18.5 miles hiked, camping at mile 23.8 @ 11102 ft. Highest points 12595ft Lake Ann Pass, 12533ft Hope Pass
I ambitiously set my alarm for very early, then predictably I wake and ignore it. I hike out of camp at a leisurely 740am and the trail immediately goes straight up for 2 miles. There is thick forest either side of the trail with dense undergrowth and bright bursts of colour from wildflowers. As I break through above treeline a meadow opens up all around with a stunning view of the pass up above. Mountains tower all around, still with snow patches, and the wildflowers are sprinkled through the grass. It’s a tough climb and switchbacks up for the last mile getting rockier underfoot. I stand the catch my breath and watch a pika gather a big bunch of grass and bounce up the almost vertical rock fall, grass in mouth, where I’m guessing he’s doing some interior decorating to his home. As I round the last switchback I’m hit with a gust f wind and a magnificent view as the collegiate peaks wilderness is spread out before me. 12533ft view is beautiful with craggy snow topped spires with a lush green valley below. At the top of the pass a series of prayer flags have been erected. It makes me smile to see them and think of all the stupas in Nepal. I have prayer flags tied to my pack that I picked up in Mt Shasta last year while hiking the PCT. Prayer flags always look like hiking to me.
Ooh the descent is a knee burner. The trail is steep, narrow and made of loose gravel and sand so I’m sliding all over. Finally below tree line I drink some water and filter some more, and eat more things than I should. Passes make me hungry!
Down down down down through the trees we hike. It gets hotter and hotter as we descend and we make sure to drink lots as we pass by more little streams.
The trees thin out and the ground is dustier at the bottom where we make a turn to head towards our next pass of the day – Lake Ann Pass. Steep up, steep down and repeat. Nothing flat in Colorado!
The climb is slightly less steep than Hope Pass for the first part, and the scenery more lush with prettier peaks crowding around. Another water stop and this time it’s from a waterfall! Such simple beautiful things that make you smile out here. The mist from the waterfall cools us as we sit and filter watee, then the sum disappears behind some clouds. In the few minutes we are sitting it goes from unremarkable clouds floating by to grey, dark grey and distant soft rumblings of thunder. Eeps we have to get a move on to get over the pass. Breaking through above treeline we pass by the trail to Lake Ann, and as we ascend are treated to a view of the lake from above. We switchback across big boulders and rock slides, careful not to misstep and hurt ankles or break poles.
I’m powered by music and sing my way to the top of the pass, the music distracting me from my shakey legs and grumbling stomach. I’m again thinking of friends who suggested each of the songs on my playlist as I climb, imagine them singing along with me. Credence comes on and I immediately think of my Dad. He had a terrible memory, but could always tell you exactly where he was and what he was doing when a particular song came out. I don’t remember what the story was for Fortunate Son, but he pops into my head everytime I hear it. I wonder what he would have made of my crazy adventuring.
The final trail to the top is across a skinny skinny ridge covered in snow. Don’t slip don’t slip!
The world on the other side of the pass is gorgeous. A wide valley with lakes and distant peaks, ones we will no doubt be climbing up towards in the next day or two. A few snowflakes start to fall at the top, and a fat fluffy marmot zooms across the rocks. Down we must go as the clouds are still overhead and looking mean!
Down down down. Steep steep steep. Down past all the rocks and into the pine trees. We make a wrong turn at a confusing junction, then quickly fix the mistake. We haven’t gone nearly as far as we wanted, but 2 passes has made it a tough day nonetheless. When we are yelles out to by a camper at a fairly flat area, and he invites us to come hang at the fire he has built up, it doesn’t take long for us to decide our day is over and set up camp.
The mosquitos are horrendous and the smoke from the fire is a great repellent. I jump intp the tent early and put some cream on my back – in addition to the relentless pain in my hip/thigh my pack has now rubbed my spine raw. The cream stings and I plan to cover my spine with fixomil tape in the morning. Oh to finally find a pack that doesn’t hurt me!
I fall asleep listening to the army of mosquitoes buzzing outside the tent, and dreaming of a pack as soft as a pillow.