Collegiate Loop Day 1 – Monarch Crest to Fooses Creek

Peter and Samuel, looking clean and fresh at Monarch Pass trailhead, at the beginning of their adventure.

This is the first of the daily journals from the Collegiate Loop which were written on the trail. I dictated to Samuel each night, who wrote it up on his phone which worked well. Well at least it did for me! Other than obvious typos, I have left the text as the original to preserve the ‘rawness’.

We had flown into Denver from Houston the night before and stayed at a hotel, which was the extent of our altitude acclimatization. I had previously suffered from altitude sickness so had prepared carefully focusing on caffeine- and alcohol- avoidance, hydrating with electrolytes, and taking prescription Diamox. The starting point of the loop and the direction was also chosen with acclimatization in mind, in particular “sleeping lower than the day’s highest” for the first day. This was all in addition to fitness training. Samuel did neither and was fine, though I had learnt previously to go easy on the first day. The altitude preparation worked very well, and I learnt later that caffeine triggers altitude sickness for me in a big way. Here is the story:

On the trail at 12:15 at Monarch Crest after leaving car. Steady climb for first five miles went from 11300 ft. to 11900 ft. Met friendly bikers and hikers including pilot who used to work for NASA who was stocking fish in a pond. Strong sun and wind. Still some cool snow. Both across the path which led to falls and cornices. Enjoyable lay down at the saddle then watched two mountain bikes skid down the path whom we followed. After a couple of miles passed a Colorado trail maintenance crew that were rerouting the path. Lots of moose poo but no moose (learning later it probably wasn’t moose poo…) Found a perfect campsite after a total of 10 miles. P gave his lower legs an ice bath in the river and S’s nose exploded. Gathered and filtered water and had an enjoyable chill dinner before hanging all smellables through fear of creatures and in bed by 8:30. S’s first time day one hasn’t been too bad. Thinking about how we can go a bit further the next couple of days but we will need to see. Luxury item for next time: extra spoon. Just one means you have to fight over who eats!

GPS Hiking stats:
12.3 miles, 4 hours 48 minutes (I think the GPS was overestimating on day 1)
Ascent 908 ft., Descent 2549 ft.
Campsite altitude 9800 ft.

The above map was created using our own track, recorded on my Garmin Instinct. For this first day, I tried a lower-power setting which led to the track bouncing around too much. I adjusted it on later days.

monarch collegiates cornice
Within a few miles, we found our first snow. Coming from Houston, this was exciting, especially a cornice. Find Samuel in the picture to show the scale.
snowdrift collegiates
Looking back at the snowdrift that was an obstacle over the path. Samuel tried going straight over, slipping down the 6ft face, fortunately without damage. I went up to go around.
On the saddle where the CDT meets the CT, and our southernmost point. The northward-facing picture shows what the next two weeks will bring. It was a very steep drop into Fooses valley from this point.
bridge fooses collegiate
After the steep descent into Fooses valley, there are four bridges like this over the South Fooses Creek. We found that the best camping was between the second and third bridge.
Our first campsite! You can see the river in the background that was very convenient.

This page is linked to from my Collegiate Loop home page.

Published by Peter Ireland

I am originally from England, and my wife Janet is from Louisiana. When we started Geocaching in 2002, we needed a name, and the Cajunlimeys were created, and that is the name I use for my blog. Even though Janet has no Cajun blood, her cooking is excellent! “Limeys” comes from the nickname for English sailors, who ate limes to prevent scurvy. We live in Houston, Texas, with Bailey and Samuel. We love adventures and want to share the experiences with others. When planning trips, I have found other people’s sites very useful, so I want to give back and add a different perspective.

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