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  1. #1
    Registered User ctebeau's Avatar
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    Default CT Thru early June 2020

    Woops! I meant 2021

    So Ive got a small window of time to pull off a thru hike right after I graduate May 2021 and am looking for opinions on a early June start date. Anyone out there with experience that would care to weigh in?
    I'm a seasoned thru hiker with plenty of mountain experience (including winter treks in the Appalachians). I'm confident in my ability to self rescue and read mountains, but have only been climbing in rockies in the late summer months. What conditions should I expect? (Temps, snowpack, ice, water levels, exc.) Any advice is welcome.
    I love the rockies and this is a bucket list trail for me, but I understand my limitations. If it's not in the books for next year I'll accept that. I'm also open to suggestions for other trails to thru hike!

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    Last edited by ctebeau; 09-15-2020 at 15:15.
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  2. #2
    Registered User ldsailor's Avatar
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    Default

    I hiked the Colorado Trail this year and started on June 26. There was a little snow in the higher elevations that I had to walk through but nothing that required anything but shoes. Now, having said that, before I hit the trail I followed closely the official Facebook group, Colorado Trail Thru-Hike 2020, and there were reports of impassable sections due to snow almost up to the time I started from Denver SOBO.

    It's hard to guess what will happen next year, but if I were you, I would plan on snow and what the CTF calls "impassable" sections. Traditionally, the hiking season for the CT starts July 1. There are a few other members here who have done the trail too, so I'm sure they will give you additional information.

    By the way, there was a snowfall on the trail last week, which had some hikers who were out there post holing. There is some conjecture in the FB group on whether that snow at higher elevations is there to stay until next summer.
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  3. #3
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Every year is sooooooo different regarding leftover snow for early starters, you just have to wait and see. I know that's not helpful....

    But: there are many creative ways to still hike the trail if it's a big snow year and you need an early start, doing some flip-flopping, skipping and returning, etc.

    The first obstacle comes in section 6 around mile 12, getting down from Georgia pass, where it is quite post-holey for a couple of miles. The CFT will call it "impassable" (as ldsailor said) until early July, generally. But what is "impassable"? Well in this case, it means you'll have a couple hours of misery, get through that 2-ish mile section, and you're back on terra firma. If you time that 2 miles for super early morning, many times you can just walk on top of the snow, using other early-starters' boot/shoe track. What's nice about this "impassable" section is that at least you're going downhill during your post-holey misery.

    The next early-start issue is 5-6 miles into section 7 (coming out of Breckenridge)... there is nearly always deep snow lingering on the trail heading up to the 10-mile range crest. Hitting this in early/mid June is rough during moderate years, and downright dangerous (Avy-wise) in heavy snow years. Still, many, many folks make it through this section doing super-early alpine starts from just below this section (say, mile 4-5 in section 7), using microspikes and poles, maybe even with an UL ice axe.

    So, you can always get a free bus ride from Breck over to Copper and skip section 7 for now, come back for it later or whatever. But section 8 has some similar challenges, so you might have to hitch to the end of section 8 and go on from there, etc.

    From the end of 8, you still have some relatively high sections to wade through, but at least they are not high, steep sections, and if you take the Collegiate East (traditional) route through sections 10-14-ish, that's generally not bad in mid June.

    I could go on and on, but hopefully you get the picture. "Impassable" from the CTF is a fairly conservative judgement.

    I do agree the Facebook CT groups have decent info, but there is also a ton of downright bad, misleading info there as well, and you have to sort through the BS to gather the useful info. For example, yeah, we had a big dump back in early September (the 7th????) and a lot of the CT got a foot or more of snow, up on the higher passes. The thing is, almost all of it was gone completely, and the lingering high stuff was no longer any problem whatsoever for hikers, yet one gnarly video from the top of Cottonwood pass kept being posted over and over and over, it was taken on the day of or day after the Big Dump, and even just yesterday (or day before) it was reposted and it's scaring folks off the trail or keeping them off, even though just after that dump, we'd have perfect, very warm, clear, dry weather.

    Sorry, I ramble.... I basically hike a big hunk of the CT every year, warming up for other hikes. I did sections 1-7 starting in very early June this year, a moderate snow year last winter, and had no problems other that that couple hours of misery in section 6.

  4. #4
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Oh, and per your other questions, water, temperatures, etc: water is nearly always PLENTIFUL for early starters, and temperatures are chilly at night and the mornings, but very comfortable for hiking. I'd have a 20-ish degree sleeping system, even though most nights won't be anywhere nearly that cold. As a huge bonus for June CT starters, you're generally pre-monsoon (which starts in July sometime, generally around mid July) meaning less chance (but still a chance) for those pesky afternoon thunderstorms.

    Basically, if you can handle winter trips back easy, the CT should be zero problem for you in June.

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