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Posts Tagged ‘Cube Rock Pass’

After slamming miles in Yellowstone National Park and for the first few days after Togwotee Pass, we finally hit the Winds with the Green River. It was actually green. I checked by jumping in twice in two different locations. It was also quite cold despite the warm sun.
A few miles past the Green River Lakes, we ran into Scout and Frodo.
Scout: “Where are you guys heading to tonight?”

E.D.: “Somewhere right around the junction for the Knapsack Col alternate.”

Frodo: “That’s supposed to have scrambling in it, right? I’m pretty sure Ley mentions that you have to scramble.”

Me: “Yeah, he writes an interesting paragraph about it…sounds awesome!”

Frodo: “Did Scout tell you about the last time he followed Ley’s notes egging you on to climb something extra?”

E.D.: “No, what happened? Where?”

Scout: “Remember Cottonwood Peak in Montana? I did that.”

Me: “The one where he tries to convince you too climb it for about three maps, then provides another zoomed in map of it?”

Scout: “Yeah, that one! I fell and broke a rib. It was so step coming down, it was crazy.”

Frodo: “So, no scrambling for awhile.”
Sometimes when Ley says things on his maps, they can be a little more intense than you’d think. We’ve learned that when he says something is “do-able” it means it can be done, but it will take all damn day and you’ll be exhausted afterward.

 

Green River

We continued on past them, cooked dinner, and started up a climb which was actually nicely switch-backed. Passing amazing small campsites the whole way, we sighed knowing that we’d probably end up with only a thru hiker acceptable campsite near the junction.
As the mountains would have it, it began to rain a bit despite a clear forecast. About half a mile from the junction, we spotted a campsite big enough for two tents right before a tricky creek crossing. Done. Close enough. Jeff and Memphis were probably only half a mile ahead at the junction. We could catch them in the morning, although, they are better at waking up.
That evening, a storm came through that woke me up. I laid on my back and could see the lightening through my closed eyelids, through my tent, and through the tree branches over my tent. Great.
The morning hit, the sky was clear, and the logs and rocks we could have used to get across the creek sketchily, were now wet.
Reluctantly, I plunged in. Starting the day with wet feet is better than ending the day with wet feet. E.D. said she’d be not far behind.
I reached the junction a little further uphill and went through Vista Pass with little difficulty. The sun started to come over the ridge and made it not freezing.
Then, as the trail goes, to go up, you must also go down.
After going down and crossing a stream, the trail bent back upward toward Cube Rock Pass where Ley leaves this wonderful note:
“The trail will disappear in the giant boulders at the bottom of the valley. Don’t despair! Look uphill to your left and see the trail pick back up again. You’ll have to scramble up through three boulders to reach it. Don’t walk all the way up the bottom of the valley… I’ve seen people do that, and…oh, those poor fools.”

 

Cube Rock Pass

I got to the boulder field and saw cairns going both ways. Climbing up, I stopped and stowed my poles on the back of my pack so I could use my hands. The poles would stay there as they are pretty useless when scrambling. And that was only the beginning.
Coming down the other side of Cube Rock Pass, I found Jeff and Memphis by Peak Lake. I stopped and grabbed some water and chatted. They kept going as I ate a snack. As I continued around the lake, I looked back and saw E.D. at the top of Cube Rock Pass at a junction which could take you back to the actual CDT.
I looked at Ley’s map when I got about half a mile past the lake and the trail disappeared. The purple line on the map became dashed. Basically: no trail…just a route.
I read the note that described the whole route again:

“The hike over Knapsack Col is really stunning, possibly one of the most amazing places along the CDT. It does require some tough scrambling east of the Col, so only do it if you’re sure footed on off-trail terrain. The hike on the west side is fairly straightforward. On the east side, there is a bit of rapidly melting glacier. You might be able to stay completely off of it by staying to the north side on boulders. Some boulders may be resting on ice, so use caution as they could shift underfoot (best to stay away from the ice edge). Also, take care to avoid the center of the snow slope below as there is rockfall danger. But all-in-all, this is a very doable route…especially for someone who just walked 1,000+ miles to get here.”

Now there’s a challenge!
I meandered up the valley checking Guthook occasionally to make sure I headed toward the right col. Sometimes a tread would appear for a bit, but then it would disappear again. It would be the first time I was up above 12,000 ft on this trail and I was feeling the slowness around 11,000 ft. Great. However, it was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been. I could see two moving dots up in the distance which were Jeff and Memphis, but every time I looked back, I saw no one.

 

Heading up to Knapsack Col

I climbed up higher and higher until Guthook showed the red line going straight upward in front of me, up a gnarly, loose, crazy slope. Looking at it, I didn’t like Guthook’s route, so I picked my own line upward. I laughed to myself a bit when I found some small three rock cairns on the line I picked.

When I finally got to the top, I continually reminded myself that I was only halfway there. Still have to get back down super steep stuff too.

Jeff, Memphis, and I took some pictures and they headed down as I grabbed some snacks. We looked back, but saw no one.

 


I started down slowly, trying to pick my foot placement carefully. I thought the other side was loose, but this side was looser. Occasionally, I’d try and step on something and it all seemed to want to move. I tried to pick the bigger rocks and boulders, but some of them moved too.

I saw Jeff and Memphis at the bottom watching me slowly pick a path down. When I was almost down, Jeff started walking back up without his pack and walked down with me.

The three of us stopped at a wind block where a trail picked back up again, absolutely exhausted. We were about to walk out of the beautiful Titcomb Basin.

We passed the dudes passed out with their stuff scattered around them. They were so passed out that I paused to make sure they were breathing.

Continuing out the basin, we saw an overwhelming amount of people.

We barely made it off of the alternate onto the actual CDT when we decided to camp and pass out ourselves.

The next morning, I woke up with sore legs for the first time on the trail since Glacier and we found E.D. sleeping in about a mile further.

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