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1251.0 to 1261.4 (10.4 miles)
Yeah, I know, not very many miles today. But it was a big day anyway.
We had camped to position ourselves for a morning climb of Gray’s Peak so to hopefully avoid afternoon thunderstorms. From the south, the CDT climbs up to Argentine Pass, then up Mt. Edwards, which then connects to a climb up Gray’s Peak via a long knife edge approach. Lots of vertical ascent and rocky trail. We didn’t know how long it would take us, including the descent.
The trail leading up to Argentine Pass was well designed for the initial long climb. It accomplished the climb with only one switch back and a decent gradient. It was impressive to look back at the long trail cut into a steep slope up the better part of a canyon. And it was western facing so we kept cooler with the exertion of the climb in the morning hours. From Argentine pass, the climb continued up Mt Edwards. Approaching from the south, this peak appears more rounded, though we saw later it takes on a different look from the north. (Strange).
Now it got more interesting. From Mt Edwards we could see what we had to face to reach the final climb up Gray’s; a long narrow rocky knife edge. Though we knew it was coming, it was somewhat intimidating to actually face it. There was no defined trail across, just some worn paths from routes others had taken. (There was a defined trail up the last several hundred feet to the top of Gray’s.) We could also see many people on top of Gray’s and on the way up the northern trail. (Gray’s is a popular peak to hike up via the northern route which has a good trail up from an easily accessible trailhead.)
By this time there were storm clouds developing over some surrounding peaks, but at a distance. We decided to go for it.
The knife edge was both a little scary and exhilarating. Sometimes the best path was on top, sometimes to one side. At one point we had to deviate significantly to the left to avoid a cliff. People had taken so many different paths here we couldn’t tell what to do. We also found we had to put away our trekking poles several times to use our hands for some simple rock scrambling. And we saw many Rocky Mountain goats along the way, calmly assessing our progress, sometimes from close range. Since we were inexperienced doing this and were being extra cautious, it was slow going.
We made it across and started the climb up the actual slope of Gray’s. About this time we heard thunder from a nearby storm. Worrisome, but it appeared to be moving away from us. However, we could see hikers turning around on the northern trail.
The final climb up Gray’s in our route was brutally steep, or at least it seemed that way to me. Then, suddenly, we were there. I had become so accustomed to false peaks I was expecting it here. Instead, we were actually there. The nearby thunder had chased the day hikers off the peak, so we had it to ourselves (including two other CDT hikers right behind us). It was sunny up top so we stopped and ate lunch, while a group of mountain goats wondered by. Very cool. We then started down the popular north slope trail.
The descent trail was very rocky and hard on my knees, especially after the sketchy descent from yesterday. Again, it slowed me. Rain clouds threatened but we only got a couple of drops.
The next question was where to camp. We had enough time to put in some more miles but that would put us along a section of trail that parallels Interstate 70. Not only would a campsite there be difficult to find, but it would be noisy. We elected to get to a site along the dirt road that leads to the north trailhead. When we got there we found our other hiking partner Pockets and her friend camped there as well! She is going to hike an alternate route to try to catch us, but also wanted to summit Gray’s Peak. They had hitched there to summit tomorrow. We had a great time catching up and eating supper together. Rain threatened just as it was time for sleep. Short mileage day, but I am still sore from it. (Where is that Ibuprofen....)
⁃ Descent tough on my right leg ⁃ Met Pockets and Griz at campsite area