Our Next Adventure: The Colorado Trail

Remember that one time when Dan and Jonathan thru-hiked the PCT?

Well today, I'm happy to announce that the Captains of Us are back in action! This August, Jonathan and Molly will undertake another long-distance adventure: attempting to fastpack the 485-mile long Colorado Trail (CT) in just 14 days. 

 Jonathan and Molly living it up on the PCT in Washington

Jonathan and Molly living it up on the PCT in Washington

To give you all some perspective on why this might be a little bit crazy, let me explain a bit more about the CT. One of the countries "short long trails," the CT runs from Denver to Durango through eight major mountain ranges, seven national forests, and six wilderness areas. The majority of the trail is over 10,000ft in elevation and the high point sits at 13,334ft on Coney Summit in the San Juans. Most thru-hikers take between 4-6 weeks to complete the trail, according to The Colorado Trail Foundation, averaging about 15 miles per day. In order to complete our hike in 14 days, Jonathan and I will need to hike an average of 34.6 miles per day; that's more than a 50k per day, on average. 

Here is a map of the trail to give you an idea of where we'll be, and an elevation profile to show you the dips and climbs that equal a grand total of approximately 75,000ft of elevation gain:

For a number of reasons, including travel logistics and differences in the terrain, Jonathan and I have decided to go against the usual flow of backpackers and hike from Durango to Denver, instead of the reverse. This means that we will encounter higher and more challenging terrain first, while our bodies are fresh, and move into the lower and (slightly) more easy-going terrain during the second week. While most hikers need time to get used to carrying a pack and hiking for days on end, we're going to have to be ready to put the miles in on day one.

As I mentioned above, we're going to be "fastpacking" the trail, rather than doing a traditional thru-hike. The line between these two forms of travel is a bit fuzzy, but you can think of fastpacking as a combination of backpacking and trail running, or, in our case, the lovechild of thru-hiking and ultra-running. Fastpackers, in general, travel lighter, faster, and farther than most backpackers. For this trip, we'll be carrying ultra-light packs with lots of front-access for food and water, to avoid long stops. Our pack base weights will probably fall around 8lbs each, and we'll be sharing gear to help keep our loads to a minimum. Don't worry mom, I promise we'll be carrying a tent. 

 Our Fastpack 30L vests from Ultimate Direction will help us carry our gear in a small and compact space to ensure that it feels secure as we run along the trail. 

Our Fastpack 30L vests from Ultimate Direction will help us carry our gear in a small and compact space to ensure that it feels secure as we run along the trail. 

 

Usually, when I explain this concept to people, I get one of two responses: either, "Is that even possible?!" or "Why on earth would you ever want to do that?!" 

The answer to the first question is actually pretty easy: who knows?! We'll get back to you when we're done hiking. There are actually a few runners who have completed the trail in just 9 or 10 days, although most were supported. The current unsupported record is just under 11 days, set by Shawn Forry in 2012. Makes 14 days sound downright leisurely, right?

While this is certainly going to be a challenge for us, Jonathan and I have been planning this trip for a while, and we will be doing a lot of training to get our bodies ready. Check out this blog post I wrote about setting challenging, but realistic adventure goals. And seriously, where's the fun in going on an "adventure" that you already know is possible? 

As for the second question, of why we want to do this, well I guess that's a little more personal. Jonathan and I like to push our physical limits, and we love to spend time in the mountains, sleeping out under the stars. This trail in particular will be a phenomenal opportunity to bask in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and our new home state of Colorado. We can't afford to take four or five months off this year for a longer thru-hike, so we have decided to make the absolute most of our two-week vacation. Gotta pack it in when you can, right?

 Catching the sunrise on Independence Pass. Sometimes, you have to wake up when the world is sleeping to see the things no one else sees. 

Catching the sunrise on Independence Pass. Sometimes, you have to wake up when the world is sleeping to see the things no one else sees. 

 

Stay tuned for updates about our gear, food, resupply schedule, and training regimen!

Cheers and happy summer, 

Molly