This was a great day to wander through the San Juan Mountains and
Hiking weather doesn't get much better than this, nor does the scenery.
Although it was a brisk 32 F. when I started out this morning the temperature
got up to the 70s in the afternoon at 11,000 to 12,000 feet
elevation on the Colorado Trail (CT). It was even warmer -- low 80s -- at
9,000 feet in Silverton. I'm betting
there was some major snow-melting around here today.
contrasts in the morning
The sky was brilliant blue all morning, as you'll see in the
accompanying photos as I was hiking outbound on the CT. Clouds started appearing
over the peaks about 1 PM, which is typical during the summer in
mountainous terrain but they didn't bring any wind or rain with them.
Perfect! I'm glad I waited until today to do this hike.
Typical puffy afternoon clouds
This entry will also include several pages because of the number of
photos I'm including. I took 431 pictures, whittled those down to 361
when editing them, and will show you several dozen in a "virtual tour" of
the trail. I hope they inspire you to venture out on this beautiful
trail some day.
Note that none of CT Segment 25 is on the Hardrock
course although you can see some parts of this section from the
HRH course higher up on Bear Mountain.
is one of my favorite hikes in the Silverton area and my very favorite
of all the twenty-eight CT segments. It's also one of the easiest
CT segments to access, so I've been on it a lot of times. (If you're
second favorite CT segment is #24, which goes the other direction from Molas
Pass and follows the Continental Divide for lots of miles = great views
Segment 25 begins either at Molas Pass (elev. 10,885 feet) about seven
miles south of Silverton on US 550 or a mile
west of the pass in the Little Molas Lake Campground (elev. 10,910 feet), depending on where you want to
start/end. It extends for 20-21 miles west, then south, to Bolam Pass.
Here's a map segment from the CT guidebook that shows the part of the trail
I hiked today:
Silverton is at the upper right. I began at "B" and hiked out and back
to "F," a little over eight miles. Bolam Pass is farther south and
off this map section. The Ice Lake Bain is near the top of the map on
the left; Grant-Swamp Pass and Clear Lake are just to the NE and
also off this map.
The high point in CT Seg. 25, what I call Rolling Mountain Pass (12,520 feet), is
approximately 12 miles from Molas
Pass ("A") or 11 miles from the trailhead in the Little
Molas campground ("B") where I started.
Rolling Mountain Pass is just to
the left of "H" on the map above and marked by the red arrow in the next
Reaching this saddle is usually my goal when I'm hiking out and back on
this segment, if for no other reason than the fantastic views north and
south from it.
The basins below Jura Knob, Rolling Mountain, and the
Twin Sisters peaks are also fun to explore.
There was entirely too much
snow today for me to get up that high but it sure is pretty to view from
a distance. The red line in the photo above marks approximately where the CT goes.
When there is less snow than now, it's easy to just wander around up
there off the trail. I meandered off-trail last year and took this picture of one of the alpine ponds:
The upper basin this time last year; photo taken
June 30, 2010.
Pretty sure that's all snow and ice right now!
The only time I've done the entire 21-mile segment point to point from Molas Pass to Bolam Pass
2006. Since then I've done several out-and-backs to or near
Rolling Mountain Pass for runs/hikes of 18-22 miles.
View toward Rolling Mountain Pass from the CT
I've also climbed
up to Rolling Mountain Pass on the Rico-Silverton AKA Mineral Creek
Trail at the end of
South Mineral Creek Road several times but that wasn't advisable today with the creeks
so high and with so much snow above 12,000 feet.
You can find photos from all these treks in previous journals.
Jim dropped Cody and me off at the Little Molas Campground trailhead
early this morning. The majority of these photos are in order as I hiked
Gradual climb in the first mile of the trail
The worst patches of snow at the 11,500-foot level were about two miles in, on the old Jeep trail
heading north toward Sultan and Grand Turk peaks. I was surprised because
that slope has a sunny southeast exposure.
Two polite young male cyclists from Durango passed me on the trail a few
minutes before I
reached this area.
I found them stopped along the very muddy trail below the first of two
long snowed-in spots on the jeep track. They wisely chose to turn around
and go back down.
One of two cyclists I saw in the second mile
First view toward Rolling Mountain Pass
Muddy trail climbing toward Grand Turk
My original plan was to hike for a total of about five hours but if the
weather was good, the trail was passable, and Cody and I were holding up
well . . . I wanted
to extend it to six hours. Jim and I checked for phone reception at the trailhead and we had
signals. Fortunately, I had an even better signal on the trail and was
able to call Jim three times re: when I’d be done.
The trail, the weather, and Cody’s and my energy were all so good that I stayed out there for over seven hours!
Deer tracks in the mud
Looking back south toward Engineer Mtn.
16.6 miles in 7:15 hours, to be exact. That's a much better time than I
did two days ago going up to the Lower Ice Lake Basin and Grant-Swamp
Pass. This trail is generally easier, I wasn't plowing through as much snow
today, and I admit I did a little bit of running so I wouldn't be out
there even longer than I was.
Scenic view toward Rolling Mountain and the Twin
Looking west from the Colorado Trail
My time was faster doing longer miles at the Bighorn race, though.
That's because it was a race and even when I'm mostly walking I
still have some pride!
Looking south (above) and west (below) from the
left turn below Grand Turk
What a day! I just love this section to begin with. Much of the trail is
smooth, it doesn’t have a huge amount of elevation gain and loss, and
the scenery is great.
like the other hikes I've done in the past week, it was interesting to
see it in a more wintry phase.
I started at just under 11,000 feet, spent
most of the time at 11,500-11,800 feet, and gradually got up to 12,000 feet where I
turned around – just inside the “hanging alpine valley” 8.3 miles up from the
of the elevation gain on this segment comes in the first 2-3 miles to
the turn just below Grand Turk. Then it rolls up and down until the
climb into the basins and to the high saddle between miles 10-12.
Photos continued on the
next page . . .
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil