Hiking and Backcountry Safety



12 miles

Start: Berthoud Pass (James Peak W.)     

Finish:  Rogers Pass Trail (James Peak W.) 

Actual Hike

12 miles 

Start: Berthoud Pass (James Peak W.)   

Finish:  Rogers Pass Trail (James Peak W.)

Gaia Track Kent Gruetzmacher September 16, 2020 

Last week in the Pfiffner Traverse series, I reflected on the positive experience I had after canceling the original itinerary for my hike. I this week’s installment we will look at my last day on the route, which wound up being an awesome day hike with my girlfriend and our dog. We enjoyed clear skies and endless views of the Continental Divide. With such a mellow mood, I got to reflect on lessons of hiking and backcountry safety. 

Pfiffner Traverse Hike September 16, 2020

September 16th is my birthday. This day, I woke up in a warm hotel room in Grand Lake, CO with my girlfriend Blair and our dog Porter.hiking and backcountry safety After some great hot tub soaking the night before, as well as steak dinner, I was feeling rested and ready to “yo-yo” back to Berthoud Pass. with the whole crew. Our plan was to skip back and hike the northernmost 12 miles of the Pfiffner Traverse to my truck still waiting at Rogers Pass Trailhead outside Winter Park, CO. After 4 days solo on the trail, I was excited to have some hiking companions. Also, it felt good to travel with a daypack instead of a heavy backpack.

Despite some serious climbing and a bit of Class 2 scrambling, the three of us made relatively quick work of the hike. This is a noteworthy part of the route, as the ridgeline from Berthoud Pass to James Peak is viewable from many places on the Front Range, as far east as Evergreen, CO. The route is well above the treeline for the entire hike. Also, it took us over five 13,000 ft. peaks along the ridge of the Continental Divide. The hardest part was the hiking and backcountry safetyClass 2 scrambling when traversing southbound towards James Peak. Blair and I had a tough time with route-finding, which proved nerve-wracking in places. Aside from that, it was an enjoyable day that I worked through in a relaxed mood – feeling confident in my decisions from the previous days’ epic. 

After we reached my car, I was glad to be done with the hike. The four days I spend on the Pfiffner Traverse were some of the hardest of my entire backpacking career. However, they were also some of the most educational.

To go back to the topic of tree blowdowns, I later found out that several hikers needed to be rescued during the storm that brought these intense winds. In fact, Search and Rescue (SAR) teams in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming conducted rescue missions in mid-September 2020. Finally, on the way out of the hike, I spoke with CDT thru-hikers who indicated the trail was impassable near Grand Lake due to tree blowdowns. One couple reported it took a fellow thru-hiker “2 days to hike 7 miles”  through the destruction. 

Next Week in the Pfiffner Traverse Series

The last installment of the Pfiffner Traverse Series is up next week. In the blog post, we review the main takeaways from my trip, including a major emphasis on hiking and backcountry safety.

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Kent Gruetzmacher

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