CDT Day 112: Rio Grande Pyramid to the Knife Edge – Finallysickoframen Camp to Toot Toot Cliff Camp
Miles hiked: 22
Total miles: 1947.7
There was more greatness wrapped up in today. The big mountain views continued of course, but it was more of a grind to make the miles. Was the terrain harder, or my fatigue greater? Perhaps the spell of the San Juans has worn off just a little, allowing normal human feelings back into my body. It was still an awesome day, but it had its moments of frustration and scary parts. Camping on a feature called the Knife Edge seems fitting.
I didn’t sleep great, maybe that’s part of it, restless and too warm. Hiking by 8am, tiredness present in my heavy eyelids. SpiceRack and I soon made it to a sunny meadow, a large canvas hunters tent pumping out good smells of campfire from their wood stove. It was ice cold for us though, even in the sun, so we didn’t hang around. We tag teamed an icy creek, then started climbing back to treeline in a small valley filled with a pile of dead trees and a frozen creek.
At the top of the warming climb, Spice told me to just go. I’ll see you at lunch. There was a lot more climbing ahead and she just wanted to take her time, not worry about me. I heard her loud and clear, and skedaddled out of there, up up up.
It felt hot today, and I was soon hiking in just shorts and a shirt for the first time in a while. Willows tried to rip these meager layers off on a plunge through a dip of terrain, then up, back over 12,000ft. From about halfway up, I turned to look for Spice. I found her easily in her pink shirt. I also noticed a small herd of elk running in her direction. Oh boy, this is gonna be good. Spice was deep in willows herself so the large animals got pretty darn close before noticing her. All of a sudden they were running the other way. Cool.
The top of that climb had great views and I took a bunch of pictures even though I knew I would be getting a better vantage from the top of the impending third, and biggest climb. I needed the breather though. I could see almost the entire San Juan route, from San Luis Peak and Snow Mesa across a huge distance, to of course the Rio Grande Pyramid, already fading to a familiar peak in a lineup of endless others. Steep rocky down, then steep grassy up. My legs felt gassed. I needed a break every quarter mile or so and focused on making it to the next trail post. I couldn’t put my finger on it and chalked it up to the tough days in the big mountains and my heavy load of food. Just getting worn down. A final few switchbacks, then views that were totally worth it.
It was easy and spectacular descending a ridge a couple miles to our lunch spot at an icy creek. Willows again tore at my legs on occasion. There I was happy to find Rooster and Crunchberry, just finishing up lunch themselves. We figured out that they’d been only a few miles ahead of us this entire time. It was good to see them again, if only briefly. Spice showed up right after they left, in good spirits though tired and willow whipped as well.
Neither of us had much left in the tank even after the recharge. More climbing left me groggy and delirious. We said goodbye to the big beautiful sun at a saddle, looking at three more climbs before camp. With headlamps on, we carefully picked our way across a slope that looked too steep to hold a trail, but we made it. Then another steep slope, down this time, held my attention pretty well. But the sketchiest bit of trail was saved for last. A long traverse across a steeper, rockier slope demanded all of my attention. It felt intense in the dark. My dim red light only illuminated the trail at my feet and not the bottomless abyss to my left. In daylight it might have been a piece of cake, but tonight it got my heart pumping. Rock avalanches had swept away parts of the trail. Those were the most interesting sections. But we made it, safe. The trail ironically widened as we reached a feature on the map called the Knife Edge.
I was mentally exhausted from the full-on brain effort, so when Spice suggested sleeping right on the Knife Edge, I was shocked then relieved. The trail is definitely wide enough to cowboy... The breeze was light too. We decided to give it a shot. It felt totally secure and quite cozy with a fin of rock to block the wind if it should come up in the night, and it would be interesting to see this place in the morning light. The darkness places us on top of a giant cliff, but it might look pretty pedestrian without bottomless shadows all around. We’ll see. Living the dream on the Knife Edge.