The Rest of the San Juans: Pagosa Springs to Silverton to Lake City

Well golly, it’s been about 115 miles or so since I’ve last posted. Yesterday I sort of finished the San Juans, which is huge for me. I’ve never done anything like this before in my life, but I’m so glad I stuck it through.

We geared up out of Pagosa Springs with 6 days of food. My total pack weight, with food and snow gear and some water, was around 40-42 lbs (holy cow). Climbing up out of Wolf Creek pass was extremely tiring but we still managed to put some mileage in before the storms hit. I kept going with Hiker Box over a pass while it hailed because we didn’t feel like stopping. We eventually found a camping spot on a saddle. I ate Mac and cheese with bacon bits and some ranch-buffalo sauce. Yum.

The next morning I set out on a ridge walk with Cowboy and Titan. Gorgeous stuff. We eventually climbed up our first kind of sketchy pass and waited there for RightOn. After that we kept plugging away, working extremely hard for a 13-14 mile day.

The day after that we hit the famed “knife edge” and had a fantastically sketchy north side snowy bowl traverse afterwards. Cowboy and I both slipped above a critical spot that could have had us sliding all the way down and off a cliff, but I self arrested with my ice axe and he self arrested with his rear end somehow. Probably the scariest moment for me so far.

The days after that blurred by. We went from low valleys where the snow had melted and there was absolute muck and water everywhere (thank goodness for waterproof socks) to high passes where we had to kick steps up and over hard-packed cornices.

It hailed pretty hard a few times, and Titan, RightOn, cowboy and I would set up my tarp and wait it out. We played carcassonne, talked about getting Magic the gathering decks, and I even read the Fellowship of the Rings out loud with different accents for each character.

I think it stormed at least once everyday before Silverton. We eventually made it to Stony Pass where we walked 5 miles down a dirt road into a valley where we sorta camped on private property (oops). The next morning we walked 5 more miles into town and crushed a lunch buffet. It was glorious. Silverton is a cool town and even has a brewery there where I overheard a bunch of geologists talking about their research and papers with each other. Classic geologists, rocks and beer. What a way to live life. There’s also a bunch of ultra runners in Silverton according to Titan, and that’s where they host the Hardrock 100 miler, pretty famous race. Hmm… Do I want to get into ultra running after the trail? We shall see.

After Silverton we managed to hitch a ride back to the trail with a really nice guy from Florida and his son. His other son was hiking the PCT.

The trail to Lake City was 33 miles, relatively snow free, too! We did 10 miles the first afternoon and then 23 yesterday to get into town. Holy cow it feels good to walk a +20 mile day again!

I’m staying at a hostel run by a former thru hiker, really cool place. We are sending our snow gear home today, resupplying food, and hopefully heading back to the trail to keep plugging towards Salida with light packs!

The San Juans were ridiculous. They are by far the most beautiful mountains I have ever walked through, but they were tiring and quite scary at times. I don’t think any other trail can give you the same “thru-mountaineering” experience than the CDT through the San Juans in early June. I’m both glad for the experience and also kinda glad it’s over, but I’m sure I’ll look back on it as one of the greatest parts of the trail. I know Colorado has much more to offer, and not all of the snow is gone, so here’s to the adventure ahead!


It was fun going over that pass, not much lightning though


Look closely towards the top of the snow
hail storm chilling
Trying to cross a canal
Below the window


Summit register


standing at the source of the rio grande!


Stormy dusk one night

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