My first long hike for this year will be Collegiate West on The Colorado Trail. Collegiate West is an alternate route on The Colorado Trail which splits from the main trail at Twin Lakes and rejoins the main trail south of Monarch Pass. Collegiate West more closely follows the Continental Divide than the main trail; especially since, new for 2014, The Colorado Trail Foundation has re-routed 23 miles of Collegiate West off of roads and more into the mountains.
Collegiate West is supposed to be one of the best portions of The Colorado Trail, but it will be hard to beat the San Juan Mountains. According to The Colorado Trail Foundation, the new 23 mile section is “one of the most scenic pieces of The Colorado Trail”. When I thru hiked The Colorado Trail last year, I wasn’t too thrilled with this area while on the main trail. There were thick trees which limited visibility and in general there just wasn’t much to see. I’m hoping to redeem this area on Collegiate West.
The official length of Collegiate West is 82.3 miles. However, since Collegiate West ends in the middle of nowhere on the Continental Divide, I’ll be hiking an additional 8.6 miles on the main Colorado Trail in order to get back to the highway. So the total hike length will be 90.9 miles. My plan is to complete the hike in 6 or 7 days. It will probably be 7 since I’ve definitely gotten out of shape since completing The Colorado Trail last September. And the first day of hiking will take me to 12,548 feet on Hope Pass (a 3300 ft climb) instead of the relatively gradual increase that I got last year when starting The Colorado Trail. In order to complete the hike in 7 days, I’ll need to average about 13 miles per day.
I’m currently watching reports from The Colorado Trail Foundation regarding the snow cover on Collegiate West. According to their reports, as of July 1, Collegiate West was still impassable due to the snow pack. They estimate that Collegiate West might become passable mid July. I’ll be starting the hike as soon as I get the word that the trail is passable. Actually, I might be daring and set out before then. Somebody has to report that it is open, right?
Collegiate West will not be my only long hike for 2014. I’m also planning a 320+ mile hike on a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington. If everything goes as planned then I should be starting that hike sometime in August.
I’m very anxious to get back on the trail and into the mountains!