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  1. #1
    Registered User brian039's Avatar
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    Default Weminuche Wilderness

    I'm looking at hiking the Weminuche between Stony and Wolf Creek Pass on the CDT this Summer. I was wanting to get a few opinions on the best direction to hike, about how long it will take, best time to go, and any other information. I did 20-25 mpd pretty easily on the Colorado Trail last Summer, is the terrain pretty similar to the San Juan section on the CT? I'm going to buy the Trails Illustrated map and was just going to wait until I get out to CO before purchasing one so I'm not even sure how many miles it is from from one point to the other.

    Also, I'll be starting out not acclimated to elevation and will be going with a group of people most of whom also will not be acclimated. I'm a little concerned about that as I did experience mild headaches last year even though I started out at a lower elevation on the CT near the Denver end. So I'm just wondering if this will be something dangerous or just uncomfortable.

  2. #2

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    From Wolf Creek Pass (10,850) to Stony Pass (12,550) the trail is about 85 miles and seldom goes below 11,000 feet (10,550 at Weminuche Pass), the average altitude is probably closer to 12K with a high of 12,850.

    If you can average 20-25 mpd I'd be amazed. Even in my best day I wouldn't expect to hike much more than 15 mpd in this section. YMMV

    Yes it can be dangerous at such high elevations, especially if you start without any acclimation.

    All said, it's an awesome stretch of trail and shouldn't be missed. Almost worth dying for.

    Try hiking 5.2 from Wolf Creek Pass to Rock Lake (11,350- about 1200 of total gain, not really sure about camping possibilities*) and see how it goes.

    * at 6.5 there's a trail that descends right to the South Folk of the Rio Grand with good camping after a couple hundred yards.

  3. #3

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    Ahh! Probably the best portion of the whole CDT!
    Good for you.
    Don't know the statistics but I am thinking that Wolf Creek pass is higher elevation.
    So, I would probably start at the lower one just to help the headaches a bit.
    You probably will have some and I'm sure you're aware you should plan short days in the beginning.

    It's a bit higher than the CT portion. More above treeline. I remember almost daily lightning in this section.
    I didn't bail but some did. (probably more prudent to bail sometimes)

    I hiked this section with a group once. One guy couldn't do more than 8 miles a day.
    So, that didn't work out too well.
    I hope you know your group and are OK with going the speed of the slowest hiker.

    The scenery is incredible. Hike up to the "Window" for some of the best views (looking west)
    Part of this section is where they run the "hardrock 100" mile race!

    I believe your elevation concerns MAY be dangerous to some people.
    I've started out high already and put up with the headaches and was OK, but everyone is different (and every time too)

    It would be best to get acclimated as much as you (your group) possibly can.

    The terrain isn't all that tough, except for the non-acclimated of course.


    I think I'd buy the TI maps now and start a plan.
    Have fun.
    Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams

  4. #4

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    The South San Juans and the Weminuche are candidates for the best hikes on the CDT! It's gorgeous in there. Won't make any difference which way you go. It's all high. Take your time and enjoy it. (15 mile days)

  5. #5

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    And if you have a couple of extra days you should continue on to Spring Creek Pass instead of stopping at Stoney. You will then have done the best hike in Colorado.

  6. #6

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    Any chance you can spend a couple of days at Durango or elsewhere getting acclimated? When we did our first hike in Colorado, we visited Mesa Verde and spent two nights in Durango, which is about 6500'. My headache was pretty much gone by the time we started our hike. Jim, OTOH, ended up with pulmonary edema a week into the hike. He started out with altitude issues and they never went away, but that was partly because he'd had a stomach bug the day before we started and was badly dehydrated.

  7. #7
    Hike smarter, not harder.
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    Take a day to acclimate, or you'll be walking someone to lower elevation.
    Con men understand that their job is not to use facts to convince skeptics but to use words to help the gullible to believe what they want to believe - Thomas Sowell

  8. #8
    Registered User brian039's Avatar
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    Great feedback from all. The unacclimated ones in the group will be riding with me to either Silverton or Pagosa Springs when we decide where we want to start. The rest of the group lives out West at higher elevations and would be more acclimated to the elevation. So it would take us 2 days to drive out there then we will spend a day at one of the aforementioned towns and hopefully we'll gain enough acclimation to avoid serious altitude sickness. That's unfortunately probably the best we'll be able to do as far as getting acclimated. It's an AT reunion hike from the group I hiked most of the AT with and they are all young and in very good shape, if that matters. I'm actually the slowest one in the group. I think 15 mpd is probably more realistic as the figure I gave previously of 20-25 mpd through the Northern end of the San Juans was after having a few weeks of gradually higher elevations under my belt.

    I definitely agree with the sentiment of this being the best hike in Colorado, the portion I did on the CT through the San Juans has been the best hiking experience of my life so far. While I loved the end of my CT experience, there was a bit of remorse for leaving the San Juans as I took that right turn off the CDT down into Elk Creek. It's also a good idea to go ahead and buy the map so that I can plan a few campsites in the beginning and try to do some shorter days.

  9. #9
    Registered User handlebar's Avatar
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    It's a gorgeous section and one of the highlights of the CDT. As far as altitude acclimatization is concerned, being young and in good shape is no guarantee against acute mountain sickness, high altitude pulmonary edema, or high altitude cerebral edema. You could all consider a course of acetazolamide (Diamox). It's taken for two days prior to reaching higher altitude and continued for 3 additional days. I'd also plan on taking the first couple of days a little more slowly than your normal pace, hopefully camping at whatever lower points your route offers.

    You might want to determine your starting point based on the local altitude of either Silverton or Pagosa Springs if one is significantly higher than the other. I remember Pagosa Springs being a very long way down from Wolf Creek Pass.
    Handlebar
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  10. #10
    Hike smarter, not harder.
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    Default

    I was going to mention Diamox next. I though you had to start it sooner than 2 days before altitude. Some good threads about Diamox and it's applications on BPL.
    Con men understand that their job is not to use facts to convince skeptics but to use words to help the gullible to believe what they want to believe - Thomas Sowell

  11. #11
    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
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    Pics say it all....



    Between, the CT, CDT, weekend hikes and a loop I put together last year, the San Juans just always call to me.

    I used part of that stretch last year to make my own loop hike:
    http://www.pmags.com/seven-days-solo-in-the-san-juans

    BTW, I'd suggest you follow the physical divide where possible. I followed the divide from from just below Mt. Nebo to Hunchback Pass up to Hunchback Mtn, down to some lakes then to just above the split of the CT/CDT. No real trail; just some worn social trail here and therel, a few cairns and some faded jeep track. Being on top of an unnamed 13er in the San Juans on the actual Continental Divide is awesome.
    Last edited by Mags; 01-22-2012 at 21:20.
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  12. #12
    Registered User brian039's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mags View Post
    Pics say it all....



    Between, the CT, CDT, weekend hikes and a loop I put together last year, the San Juans just always call to me.

    I used part of that stretch last year to make my own loop hike:
    http://www.pmags.com/seven-days-solo-in-the-san-juans

    BTW, I'd suggest you follow the physical divide where possible. I followed the divide from from just below Mt. Nebo to Hunchback Pass up to Hunchback Mtn, down to some lakes then to just above the split of the CT/CDT. No real trail; just some worn social trail here and therel, a few cairns and some faded jeep track. Being on top of an unnamed 13er in the San Juans on the actual Continental Divide is awesome.

    Yeah, that's just awesome! I was hoping most of the trail was on the divide itself but I'll definitely try to stay on the physical divide when possible. I'm looking at going in August. I did my CT hike during July and dealt with daily thunderstorms of various intensities, is that still an issue in August? Luckily, I have a family member who can write me a script for Diamox so I might give that a try.

  13. #13

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    For day one of the hike, you have 2 options for reaching the junction where the co-joined CT.CDT split; the CT goes to Durango and the CDT heads for Wolf Creek Pass.

    1) hike 3,690 feet in 8.4 miles from the Elk Park train stop

    2) hike 350 feet in 5.8 miles from Stoney Pass


    Option 1: fly into Durango and spend two 2-3 nights there at 6,550 feet. Take the train from Durango to the Elk Park stop and hike up the CT to the split. You might want to camp along the way rather than take the full 4000 foot elevation change in one day. There are supposedly good campsites with water at mile 2.5 (9,995') and again at mile 5.8 (10,720').

    Option 2: fly into Durango and spend 1 night there at 6,550 feet. Next day, take the train to Silverton and spend 1-2 days at the Hostel there at 9,330 feet. Book a jeep tour to Stoney Pass (12,525 feet) and hike the co-joined CT/CDT to the split. This option will make acclimatization easier, especially for the flatlanders in the group.

    Your hike.
    Your call.


    WB

  14. #14
    Registered User Lyle's Avatar
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    Very envious. I did that from just outside Silverton to Wolf Creek Pass back in 1980. FANTASTIC area. As I recall, I left Silverton about Aug 21 or 22. Had beautiful weather, temps were generally good, some cold winds occasionally, and of course the afternoon thunderstorms, but you are familiar with them, I suppose. A couple of the old photos in my gallery are from this section.

    I hope to hike the CT in the next few years, getting antsy!!

    Best wishes.

  15. #15
    Garlic
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    Can't add too much to what the others have said, except it's real hard to NOT stay on the CDT in there. So I wouldn't worry too much about maps. As Mags said, stay on the backbone as much as you can--that route near Nebo is excellent. I think it's shown on J Ley's CDT maps. The old Highline Trail is shown very accurately on the old topo maps. I just took some photocopies in there, cost pennies. You might want a small scale map of the area like the DeLorme Atlas pages to show bail-out options.

    The trail is in excellent condition. There are very places where dead trees could even be an issue.

    My last hike in there I started at Cumbres Pass in New Mexico, hiked to Elk Creek and took the train to Durango. I was in excellent hiking condition and lived at 7500'. I did those 160 miles in less than six days, so a 25 mpd pace is definitely possible. The tread is excellent, and after a few days it's kind of fun trying to outrun the afternoon t-storms. But also listen to Sly--a slower pace is not a bad idea there.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

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