25th- 27th April

0 miles

Mile 668.1

We spent some time in the quaint village of Chama, New Mexico. We watched many experienced hikers set off into the notorious San Juan mountains. Almost all returned a day or two later. Here is a combination of what they had to say about the San Juan mountains. Too cold. Too much snow. Too much Postholing. Bad weather. Slow travel. Not carrying enough snow gear. Not carrying enough food, and lastly they just weren’t enjoying themselves. 

One comment stood out, “I came here to thru hike not to thru mountaineer”. 

Suffice to say I’m in for a bit of a challenge in coming days.

I’ve been dreaming and cursing my date with these mountains for a long time. They have humbled many an experienced hiker in the past. They have continued to do so this year. As I write this only one hiker has made it through the first section of the mountains, as far as I know. He broke his ankle. But there are several up there right now. 

I’m about as prepared as I can be. I’m carrying extra gear over and above what I’ve carried up to this date. Here is a breakdown of my preparation. I’ve upgraded my footware to a pair of waterproof Vasque Inhalor GTX boots. I’ll be carrying 5 pair of socks, I’ll be wearing 2 pair at anytime. A pair of gaiters. A pair of microspikes. A pair of snowshoes, I loaned these from a local in Chama, thanks Paul. I’ll be carrying 7 days of food for a section that I think will take 4 days. I’m leaving myself every opportunity to get through these mountains safely. My hiking buddies are equally ‘geared up’.

I mentioned that a CDT thru hiker died while hiking the trail last year. He died on the trail, we all hiked past the place he was found. On Friday night the community of Chama, the CDTC and us hikers got together and held a memorial. As per his request that he wrote in his diary it was a party at a local brewery. There were lots of hikers in town. The most hikers I’ve seen since Pie Town.

Tomorrow we head off into the mountains. We will try to get through. 

afternoon storms in Chama, the blue colour is snow in the mountains


all loaded up, about 18kg! The heaviest my pack has ever been

afternoon storms in Chama, the blue colour is snow in the mountains

home for a few nights, Fosters hotel

gathering of hikers and locals at the brewery

26 Responses

  1. Bob Jaworski

    Nice tribute to a fellow hiker who lost his life doing what he wanted to do.

    • BikeHikeSafari

      It was, it’s a strange but loving community. Even though I never met the guy I feel like I knew him.

  2. Mike

    How many days before you reach a resupply town once you start hiking again?

    • BikeHikeSafari

      I hope to reach the town of Pagosa springs in 5 days, but I carry 7 days food. It will be difficult

  3. Dave Tamblyn

    Your description sounds all too familiar as I pulled off the trail at Cottonwood Pass for a few weeks to let some snow melt and give me s shot at going up Whitney. I was really surprised at how much additional energy just walking over/thru soft snow required. The occasional postholing only exacerbated the drama. But then I had no experience with those conditions. My full pack out of Kennedy Meadows weighed 44lbs with snow gear and 9 days of food. Ugh! Snowshoes are not in my plan which is “hold or flip”. I’ll be swapping my XTR spikes for K-10s although in soft snow (by mid-morning) their effectiveness may be minimal. Looking forward to reading about the San Juan snow issues. Sounds daunting. I’m planning on shorter mileage days (12-17 vs 20+). Stay safe. This is for fun! Yes? ADL

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Sounds brutal. It is a very different year in the Sierra this year. You can always leave Kennedy meadows and hike to horseshoe meadow then to lone pine for a day or two rest. It means less food, less snow and more time to rest before heading back to climb Whitney. Just an idea, I’m planning on 10 miles per day, anything more than that is a bonus.

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Cheers, I made it, blog updates coming soon

  4. crackedcrown

    Hi Brad, what you did not mention about Otter (the trail name of the hiker who lost his life) was that this was his third hike of the CDT. He had done it twice before as well as the PCT and many other trails. The best you can do is “be prepared” ! I reckon you’re as prepared as you’re ever going to be. Otter also befriended another fellow Aussie Rosanne Pilbeam aka Muk Muk during her PCT thru hike, and in case you don’t know, some badass thru hikers, Carrot Quinn, Joe Brewer , Mehap, Spark and Trackmeat flip flopped the section you are now in and ended up finishing their thru hike sobo. You have a fellow Aussie hiker coming up behind you. Her trail name is “Snakebite” she’s from Perth and her blog is called “Whimsy and Wanderlust” Her last post was from the Gila River region so she is some way behind you! I’m really enjoying your blog, keep safe! Gary /Perth Australia

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Thanks for the kind words. I know a little of what happened last year and how experienced he was but thought it nor appropriate to speak too much of it. I know snakebite. She will be flipping southbound soon with my former hiking partners, Crunchmaster and Mr Smith.

  5. crackedcrown

    Should have added that the guys who flip flopped the snow section did so last year 2015 – not this year!

    Gary/ Perth Australia

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Thanks Paulo. I made it, blog posts coming soon

  6. Packmann

    Don’t know if you have ever done snow shoeing before, but I find it takes twice the energy of walking and half the speed. And that’s without an 18kg pack. You look well prepared. BTW, “Speedstick” is a few days behind you. She is the lady doing the triple crown all in one calendar year. Marriedtothetrail.com. She makes all of us guys look like sissys. Best of luck and enjoying your blog.

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Thanks for the kind words. Just finished using the snowshoes for the first time. I’m not a fan, I agree with your comments. I’ll be getting rid of them.
      I heard another hiker mention the girl you talk about. I’m sure she will blast past me very soon.

  7. Elizabeth

    Be safe good luck! Keep us posted as you can…

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Thank you. Made it, blog updates coming soon

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Thanks Heather. Made it through, blog updates coming soon

    • BikeHikeSafari

      I made it through, blog updates coming soon

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