Adams Fork Conejos River (02_128)
Day 49 – 6/9/17
Miles – 11.4
Total miles – 705.2
Today’s hiking was the hardest we have ever done. We had three big climbs that were completely snow covered that dropped on the other side with even more snow. This was because they were on the north and eastern side of the mountains. These big drops were either long traverses across high basins or they just went straight down the mountain. All of the hiking was cross country because the trail was buried deep below the snow. All we knew was the basic direction that we needed to go. Apps were used to aid in direction.
The first climb started immediately as we left camp. Our path crossed a steep and exposed face. Since it was so cold last night, the snow was hard and icy. We got to use our Microspikes for the first time. Treeman was the first to nervously step out onto the mountain side. To the relief of everyone, the Microspikes worked really well, gripping the icy snow without a problem and giving us a feeling of security. As we broke onto the top of the ridge, we could see the valley we needed to hike into. Quicksilver lead us up to a steep high point cutting foot holes in the snow that traversed across to a bench. This allowed us to drop vertically into the valley below where we took a break and filtered water. More importantly, we needed to unwind from the stress of our decent of the mountain. As we sat at the bottom, we looked back up the mountain we had just come down. All six of us were in awe of what we had just accomplished. The mountain was big, steep, and completely snow covered. While we ate, Treeman, Bling and Joon had competitions to see who could run the furthest bare foot in the snow. It was a tie between Bling and Joon.
The second climb started in the above valley and traversed up to the top of the North side of the mountain. Quicksilver decided to cut foot holes up through the trees. Instead, Treeman and The Ravens walked up the valley then made one long switchback upwards. The Ravens decided to wear our snowshoes. They worked well at the lower angles but as we started traversing at steep angles they became difficult to use. They required lots of leg muscles. Once we hit the main up, we took them off. We wrapped around to the top of the mountain and into the next valley and then dropped very fast. In fact it was nearly a vertical wall of snow. Cautiously we made our way down, cutting deep foot holes as we went until we reached a snowy bench and then we cut around to the head of the valley. The second mountain we conquered today was done! All members of our group were tired, however there was one more mountain to complete before we could quit for the day.
The one good thing about the third climb, was that we could see a section of solid trail, without any snow, across the valley. We knew that was what we needed to head for. Treeman worked very hard at cutting steps for us in the snow. It is a very tiring job to do. Papa Raven relieved him as we neared the top of this last climb. Finally, we caught a glimpse of Quicksilver over in the next valley. The wind was blowing very hard as we crossed. A short time later we caught up with Quicksilver. Our next down looked to be the most difficult of the day. It was a very long traverse on a steep slope. We got to a point were we could see down into the valley, which was the only place we could camp for the night. It was late in the day, and we were fatigued beyond belief. Yet, we had to keep going because we could not set up tents on the vertical mountain side. All that kept us from our cozy tents was a steep 600′ snow covered drop. Papa Raven started the traverse down. He noticed, that most people who came through before we did, dropped straight down, so he followed. At some point, Treeman took over the leading and we traversed down into another shoot. It got to the point that our only choice was to go straight down even farther, but the shoot was narrow and steep. Treeman fell and could not stop. He sled around fifty feet. His saving grace was that it did not go down a long ways and it flattened out a bit. Quicksilver now was in the lead. He made two or three more switchbacks and then he went down. He slid down to where Treeman stopped and instead of stopping himself, he sled on and dropped another 50′ or so. The two of them were having fun. Joon moved to Quicksilver’s line and down she went. Next went Bling. Treeman lost a water bottle on the slide down and Joon lost both of her hiking poles. Papa Raven headed down and got the bottle, but when he went to pick up Joon’s poles, he missed them and left behind one of his poles. Now Mama Raven was up the hill by herself, scared to slide down and the only one left to retrieve the miscellaneous items on the steep slope. She slowly sled down using her poles as breaks. She retrieved the items. It was fun going down and not as hard as we thought it would be.
Finally, we were at the valley floor. All we needed to do now was find a place to pitch the tents and we could then go to sleep, which is what we wanted to do more than anything. There was a strong and bitterly cold wind coming up the valley. Quickly we realized that the snowless areas that we viewed from up above were actually areas of complete water saturation from the melting snow. We had to take our weary bodies up the valley, searching for any piece of land that was dry, semi-level and protected from the wind. A tall order to find in this valley. Eventually, a spot was found just before it got dark. It was far from level, it was horribly bumpy, and not protected from wind, however it was dry. Nonetheless, for six exhausted hikers it was perfect. It would be home for the night. Tomorrow we will have our biggest climb yet.