Notes we made from Andre's tracker during the hike:
Day 1 (7/21): Started about 5am, hiked until after 10pm & stopped about 11 miles short of Kenosha Pass, about 60 miles for the day.
Day 2 (7/22): Reached upper Miners Creek, about 6 miles past Gold Hill TH.
Day 3 (7/23): Stopped near Rock Creek (west of Leadville).'
Day 4 (7/24): Took sleep break just above Avalanche TH (shoulder of Mt Yale)
Day 5 (7/25): Stopped at crossing of Agate Creek Trail / Little Cochetopa Trail, 263.9 miles total in 5 days
Day 6 (7/26): Not clear - around Hwy 114?
Day 7 (7/27): Not clear - around Hwy 149? (that is 357.4 miles)
Day 8 (7/28): Molas Pass ?
7/30: Reached the Junction Creek TH around 4:00AM, for a new self-supported FKT!
Colorado Trail FKT Self-supported “Thru-hiker” style. East-West with Collegiate East Variant
Andre’ Michaud, Ridgway, Colorado
July 21, 2019 0500 to July 30, 0416.
Day 1- Mile 0-60. Waterton to past Long gulch. I began an hour earlier than prior years. I had a strong first day. I wanted to bank some miles when fresh at low elevation. Fairly warm with minimal dehydration. Third time I’ve done this first push.
Day 2- Mile 60-111. Good weather. Descending into Gold Hill, I saw a moose at 40 feet. Each time, I’ve run into this valley, I have been in a heavy monsoon. Today, I was thrilled to be dry. I retrieved my first cache at Gold Hill. I climbed to the saddle below 12,000 foot ridge. Camped at perfect temperature with clear views of Breckenridge and Dillon Reservoir.
Day 3- Mile 111 to 161.9. I took the required detour through Copper Mountain resort due to construction. It added about 0.5 mile. The climb to Searle pass was nice. Lots of false flats to shuffle. I had clear weather and expansive views to Kokomo. At Tennessee pass, I picked up my second cache. I camped near the Mt. Massive wilderness boundary.
Day 4- Mile 161.9 to 214.7. Today had lots of faster miles but it isn’t as special as other sections. There were a fair number of day users. The monsoon hit heavy today. It was lower elevation so I was warmer but in a very long downpour.
Day 5- Mile 214.7 to 264.3. I was motivated this AM to get my only real meal and get a resupply box at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. I ran fifteen miles in four hours. Mostly downhill and smooth. Had a gourmet vegetarian skillet but I couldn’t enjoy it. I was too concerned about resupplying and not losing too much time. At 3 mph, every moment of inertia is bad. I talked to some nice thru-hikers and took off. The climb from Chalk Creek to the continental divide turned into one of the worse weather days- a fairly robust initial monsoon with minimal hail followed by many hours of soaking rain. Only my synthetic Nunatuk vest and gtx jacket were dry. I summited the continental divide at dusk. I camped on the ridge proper. I had planned to camp in the only shelter on the CT. I missed it in the dark which turned out well because I did a few more miles.
Day 6- Mile 264.3 to 317.9. Camped on continental trail at Agate Creek Junction. Woke cold and a little wet. Humid at 12000 ft. Moved relatively fast over some of the terrain but was not too motivated. As I arrived on the dirt road that leads to Highway 114, I was greeted by a man outside of a Colorado Trail Foundation volunteer camp. Offering to take my trash and provide food, I had to refuse. I couldn’t accept trail magic. I thanked them for their volunteer work and kept walking, thinking of the good food I was missing. As I looked back, I saw they were making old-fashioned ice cream. 20 years of backcountry travel and I’ve never run across ice cream. I had been subsisting on hourly energy or candy bars and dehydrated chili. When I arrived at my 114 stash, I was able to put on new socks. I couldn’t believe the relief and comfort! I had worn the same pair of socks for 300 miles. They were impregnated with granitic crystals, mud, oil and water. They had been soaked for two days. MY feet were in constant, minor pain from my socks, themselves.
Day 7- Mile 317.9 to 367. Began midway to Saguache park, camped amongst the cow shit. Woke a little late to two faster hikers. I used them as a carrot. I passed the first man shortly after decamping. He was doing a duathalon to fundraise for Parkinson’s research. He was going to mtb back to Denver. I ran into the second guy at Eddiesville TH. We had common acquaintances as he was living in Durango. Thankfully, the climb to San Luis pass was snow free and there was no longer the muddy morass from two weeks ago. San Luis pass to Spring Creek pass is my favorite section. It is remote with hardly any day hikers. Gorgeous, continuous views of my beloved San Juans. I knew I had a long way to go. But I was running home now. I hiked a number of miles past Spring Creek Pass. Glad I was in the dark for the first few miles past Spring Creek, I don’t enjoy this area.
Day 8- Mile 367 to 416. Most significant snow fields of entire route on this segment between Jarosa Mesa and Stoney pass. North and East facing fields. Moving relatively quickly despite elevation. Great views followed by the descent into Elk Creek. Elk Creek conditions were the major unknown that I was concerned about. Very worried about Avalanche debris and downed trees. Thankfully, volunteers had gone in and flagged a route through three or four major debris paths. Amazing evidence of the power of an avalanche. Uninspired climb out of Elk Creek to Molas Pass. Talked to some people greeting the Colorado Trail mountain bike racers who began in Durango this AM at 0400. I retrieved my last bear canister at Molas then hiked another 3-4 miles from TH.
Day 9- Mile 416-485. Beautiful day. The first half of the day, I frequently ran into CTR participants crawling towards Silverton. Today was the true “race of truth.” I knew that if all went as planned that I could match the FKT. However, I wanted to honor Staponowich’s and Zahorian’s amazing effort by pushing past it the best I could. I felt strong from the beginning of the day. I made pretty good time the first 2/3. I was lucky to have clear skies with beautiful views passing over the cols and Indian Ridge. In late afternoon, I saw two young thru-hikers on the side of the trail. We greeted each other and I continued. Shortly after, the younger guy was breathing down my neck. I was climbing a little slower than normal but not much. I didn’t want to hike with them to prevent an “ethical concern” by indirectly being “paced” by them. These two guys were the first two runners or hikers who had passed me the entire trail. I slowed a touch to allow them to distance me. After a few minutes of self-counsel, I realized that I had a long way to go and I wasn’t tired enough for these two to “best” me! I started running false flats. I caught them then pushed past for a while. I never saw them again. They provided me with motivation to dig a little deeper. Wonderful views continued. I reached the Indian Ridge Summit at dusk with alpenglow around me. On the top of Kennebec pass, I realized that I could just break John’s record if I took a short sleep. I knew that I had to go all night with the hopes of breaking the nine day mark. Mountain biking from Molas to Durango is a huge day and accomplishment, I was going to run it. From Kennebec down, it was very slow with minimal running. Between mental and physical fatigue, and the dark, sometimes technical trails, it was a little mentally painful. The “worst” climb of the week was the last. It is normally a pretty easy climb. Low elevation, only 1000 ft over 4 miles. Its “easiness” drove me batty. I kept going and not making any progress. I kept checking my Guthook app to make sure I hadn’t taken another trail (despite having done this climb many times prior- in the light)! Finally, “Highpoint” followed by a fairly rocky descent. At Gudy’s, I contemplated a moment of seated introspection, relaxation and thanks. I couldn’t do it. I just wanted to be done! On the flats, I decided to jog a tiny bit. I arrived at the Junction Creek TH at 0416. Alone, nearly emotionless. Surprisingly, I had reception and talked with my girlfriend, sharing a few moments together. Several minutes later, my best friend came careening into the parking lot. My buddy was crying, I was shell-shocked. We hugged and his wonderful wife made me a real breakfast.
This fit is even more impressive with the 2019 conditions. Great job, Andre.