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Skip's 50 Year Commemorative Hike

Skip's 50 Year Commemorative Hike

We're working on an improved and stronger version of our carbon fiber Vertex Poles that will use a middle aluminum shaft (compared to 5 carbon shafts). We asked Skip to take them on a hike and test the feel of the shaft. He is sending the poles back to us so we can examine the wear and tear and make them even better. Here's his trip report of the Colorado Trail.

four photos of Chips Colorado trip including a cairn, mountains, and a lake

I have been section hiking the Colorado Trail for two summers prior to this trip. The first summer was 104 miles from Denver to Breckenridge. The second summer was from Copper Mountain to Tennessee Pass (16 miles). This second summer was cut short as I had a melanoma operation.

I have been backpacking 50 years as of this summer; starting at 19 sewing my own tent out of parachute material, sleeping in an army surplus mummy bag and packing it all in a surplus army knapsack. Moving from there to Kelty external frame packs and eventually to internal frame packs, then to lightweight equipment as I got older. This hike was to commemorate 50 years of backpacking and love of the wild areas and continue on with section hiking the CT.

The original plan was to hike 120 miles from Tennessee Pass to Monarch Pass on the Colorado Trail, which in these segments is combined with the Continental Divide Trail. This hike starts at over 10,000' and climbs up and down three 12,000'+ passes before the last 50 miles which essentially stays over 12,000'. I started the hike with a friend who became ill and had to leave around mile 40, Twin Lakes, CO. After that I continued on up and over Hope Pass (12,548'), then Lake Ann Pass (12,588') and lastly Cottonwood Pass (12,180'). All total I hiked 75 miles and some 19,000' of total elevation gain and loss before giving up at Cottonwood Pass. I was feeling the effects of some long days coupled with exhaustion when I approached the 12,000' elevations.

The next part of the planned trip was 16 mile days above 12,000' with resupply based on that, so figured that I should postpone and figure a route with shorter hiking days (8 miles) and camping off of the Divide. I still intend to do this section with a less aggressive schedule.

I use poles almost 100% of the time while I hike. That is to say that they don't just stay in my pack until I hit a steep uphill or downhill; they are out all the time.  65% of the trail I hiked was soil mixed with various sizes and shapes of rock.  The remainder of the trail was loose to consolidated scree and small boulders.  Almost the entire hike was above 10,000' and the average elevation was probably 10,800' with 3 high passes of 12,200', 12,400' and 12,600'.