.

The morning started with amazing views, yada yada yada. It was stupid-cold back on the ridge above 12,000ft despite the clear sky and bright sun because of the blasted wind again. For the first time I had to wrap my buff over my ears and face, probably saving me from death, or at least really cold skin. Super exposed again, it felt like there was nothing but air around me, like I was barely touching the earth. The ridge was cruisy and beautiful, but damn, that wind!

Can you see the wind?

We warmed up in the next valley on a sunny traverse around Vasquez Peak, only marginally disturbed by the constant hum of a nearby mining operation. A few steep switchbacks pointed us at a long, high ridge that we would somehow sweep around and find ourselves on top of. It was an intimidating scene. This is where the pressure became overbearing.

It was brutally, frustratingly, heartbreakingly clear to Spice that she was far from feeling 100%, and hadn’t been since getting sick in the Winds. I had been coming around for a while now, but I think we both hoped that the problem would fix itself. But now — how long? — a month later it hadn’t. Facing a route decision in a few miles that involved a significant variance in mileage and effort, we needed to get it out in the open now. So we sat down and talked about it. A slog up Grays Peak, the highest point on the CDT at 14,278ft seemed like a poor choice considering the weakness and vertigo Spice felt hiking up James yesterday. She didn’t want to hold me back, and I didn’t want to see her suffer for the sake of some lame mountain. Grays had been looming literally and figuratively ahead of us for days, and in that moment, it felt like too much. No, there was an obvious alternative. Take the popular route through Silverthorne instead, cutting out Grays completely and saving a day of leg-burning ridgewalking. We would reach our planned stop in Denver that much sooner, and Spice could get checked out by a doctor. Time to fix this. We are out here to hike the CDT, not climb Grays, and (mostlysometimes) have fun while doing it. Let’s find that again.

The decision to do Silverthorne lifted my mood immediately. I think Spice was still concerned about denying me a summit, but I knew it was the right choice for so many reasons, and it made me happy. Straight up.

Scooting along to Jones Pass, feeling lighter.

The conversation, hiking, everything was lighter from there. Even the wind was something I could laugh at. No more insurmountable obstacle ahead, only amazing hiking with my amazing partner. We climbed up to the ridge (still hard) then scooted along it, enjoying the views of jagged peaks and deep valleys to Jones Pass (12,461ft) where we split onto the Silverthorne route, leaving the high trail above to descend to the land of happiness and warmth.

Feeling good about the route choice. Feeling good about this moment.

Fittingly, Hakuna Matata was on our minds for the rest of the day. We chased a family of moose along the trail for a quarter mile, then climbed to a ridge again as the sun was setting. Blissful walking, riding the ridge and scouting for cairns as alpenglow turned the peaks pink. That. That ruled. We pulled into camp well after dark, but in good spirits. The decision still feels right. I’ll take that as a good sign.

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