Day 79: Camping in the Clouds

Garbelly awoke at 5:00 AM as usual. The rustling behind us signified that Charlie was awake too making a cup of coffee. The morning was very still. The wind from last night had come to a halt and it was apparent that our rain fly was soaked. As Critter slept snug in her bed, Garbelly was still awake from staying up late and keeping an eye on a heat lightning storm passing over head. Fortunately the lightning stayed high in the sky the entire night and we were left with silence.

When Garbelly unzipped the tent, all he saw was pure white. We were surrounded in a dense fog. The most logical thing was to zip the tent back up and lay down. About an hour later the sun began melting the fog and we began packing up our things to climb up our first 13,000 foot peak of the day. We would be walking a ridge line connecting around a dozen peaks over 13,000 feet today and we would be exposed for the entire day. Good weather was crucial for our plans to be successful.


 It was cold. In fact, as Garbelly rounded the first peak of the day at 13,200 feet, he got signal and checked the weather. It said it was twenty degrees outside with a windchill of around eleven. It was a day before July! We were used to the scorching hot days of Tennessee summers. As we walked along the ridge line, the wind became unbearable. After walking up a snowy ridge, we found a small depression in the rock. It was just big enough to fit all of us inside of it and block us from the winds icy gusts. We all decided that instead of taking the Argentine Spine alternate and walking a high ridge all day, we would follow the official CDT route and head down past an old mine into the valley near Montezuma .


 An hour and three thousand feet later, we reached the gravel road Main Street of the town. Every house had multiple snowmobiles and sets of skis outside. Within ten minutes we had walked through the entire town, sad not to find any restaurants. We followed the road for a couple miles and found a place to eat lunch. Even in the valley, the winds ripped through the area. Hoards of cars and campers flew past us drowning us in a plume of dust. This added a gritty crunch to every bite of our lunch. As we ate, we looked over our maps. According to our paper maps, there was no official route over Grays peak from the south side. The maps we had downloaded onto our phones said that the best route over Grays would be up Argentine Pass. This route would include scrambling up a few high 13,000 foot peaks and then up Grays at 14,270 feet.

Looking at the paper maps, Critter noticed a spine up the Southern side of Grays that would lead up directly from the road. We decided this would be our route. After eating lunch, we relaxed for a few moments and headed up the narrow and winding road. Moving cautiously, we avoided cars and dirt bikes as they flew passed us. One car even trailed us for over a mile up the road, the passengers curiously staring at us. Finally we reached a metal gate blocking the rest of the road from motorized vehicles.

From here we walked up a very swampy road that grew more and more narrow as we walked. We were soon around 12,000 feet and looking for an early camp spot. We found one tucked in thick brush by a lake. We had water and protection from the wind, what more could we want.


 Garbelly was unsure of the route since the entire side of the mountain was covered in snow. He took off up the mountain on a scouting trip. After scrambling up to 13,200 feet he ran back down as the sun was almost completely set. The verdict was that it would be doable, but it may be extremely sketchy for the last few hundred feet. He preemptively apologized if the route was a no go. Without having cell signal or good maps for the route, it would be an adventure. We honestly were not sure how it would turn out.


Garbelly & Critter