Will has been hiking the San Juan’s for over 50 years and at 74 he doesn’t carry a map any longer, since just about every trail and mountain has been etched in his memory.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, Will is a writer who reviews and tests ultralight gear from various vendors and has a blog UltralightInsights featuring that gear and his tips.
This year Will’s friend, the founder of Gossamer Gear Glen Van Peski came along as well. They’ve hiked the Weminuche several times in the past, so it was fun to hear them revisit those previous trips.
Will generally only uses the normal trails to and from the Trailheads. He prefers Elk trails and often times “bushwhacking” to get where he’s planned to hike. When I say we probably climbed 3 or more passes a day it’s not an exaggeration. The couloirs between peaks is how he likes to traverse the alpine landscape and usually there’s only been four-legged animals before us.
As you might imagine, the views are spectacular, and above 13,000′ you can generally look in any direction. Camping above tree line we never need worry about insects or bears. The wildlife we saw was primarily Elk in herds and pairs, a number of curious mountain goats, a lumbering porcupine and countless ptarmigan with their chicks. We did see at least 3 bald eagles, one perched on a stunted spruce watching over the fish in Lost Lake.
Ostensibly this was a fishing trip. Those who know me know fishing isn’t my forte, in fact I just don’t fish because I’ve lost more lures and flies than I’ve ever landed fish. But there was a novel fishing rig along and I was keen to try my hand: a TicTac fishing rig that Glen brought along as his UL fishing kit. I didn’t get a chance to weigh it but I’m sure it was just over an ounce.
I caught four fish that day, probably more than all I’ve ever caught in fresh water. (Trolling for Tuna, Dorado or Mackerel off Paradox excluded). I only kept one 16″er and could only fit half in my beer-can pot Esbit stove for dinner, so I dried the rest Thai style on my pack for the next 3 days and enjoyed dried Cutthroat Trout. I’m hooked and already have a TicTac box of mouth freshners to build my own fishing kit.
The six-day trip was challenging in that we covered 60.2 miles, which itself would only be 10 miles a day, but we managed 19,990′ ascent and 22,081′ descent in that distance. One day was just over 14 hours. We didn’t anticipate as much snow as there was this time of year and had to alter route, glissade and scree-slide more often than we figured.
Good thing that each of us was packing UltraLight gear, averaging between 7 and 9 pounds base weight. Six days food at 1 ½ pounds a day was as much as our base weight. Glen is a master UL hiker and showed us a few of his tricks which I’ll try and incorporate in my kit for the next trip.
By-the-way, most of these photos are from Glen and Will’s cameras as I wasn’t taking many photos in an effort to see how long my iPhone 6+ would be able to track our daily routes. GaiaGPS tracked 58 hours of hiking and only needed a short charge on the 5th day. As a result we’re now able to “fly” our track in Google earth for some exciting views.
Here’s the crew, Will on the left and Glen on the right. Will and I logged Wilderness Informational Specialist credit by wearing our volunteer shirts and talking to the backcountry hikers and climbers we ran into. The trip basically took us from Durango to Silverton, zig-zagging thru the Weminuche Wilderness area. For Glen’s version of the trip click here.
Here’s a few more photos to give you a sense of the adventure.