June 29, 2020
Destination: Copper Mountain Today's Miles: 13.20
Start Location: Gold Hill Trip Miles: 117.40
We decided to ‘slack pack‘ (just light day pack) section 7 backwards from Copper Mountain to Gold Hill. By starting at Copper we would ascend much steeper and quicker than coming from the Breck side. This would prove advantageous, we thought, in getting across the snowfields up high while they were still froze and solid early in the day.
Mike Oros came through for us once again, graciously shuttling us to Copper about 6 AM. It was a steep climb indeed and a blustery morning to boot as we rapidly gained elevation. The trail crossed side hill for a long way before beginning a series of steep switchbacks - we continued gaining elevation quickly and it was here we ran into our first hiker of the day, a man who reported we should have no issue crossing the snow field above. Always welcome news.
Shortly after the first hiker we passed a man breaking camp who was fast and caught up to us, passing us before we reached the top. I was glad my pack was light but still felt slow as we ascended, legs still recovering from the first hundred miles.
Not far before reaching the summit we saw our second hiker of the morning approaching southbound and from a distance we instantly recognized the colors of clothing, shape and pack, believing it to be our friend Shannon, and it was! We were happy to run into each other and would have been disappointed if it had not been her.
We visited for a few minutes about events since our last meeting and learned about the bear and food bag incident. The limb the bag was hung on broke off allowing the bear access. She had a rough go for a bit but was back on trail for a few days until the upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend. This was good news, we would be in front of her and since she is faster than us she will likely catch us - yippee!
With an almost 4000 foot elevation gain it was a big day. By taking the northbound Route we summitted in just under 5 miles as opposed to a 8.4 mile summit bid from the Breckenridge side.
The last mile up to the summit was excruciating. The wind picking up considerably after breaking out above tree line. We both left most of our gear, including down jackets, at the condo. The only thing we had was rain gear so we put our jackets on.
It took concentrated effort to fight the wind and stay anchored on the steep hillside. We were approaching the steepest stretch of the day so far, the mountain dropping literally thousands of feet below.
It wasn’t a sheer rocky cliff, maybe some rock outcroppings, but mostly a near-vertical grassy alpine slope dotted with explosions of rock. Kind of a scary stretch and I did not spend any time looking down...at all.
It was a huge relief to reach the summit, dropping off the other side we were somewhat protected from the wind.
Did I mention how spectacular the view was from the top? Probably not. That’s because we did not hang around long enough to enjoy it much due to the extreme wind!
As we made our descent I pondered the familiar landmarks and considered the influences they had on my growing up here. I was fortunate to be raised here by awesome parents in the shadow of these mountains. I have traveled many places but Breckenridge of the 1970s and 80s will always be dear to me having so much influence shaping me as a person.
We made our way down passing several thru hikers we had previously seen. One was the couple we saw when we were camped at Kenosha Pass. The woman was quite memorable wearing a red parachute-looking suit with black accents around the knees. I originally thought they must be from overseas based largely on attire, my suspicions were confirmed as I stepped off the trail to let them pass she said “thank you” but it sounded more like “sank you”.
German or perhaps Swiss? I discreetly (I hope) snapped a picture of that red suit but who am I to judge, it was probably the perfect gear for such a windy summit. I kind of hope we can run into them again and get their story.
Rolling up and down through what I would consider the ‘foothills’ we made our descent to Gold Hill. The area has change so much. There used to be only a handful of houses on Gold Hill (including one belonging to a childhood friend, Theresa Scheingraber) but now the area seems unrecognizable.
We finished out the day at the highway and hopped the summit stage into Breckenridge where we were treated with the first gelato of our lives. It was fabulous. Giving life to the rich flavors that melted on our tongues is impossible - suffice to say we savored every lick and talked about it long after.
Another good day in the books!