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6th June

15 miles

Ridgecamp (760) to East Trout River (775)

I’m lying here in my tent. It’s dark outside. And I’m exhausted. I spent 15 hours grinding away and making miles on the trail. Today has probably been one of the toughest days I’ve had hiking.

4am, the alarm sounds. It’s still dark outside. I make my coffee, as usual and force feed myself some pop tarts. I usually eat oats every morning and regret the change. I dislike poptarts.

We set off hiking up a steep hill at 5am. The sun is just starting to light the sky but we still need our headlamps. We have about a 1500ft climb ahead of us. My altitude sickness of yesterday seems to be ok. And my energy levels seem as good as can be expected. My altitude sickness seems to be ok. A night camped at a lower altitude helped.

Nearing the first little plateau I was surprised at just how much of the trail was snow free. The melt is happening fast. Though I’m wishing it would speed up.

Nearing the top there was an impossible set of snow covered switchbacks barely visible. At the top was a huge overhanging cornice. I told Spontaneous of this. He said, “I want to try it”.

I climbed to get a closer look. It was too dangerous. My eyesight is very good. My hiking partner struggles from time to time. I tried to point out the danger. I tried to explain that there seemed to be a much easier route, albeit a little longer.

Spontaneous continued climbing and I set off on the easy route. If something happened to him I would be unable to help as it was too hard for me to reach him. I continued on my easy route as this small dot with a green jacket kept climbing. Traversing impossible slopes then rock climbing up a near vertical face. All at 12800ft. The guy is part cyborg.

“That was very scary. That was very hard”, said Spontaneous.

Getting down off this height was no simple task. First there was the 40 degree slope we had to traverse. It also had a lot of exposure. My fear of heights hasn’t magically disappeared. This time I chose not to look down. Not once. I made it across quite easily.

We continued descending. At one point I glissaded down. That’s what it’s called when you slide downhill on your butt. Unfortunately, the snow was quite firm and icey. Most of my padding has been consumed by my body in its constant need for energy so I felt every bump. Then there was the Postholing. Lots of it.

At the bottom the was a lone tent set up. A hiker was inside. It was ‘Limey’. I met him on the PCT last year and met him again only 3-4 days earlier in Pagosa Springs. He was in the group ahead of us. He suffered from a combination of altitude sickness and a heavy backpack. He chose to take a day off from hiking and stay in his tent. This is called a ‘trail zero’. We offered for him to join us but he was set on resting and eating as much food as he could to lighten his pack.

Upward again. Into the arms of a large thunderstorm. In fact many of them. All around us. They happened to be at their worst when we were near the top. Rather than risk getting hit we retreated into a forest and traversed the slope under the cover of the trees. This didn’t shelter us from the rain.

The rain continued but the lightning faded to the distance. I studied the maps and found that I could link up several other hiking trails for a couple of miles of potential snow free hiking. We jumped at the rare chance to hike on dirt for a change.

The Trout river trail isn’t a trail. Maybe it was back in the 80s. We followed elk and deer trails which sometimes had fresh bear poo on it. Other times it had Moose poo. Almost every fallen tree seemed to find itself in front of me at some stage. It was very slow going. Despite the negatives there were lots of deer, maybe 20-25 were spotted. And a lovely narrow canyon that funnels the water over a waterfall.

By 8pm we exited the narrow gorge and set up camp to the sounds of running water. After 15 hours of hiking we covered 15 miles. I don’t think I’ve ever put in so much effort in one day. To make matters worse we need to make an early start tomorrow. We need to follow another trail back up to the snow covered mountains. There is a potentially dangerous traverse we need to do. At least that’s how it looks on the map. Better to do it in the morning when the snow is firm and more safe.

Well, after my 15 hour day I’m ready for bed. Just had to quickly write this blog post before my day comes to an end. It’s now 10.15pm and I need to wake again at 4am. Good night.

somehow we have to get over that mountain

but the trail is impossibly steep

i climb part way up but it seems far too dangerous

i look across at the far ridge and think it might be possible

somewhere on thr high exposed ridge is Spontanious

made it

now i just need to follow across this exposed traverse

dont look down

hoding from the lightning in the trees

dinner at 8.45pm, i am tired

Next – Day 51 The Retreat from the Snow

All the tips you need to hike the CDT : Continental Divide Trail

More great hiking stuff:

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail
Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Te Araroa Trail – New Zealand

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Where to buy all the best gear for Hiking the Continental Divide Trail: | |Wild Earth Australia |Amazon

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About The Author

Life long lover of hiking and keen observer of the natural world. Former Police Officer and Wilderness Tour Guide who loves Cycling and Hiking the most amazing places on the planet.

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14 Responses

  1. ADL

    Wildlife encounters- yea! I like my Kahtoola K-10 upgrade from Yaktrax XTR spikes. Have only used my Raven axe for glissading and digging rain trenches around my tarp. Go figure. Glad you’re feeling better. Gotta eat!

    • BikeHikeSafari

      I used yaktrax last year, very unimpressed. Kahoola is much better

  2. Heather

    That sunset photo is one of the best hiking photos I’ve ever seen! Wow! That traverse looks quite daunting. I can see now from reading your posts and seeing your photos why they say the CDT is so difficult. Stay safe!

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Thanks Heather, it was daunting, the exposure was horrible but I made it. The CDT is certainly not fir beginner hikers.

  3. Alison

    What a challenging day! The pictures of you traversing that snow give me serious anxiety just looking at them from the safety of my computer. Love that sunset (I think) photo–just awesome!

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Thanks Alison. The hardest day I’ve ever had while hiking.

  4. briandwatt

    Thanks for your posts. I bailed at Cuba NM on day 25 with awful chest congestion, coughing and back pain that I couldn’t shake. I’m home now and I’m living vicariously through you. Safe journey, Tartan PCT 2014

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Oh that’s crap news. I feel bad for you. I had a bit of an altitude induced cough last week but it’s fine now. I hope you can find the strength to get back on the trail, or maybe next year.

  5. Phil Halpin

    Hi Brad
    I am in awe of your achievements. The CDT is such a big challenge. I am just setting off on the JMT which, while just a walk in the park for you, is causing me some anxiety. Anyway, I will continue to read about your adventures and achievements and wish you the very best of luck.

    • BikeHikeSafari

      You will be fine on the JMT. Evolution basin is one of my most favourite areas. You are right, the CDT is a challenge like no other.

  6. AR.

    Make sure the ice ax is attached to you on the traverses. It does you no good if you loose in a fall.
    BTW, the crampons work well on wet/slimy log crossings.

    Keep up the good hike.

    • BikeHikeSafari

      Cheers. The ice axe is attached so tight to my wrist that it almost cut of my circulation. With the shaft shoved into the snow it should hold, I hope. No crampons so microspikes do just as well.


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