FKT: Mikaela Osler - Colorado Trail (CO) - 2020-08-09

Route variation
East to West, Collegiate East
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
10d 12h 36m 0s
GPS track(s)

Here's a google photos album with a lot of photos: 

Trip Report:

7/30 Day 1: Sent a point from my garmin, then stood around for a long time waiting for it to send. Lost some time there, oops! Started moving around 7:35 am. Moved really well all day--felt great! Got some water at the fire house but otherwise natural sources all day. Made it 45 ish miles by 10:30.

7/31 Day 2: Bothered by mice in the night, moved slow a lot of the day. There was trail magic at Kenosha Pass--I took two Clif Bars and some water. A day hiker also offered me a band-aid because my knee was bleeding (I tripped while night hiking on Day 1). Saw some elk at sunset, and rejoined the CDT! The old stomping ground! Made it 42.7 miles around 11pm.

8/1: Day 3: Woke up at 3:30--Day 2 I had decided I wanted to try to make Twin Lakes by closing time on Sunday, so knew I had a lot of miles to make. Met another hiker named Nav and hiked with him for 5-10 miles, but he went into Breck and I continued onward. The signed trail was a little different than the trail on Guthooks at the road crossing, but I followed the signed trail (which went under an underpass) rather than the Guthooks track (which went straight across the road) because it seemed safer + more official. The climb between Breck and Copper was very, very hard for me. I got a lot of nosebleeds. But I remembered from the CDT that the climb after Copper was more chill, and, sure enough, I was able to move pretty well past there. I had been thinking about how Stringbean did two sleeps on his Long Trail FKT and wanted to try it out. At 9:30ish, I was starting to get above treeline and suddenly a bright flash--lightning! I ducked down the side trail to Jenny’s cabin and made a horrible campsite next to some trees. I napped for a little less than an hour--long enough for the thunder to pass--then kept hiking. Up and over Searle + Kokomo passes in the moonlight, then down and past the creepy WWII training site. At 5:00, I took another quick nap (half an hour?). 

8/2 Day 4: Sometime in the night I’d begun to notice that my tongue burned whenever I ate. In the morning, I took a selfie and saw that it was covered in white bumps. I called my mom, a nurse practitioner, who told me it could be allergies or thrush, and told me to rinse with salt water (I had no salt) or liquid antacid (I definitely didn’t have that) or at least brush my teeth a lot--I did the latter. Around midday a family with several really cute kids offered me a few Jolly Ranchers, which I took. I believed the Twin Lakes store closed at 7, and was pushing really hard to get there, but I called at 4 and the owner told me he would probably be shutting down at 5 because they were “out of everything.” I definitely couldn’t make it by 5. But he offered to leave out some things I wanted (caffeinated nuun, ibuprofen) and my box, so I took him up on it. I made it to the highway a little after 8, town around 8:30. I charged and resupplied in the dark. It was lonely and cold. Back on trail around 10. On the road walk back a cop stopped me to ask what I was doing. I night-hiked partway around the lake by the moonlight and camped under a bush. When I took off my socks, I saw that my blisters from Day 1 were starting to look red and one seemed to have a lot of puss in it. 

8/3 Day 5: I got almost 6 hours of sleep, and felt better hiking out of Twin Lakes because of it. Later in the morning, I started to feel really discouraged. I just couldn’t move at 3mph. Would I ever be able to? Was I doomed to be a 2.5 mph hiker forever? And what was going to happen with my feet? Would this hike end because of some blisters? Around 11 am, I stopped at a river to get water and wash my feet. I didn’t really have enough band-aids and tape--or enough time--to change the dressings regularly. I knew I’d be at Mt Princeton the next day--maybe I could buy more stuff there? Two hikers stopped on the other side of the stream and after some small talk told me they’d done the CT before. I asked about the first aid supplies at Mt. Princeton. One of them came over and looked at my feet and offered me some raw wool to dress the blisters with. It worked really well! I felt encouraged and powered up the climb after that. Not much else to report from that day. At dark, I passed two hikers--one was named ‘77 because he did the PCT in 1977! I tried out Stringbean’s two-sleep strategy again, but felt I didn’t move very well during the night-hiking portion--couldn’t have been much better than 2mph. Slept from 3:00-5:00am--bliss!

8/4 Day 6: Mostly downhill to Mt. Princeton. By the time I got there, I had blister seriously bugging me in my right heel, and decided to stop, charge my devices, and try to pop it. I stopped longer than I should have--maybe an hour? The blister was pretty deep and I really had to dig at it, and when it finally opened blood came out. I bought all sorts of delicious food and beverages (chips, milk, powerade), as well as first aid stuff and a micro-usb cord--I only had one, but wanted to charge two things at once when I got to Monarch. Another hiker gave me a baby wipe she was throwing away and I used it to clean my legs. I ran out of water in the afternoon, but later made it to halfway--that was exciting! Another hiker took my picture. Then I drank some caffeine and started singing along to some of my favorite music and had a really pleasant hike into Monarch. I got to the road around 7, and hiked down. I showered, resupplied, ate some Stouffer’s microwave fettuccine, slept for a couple hours while my devices charged. I headed back out around 1 am. I almost forgot to go back and tag to sign and connect my steps for the road crossing, but luckily I remembered--and took a goofy video of myself doing it. I hiked until 4ish, then camped in the middle of the trail. 

8/5 Day 7: Usually when I camp in the middle of the trail I’m the first person awake and it’s no problem, but as I was waking up I saw a hiker barrelling down the trail with their headlamp on. I tried to get out of the way as quick as I could, but she basically stepped over me.

“Sorry,” I said. 

“No problem,” she said. “I’ve done it lots of times.”

She had a Russian accent, and an Osprey Pack, and one of those light belts ultra runners use. Wouldn’t it be funny if that was Olga, I thought, and then forgot about it. 

Some really beautiful hiking in the morning. And then at some point my mood just dropped. I knew I’d moved faster the day I did this section when I was on the CDT, and it was frustrating to be moving slow. I was getting into cow country and kept having to make hard decisions about whether to treat or not. I got to the water source at the start of a 14- or 23-mile carry, and met some other hikers, as well as two really friendly bikers, and took a little break to cut open another blister. I wanted to be moving faster but couldn’t. It was very frustrating. But I held myself accountable to not taking off my pack for 14 miles, so at least I was efficient. The problem was that when I did take off my pack 14 miles later I discovered my sleeping pad wasn’t in it. Now, my sleeping pad was just an 1/8-inch sheet of closed-cell foam, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but I felt stupid and frustrated with myself. I thought about going back, but decided it was too far. I’d heard about UL people forgoing sleeping pads to cut weight--I guessed it was my turn to try that out! I did another six miles or so, then found a really nice pine needly spot and had a surprisingly warm sleep using my pack w/tarp and poncho inside as a pad. I think I slept from 9-2--5 blissful hours!

8/6 Day 8: In the morning I hit 300 miles--yee haw! There was a cooler with some gatorades at HWY 114 and I drank one. As it got light, I started to notice there was really a lot of road. I tried to run and--YES!--it wasn’t prohibitively painful. I ran a lot of the day. A sweet old couple in an RV gave me and another hiker water so we didn’t have to drink cow water. I made great time because I could finally, finally, finally run! At 6pm I reached the top of the big climb along Cochetepa Creek and decided to take a quick nap. I had signal. My boyfriend told me that Courtney was coming in the other direction and I should see her soon. And--more exciting--I had a message from Olga--it WAS her! She’d stepped over me while I was sleeping! I napped briefly. This was a mistake. When it got dark, I realized I probably had an hour or two until the moon rose. And worse, my headlamp was dying! At 9:30ish I found an OK camping spot and slept for four hours. 

8/7 Day 9: Woke up and started moving OK--there were some blowdowns and very steep hiking! Around 5:30, I looked up and saw a several lights coming toward me along the trail. “Ah!” I screamed out loud. I hadn’t seen anyone hiking at night the whole time. But it turned out to be Courtney and her pacer. They were very nice and gave me a Honey Stinger. Beautiful sunrise on Snow Mesa, and a quick descent to Spring Creek Pass. Saw some sheep--no trouble from the sheep dogs, thank goodness! Onward up to the high point. I could see other hikers in the distance and pushed myself to go faster and catch them. It was very helpful. I moved really well all day--I felt strong, and the trail was pretty cruisy. When I was here on the CDT, a snowstorm was on the way, but today the weather was perfect! Beautiful sunset. I saw in the comments on guthooks there was a dilapidated cabin by Stony Pass so I pushed to get there--maybe it would be a little warmer? I was worried it would be a cold, cold sleep. And I was pretty much right--I shivered for two hours, then kept moving. 

8/8 Day 10: The hike down after splitting from the CDT was surprisingly technical, especially later in the morning, when several avalanches had buried the trail completely in blowdowns. It took me a lot longer than I wanted to get to Molas, but when I got there there was a trail magic oasis! I had pizza and a la croix and a V8 and they asked me a lot of questions. I hadn’t realized how much the sleep deprivation was messing with my brain until I tried to interact with the trail angels and other hikers. I couldn’t remember anyone’s names, and it took me several seconds to figure out what to say when they asked how many miles a day I was hiking. They gave me a bunch of caffeinated electrolyte pills, which turned out to be really helpful in the last segment. 

I walked down to the campground and got my last box and took an hour (hour and a half?) nap while my stuff charged. I wished I could sleep forever. I bought a Powerade, a coke, and some chips. The two bikers I met a few days earlier were there--they were really encouraging and gave me half a donut! And then it was time to keep hiking--last push! Left Molas around 1 pm. Moved really well from then until dark. My biker friends waited on the ridge where I had 50 miles to go and cheered for me! 

The night was hard. I started moving slow as soon as it got dark. 50 miles seemed like a really long way. I kept doing the math--16 more hours of hiking at least. 16 hours seemed unfathomably long. At 1 am I took a quick nap--it was supposed to be just 15 minutes but I think I snoozed several times. 

8/9 Day 11: I tried to run to keep myself awake. I took a  lot of caffeinated crystal lite and took a lot of caffeinated electrolyte pills, but they didn’t help that much. I felt bone-tired. I was very aware of how I swayed in the trail, how my eyes slipped out of focus and then shut. I ran as much as possible to keep myself awake, and it helped a little bit. I made OK time. When the sun rose, I was feeling really low-down and bad. I stopped for water. When I sat down I felt myself fall asleep briefly and snapped myself out of it. Two hikers--Beekeeper and Kismet--passed me. I caught up to them and hiked with them for a little while. It was good to move together and talk--it helped me stay awake. I left them behind after only a mile or two, though, because they didn’t want to move as fast as me. The next five miles were awful. I was in a low-down-no-good bad mood. At 11am, at a trailhead, I stopped for another 15-minute nap. I’d just passed a hiker who was limping pretty badly and given her my last ibuprofen; she helped me my making sure I didn’t snooze past 15 minutes and Yogi’d some delicious cookies for us while I was sleeping. 20 miles to go, and they were a rough, rough 20 miles. I ran as much as I could, but with 6 or 7 miles to go my quads started to seize and I just had to walk really, really slowly. Finally finished a little after 8pm.

Admin Note:  Mikaela had a tracker during her hike, which was private.  We recorded the following observations from the track:

7/30:  Start 7:44.  Camped a bit short of N Fork Lost Creek

7/31:  Short camp break near Middle Fork Swan River

8/01:  Overnight near US 24 (Tennessee Pass)

8/02:  Overnight at Twin Lakes

8/03: Slept briefly near the east ridge of Mt Yale and then reached the Avalanche TH around 1:00am on 8/4.

8/04:  Overnight at US 50.

8/05:  Camped on top of the Divide a few miles short of Hwy 114.

8/07:  Crossed Spring Creek Pass ~8:40.  Camped at Stony Pass, 94 miles to go.

8/08:  Sleep break just shy of Hermosa Peak.

8/09:  At mid-day she has only about 20 (mostly downhill) miles to go!  Done at 20:22! ~ 10d12h36m


I’m so proud of your grit! Astounding effort!