Shortly after entering the Holy Cross Wilderness area, we met a Denver family coming the other way who had crossed the snow field successfully. There were 3 kids in the family ranging in age from about 8 to 14. If they can do it, surely we could as well! As we ascended from about 10,900′, we began crossing intermittent patches of snow on the trail. At times, we could navigate around them, but usually we had to pass over the snow.
After about a mile and a half of climbing the trail and crossing these patches of snow, we were near timberline and came across a snow field that eliminated the trail entirely from view. We had our GPS navigator, so we knew where the trail was supposed to be, but tracks in the snow went several different ways through the snow field. We teamed up with 2 other hikers (Sasha and her dad), who we’d been leap-frogging with most of the day, to navigate through the snow. We tried to go around the snow, but ultimately had to slowly pick our way across it, trying to tread lightly and minimize “post-holing”. We finally found the trail on the other side and continued on, crossing numerous additional patches of snow along the trail. In all, there were about 3 miles that we had to navigate through snow. It slowed our progress significantly and resulted in soaking wet feet for all of us.
As we descended from the high point of 11,700′, we met another solo hiker going the other way. She was a young lady (trail name ‘Roof’ – as we later found out) who was planning to reach Tennessee Pass that night. This seemed like an ambitious goal to these three old dudes, given that it was already late afternoon, especially since she had to cross that snow. She said she’d dealt with snow in the San Juans (she’s a Continental Divide Trail through hiker) and knew it would slow her down, but away she went in a quest to go the 11 miles it took us all day to cover. Interestingly, she had a bright blue fiddle case on top of her pack. We assumed that she got her trail name (Roof) from the fact that her pack appeared to have a blue roof on top.
After traveling about another mile, we found a good camp site near a small spring and set up camp. I went over to the spring to fill my water bottle. As I was bent over filtering water, I noticed a few pea sized hail stones landing near my feet. The weather had threatened off and on during the day, but was generally dry. This hail storm, however, lasted for several minutes, and also had a bit of rain mixed in. I waited it out near a big tree, finished getting water and then headed back to camp. Glenn and Lance had taken shelter from the storm in their tents. After quite an eventful first day, we lit a fire to dry our socks and shoes, ate dinner and had a nice evening around the campfire. First night out on the trail – tent site wasn’t very flat – didn’t sleep great. Click here for Jerry’s Pledge Form