Route Name: Continental Divide Trail / Colorado Trail
Cottonwood Pass Elevation: 12,196 ft.
High Elevation: 12,792 ft.
Distance: 4.42 mi.
Elevation Gain: 1,236 ft.
Start Time: 9:08am
Summit Time: 10:45am (4 minutes on top)
End Time: 12:08pm
Trip Report:On this day we were given the opportunity to make hiking plans with my Aunt and Uncle who live out in Colorado. Initially they had suggested a peak reachable from Monarch Pass but the weather in that area was less than favorable. This steered us toward a hike from Cottonwood Pass, which with slightly better weather report, and a shorter drive, seemed the more reasonable choice. We made plans to meet at the pass at 9am and to hike out 2 miles along the Continental Divide Trail/Colorado Trail to an Unnamed summit at 12,792 feet.
When we arrived at Cottonwood Pass the sky was full of clouds but none were threatening with thunder or lightning. It didn't even really rain on us and so we were thankful. At the Pass there are a number of use trails heading directly up the initial slope but the CDT begin is well marked and we started hiking on it. We had initially hoped to try and bypass the initial bump on the ridge but a snowpatch was blocking any obvious easy passage. We also found that the CDT pretty much went up and over.
|Views from Cottonwood Pass down the west side|
At about 12,450 on the initial peak snow was blocking the trail and so we found easier passage following the base of the snow to the edge of the field and then could climb up to the top. Seth, my Aunt, and myself went this way. The others had found passage above the snow field. Seth was already complaining about having trouble hiking today as we made the top of the first peak. He had had a rough experience on Uncompahgre Peak four days ago and so his head was mostly out of the game. He made overtures about heading back to the car but I said we were hiking on.
|Just below the snowfield on the first peak|
We continued on along the ridge and just under a half mile from the first summit Seth finally quit. He just didn't want to go any further. We were out in the open on a broad ridge and the weather was calm so we made the decision to let him sit there on a rock at the side of the trail. He seemed to be very safe out there and he much preferred it to hiking further and so we allowed it.
|Looking back along our route|
The rest of the group, myself included, hiked onward on the CDT til we neared our goal. As we neared the slope heading up to our Peak we could see that the CDT actually traverses the side of the Peak and wouldn't truly ascend to the top of it. At a saddle where the slope went upward we began to bushwhack up the slope. It was all short tundra vegetation so we treaded lightly and spread out to find the easiest route up the slope. It had two steeper sections. I moved quickly and intentionally pushed ahead of the group so I could summit first and then head back to Seth. I did so and hit the top for a few minutes about 10 minutes ahead of the others. I then sped downwards back to the CDT. I could see Seth had left his original spot and was headed more towards us.
|Looking up toward the summit of UN12792|
When I got back down he was only a few hundred feet away. When I reached him he was crying and said he got lonely. I realized, quickly, we probably shouldn't have left him be. He'd probably been by himself 40 minutes or so as the rest of us summitted. We could see each other the whole time but it was still a long period to wait. Once we were back together I asked him if we should wait here for the others or begin to hike out and he wanted to head back to the truck, so we did. I got him settled down and we actually hiked well to the initial summit where we stopped for a quick bite to eat and a rest. He was beginning to have a little fun again. I could see the rest of the group had summitted and was also heading down and so we proceeded to descend from the initial peak. We again dropped below the snowfield to regain the CDT below and then headed back out to the pass.
|From the summit of UN12792|
When we started we were the only folks on the trail. As Seth and I made our return we encountered a group of three who were thinking of heading out to the same peak we did. Between the initial peak and the pass we probably encountered another 20 people just doing some short hiking. We regained the pass at 12:08pm and it started to sprinkle just a bit there. It only lasted a few minutes and we didn't think it was hitting the others.
|From the summit of UN12792|
Next time, it appears worth contemplating a hike northeast from the pass on the CDT and a possible go at Mt. Yale by running the ridges. It would be an adventure!
|CDT + CT sign on the first peak during our return|
|Ice Mountain and the Apostles|
|Seth rock climbing back at the pass|