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South San Juan Wilderness, 8/22/10-8/26/10
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Andrew King
(drewboy) - F

Locale: Arizona
South San Juan Wilderness, 8/22/10-8/26/10 on 08/31/2010 09:38:15 MDT Print View

We just returned from an incredible 5 day backpacking trip to the South San Juan Wilderness in SW Colorado. This is a neighboring wilderness to the larger and more popular Weminuche Wilderness, has 45 miles of the CDT going across it and is known as Colorado's wildest corner. We arranged a shuttle and thru-hiked a section of it. The route we took is shown in the TOPO map below. We had a group of 10 backpackers, 7 of which were hangers.

TOPO map of route through the S San Juan Wilderness

We started out near Ellwood Pass, at around 11,600 ft elevation. The first day we had a relatively short hike over the Continental Divide and down to Crater Lake. We camped at Crater Lake for two nights at just above 11K ft to let ourselves acclimate to high elevation and do some peak bagging and fishing. The weather was constantly changing and it rained frequently. The clouds drifting across the lake gave us some really nice scenery.

Crater Lake after a rain storm rolled through

There was a good variety of hammock gear along on this trip. In the foreground of the picture below you can see my Warbonnet Blackbird hammock with integrated netting (~23oz), with a Te-wa 2/3 down underquilt for bottom side insulation (~13oz), and a MLD cuben fiber hex cut hammock tarp (~6.5 oz). I used amsteel whoopie sling style suspension, which is just about the lightest and easy to adjust method out there. I used my GG hiking poles to put the tarp in "porch mode" when sitting around during the day. To round out the gear discussion, I had my ULA Circuit pack along, and used a Golite Ultra 20 for a top quilt. I used a BPL 550 & tri-ti Caldera Cone stove w/everclear for cooking, Micropur tablets for water purification and a 4L platy for camp water storage. I used a couple of SmartWater bottles for water on the trail, and a Blue Desert SmarTube Hydration System. I had a Houdini windshirt, Snowpeak UL umbrella, North Face Diad hard shell, and Montbell Peak Shell rain pants. I rarely used the hard shell rain gear, but on at least one occasion it was nice to have. I also had a lightweight spinner rod along to catch some of those delicious native cutthroat trout.

Hammocks were along on this trip

On day 2 we climbed back up to the CDT for a day hike to summit Montezuma Peak.

Climb up to the CDT from Crater Lake

We headed South along the CDT to reach the approach point to Montezuma Peak (13,150 ft).

South along the CDT to Montezuma Peak

The line we chose to the top required a bit of scrambling.

Scramble to top of Montezuma Peak.

But the views up there were expansive and mind blowing.

Montezuma Peak view 1

Montezuma Peak view 2

Montezuma Peak view 3

The next day we headed south on the CDT for around 12 miles towards our next campsite destination. Elevation ranged from around 12K ft to 12.5K ft most of the day until we dropped down to Adams Fork.

Hiking along the CDT

Adams Fork was an incredibly beautiful glacier carved valley, with a stream running through it. Beautiful native cutthroat trout seemingly coming out of nowhere from that little shallow stream.

The stream along Adams Fork

A nice pair of cutties

Garlic cloves, olive oil and lemon pepper

Cooking on the grill

The 4th day we backpacked out of Adams Fork and up to the Continental Divide again, and went over to climb Summit peak, at 13,300 ft the highest point in Archuleta County.

Hike out of Adams Fork

View down into Adams Fork

We dropped our packs on the trail when we reached the approach point and climbed to the summit to experience more incredible views.

Approach to Summit Peak

Looking down towards other climbers of Summit Peak

Enjoying the moment

We then crossed back over the Continental Divide and hiked down to Quartz Lake to camp for our 4th and final night.

Crossing over the divide

Dropping off the divide

Quartz Lake

On the 5th day we hiked out on the Little Blanco trail to our pickup point, and went into Pagosa Springs to celebrate and enjoy eating some food that was not boiled in a bag.

Hiking out on Little Blanco trail

More hiking along Little Blanco

The notch

Happy group at the end of a memorable trip

Here are parts 1 and 2 of Youtube videos that have a narrative of this trip.

All in all, it was an amazing and memorable trip that I won't soon forget. There were several ground dwellers in our group that got a good look at hammock life and I suspect we'll have a couple of converts in the near future. I'll have a hard time topping this trip on my next big outing.

Edited by drewboy on 08/31/2010 09:44:22 MDT.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
amazing on 08/31/2010 11:19:08 MDT Print View

Yet another beautiful trip report. I am envious of all the beauty you got to see and I am sure all the great company. That must have been the largest gathering of hammocks I have personally heard of. Very inspiring. Thanks for posting it.

Paul Gibson
(pgibson) - F

Locale: SW Idaho
Great report on 08/31/2010 13:57:56 MDT Print View

Hey Drewboy, excellent report, great job showcasing the gear. Looks like some very nice stuff, and those are some great fish for a stream that size. :) I still want to get down your way and hike with you all. Thanks for taking the time to post it all here.


Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
wow on 08/31/2010 14:28:48 MDT Print View

Wow! Maybe I'll head thee next year instead of the Sierras. Beautiful above tree line photos. Did you use a shuttle service or just friends? Is Durango the nearest airport?

Edited by rambler on 08/31/2010 14:31:03 MDT.

Andrew King
(drewboy) - F

Locale: Arizona
re: South San Juan Wilderness trip report on 08/31/2010 14:49:51 MDT Print View

Hey Paul, any time you can get away we'd love to go out with you down here. And yeah, it blew me away that fish like that were lurking around down there.

Hi Frank. We used local friends/wife to provide shuttle service on this trip. I'm sure that you could line up some Pagosa Springs locals as well for a modest fee. I believe that Durango is the closest place to fly into this area.

Katharina, thank you for the nice comments.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
hydration system on 08/31/2010 14:53:48 MDT Print View

Hey, something new for my gear box!

Google: Blue Desert SmarTube Hydration System

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: South San Juan Wilderness, 8/22/10-8/26/10 on 08/31/2010 15:00:44 MDT Print View

Great photos, thanks for sharing. I encourage everyone to check out the videos since they nicely complement the still photos & text in the report. Those views from Montezuma are fantastic with the colors, textures, & shadows below.

As we discussed separately, you had 7 hammock hangers, which goes well with BPL's new Hammock forum. It's impressive how tightly you could put everyone among the trees, with what appears to be minimum impact to the camp site...are you sure you didn't double stack some hammocks? ;).

The videos take you through the different hammocks, if you want to get a quick education. I'll be watching this string to read what comments people have about the hammock gear.


Paul Gibson
(pgibson) - F

Locale: SW Idaho
re: South San Juan Wilderness trip report on 08/31/2010 16:22:47 MDT Print View

I am itching to come down and hike, maybe in the early spring before it is nice up here. :) Like Tom said very cool to see you all packed in so nice and tight on that first spot at Crater. The videos really do complete the report, I need to shoot more video on hikes but find I don't think to and end up shooting mostly stills. I helps a lot of get a better sense of the scope of the terrain though.

Jesse Sites
(Grasshopper0818) - F
Fishing equipment on 08/31/2010 18:55:48 MDT Print View

What was the brand of your setup inlcuding the tube? I am looking for a similar setup.

Andrew King
(drewboy) - F

Locale: Arizona
Re: Fishing equipment on 08/31/2010 21:58:16 MDT Print View

This trip I just had a Pflueger Micro spinning kit, and the plastic storage tube was one I purchased at BPL a few years ago. I hear that fluorescent light storage tubes work really well for this purpose too. Another guy in our group had a Tenkara fly rod, which worked pretty good for him down at Adams Fork. I decided not to bring my Tenkara Hane rod along this trip because we were camped at lakes most of the nights.

Paul and Tom: yeah, we had folks pretty much racked and stacked at that first campsite. ;) I'm finding that it works out really well to have a mixture of hangers and ground dwellers on these larger group trips because there is not much competition for campsites. And assuming that we get below the treeline at night, the hangers can pretty much camp anywhere.

You guys should definitely come out here in the Spring. We'll come up with something real special for you. And I agree, the videos do seem to add a lot. I'm finding that I get a lot more enjoyment out of re-living the trip by watching them. I just bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1, which shoots really nice high def videos, has a nice optical zoom, is waterproof and shockproof and very compact. I'm really pleased with it.

Edited by drewboy on 09/01/2010 11:37:48 MDT.

Trevor Wilson
(trevor83) - MLife

Locale: ATL -- Zurich -- SF Bay Area
Re: re: South San Juan Wilderness trip report on 08/31/2010 22:01:16 MDT Print View

Awesome trip report! The videos were fantastic! Those hammocks look very comfortable.