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John B

East Cimmaron/San Juan Mountains CO

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John B

Due to massive snowfall levels in Colorado I had been unable to explore the high peaks until recently.  With a friend from Denver, and my brother from nearby Cedaredge, we left my home in Montrose Thursday afternoon, July 4 and arrived at the East Cimmaron trailhead at 5:30pm.  We expected to have plenty of time to hike the four miles and 1100 of vertical to a campsite I had scoped out last year.  The trail was well maintained last year, with only what I (expected) to be one easy creek crossing a mile and a half from the trailhead.  We arrived at the crossing to find a somewhat larger issue than expected.  While only knee deep, the current was very strong.  We all made it across safely (trekking poles were definitely REQUIRED).  Continuing on, we thought--we're on schedule, and should be able to get to our campsite in plenty of time to set up tents, have a late dinner, and relax a bit before hitting the sack.  Again, unfortunately we came across a massive avalanche debris field about a half mile after our creek crossing.  It was easily 100 yards wide, and filed with large downed trees and debris covering the underlying snow.  This required tedious zig and zag around and over the obstacles.  Having completed this, we thought--glad that's over, on to camp!  About a hundred yards later, we came across another debris field of about equal size, then another, then another--lost count but I think there were at least five such challenges.  This slowed us considerably, but thankfully the last two miles to our campsite were debris free.  We arrived at 8:45pm at our campsite at 10,900ft with just enough light to set up our tents, and then eat dinner by headlamp.  To bed by 10pm.  The positives were: forests were lush with all the moisture, and the ground at our campsite was quite cushy--got a great nights sleep.

We were off at 7am Friday morning, and followed the edge of a drainage up to treeline, at which point the route was snow free.  We had taken ice axes and kahtoola's (mini-crampons) with the expectation that we could encounter significant snow from our campsite through the trees up to treeline at 11,500ft--thankfully we didn't need to use either.  Arrived at the summit of Sheep mountain (13,168 feet) at 10am with beautiful blue skies, and not a breath of wind.  We hung out for two beautiful, blissful hours, and admired Colorado's San Juan mountains--they were gorgeous, and set off by still massive amounts of snow.  Hated to leave, but did so at noon, got back down to camp at two, rested a bit, and decided to break camp and move down to near our stream crossing, so that we could re-cross first thing in the morning when flow was significantly lower.  Saturday found us up early, had a good breakfast and made the icy creek crossing safely.  Had an easy stroll back to our vehicle and the hour drive back to Montrose, where we rewarded ourselves with a late breakfast at Denny's.

Here are some pictures.  If interested, here's a link to more: https://link.shutterfly.com/6KZH0Yob8X

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