Took a weekend hike along the Colorado Trail between Molas Pass and Coal Bank Pass which is entirely above 10,500′ elevation. It was an invitation for Senior Outdoors folks to try out and see Ultra Lite gear in a high altitude hiking and camping setting. Unfortunately only 3 members of the choir showed up, probably because it was Father’s Day weekend.
Never-the-less, as John Martin’s trip report states it was “just average gorgeous”, if only the three of us took advantage of the weather. Total pack weights (including food and water) was 15, 15 and 17 pounds. The night temps were down to 29 or 30°, it didn’t rain but there was a very short period of graupal snow. We all tested some new piece of gear and were satisfied with performance, warmth and versatility.
What was unique to all of us was the tribe of aggressive marmots we found at our first camp choice. We’d each pitched tents near the edge of a large meadow to cut the wind and have smoother ground. Almost before we had the tents up the large marmot pictured above started coming after our gear on the ground, with us no less than 5 feet away. He’d (or she’d) dart away and be back in seconds once they perceived we weren’t a threat. We became a threat after he picked up my hydration valve and started nibbling on it. Sticks and rocks wouldn’t keep him away, but he still managed to bite a hiking pole plastic joint, and another plastic item.
We decided to move the tents into the center of the meadow where we could keep an eye on the marauders (several buddies showed up by now – coming in at various points on the perimeter). While we were finishing dinner another marmot came so close, John decided to run them off with rocks we’d gathered for just that eventuality. Unfortunately one rock went “way” wild and my new cuban fiber Hexamid Twin tent took a direct hit, creating a star shaped rent in the top panel. By this time, we feared that once we went to sleep they’d be gnawing on our tents and lines directly and we de-camped to higher ground a quarter miles up the trail. No further encounters were experienced.
All in all the weather was superb, since the summer monsoons hadn’t begun and at that altitude it was cool enough to enjoy hiking in the direct sun. We covered about 19 miles in two days with a couple of planned route variances, including a visit to a limestone cave we’ve always heard was in the vicinity.