Colorado Collegiate Trail Loop FKT Attempt

Two women stand at the edge of a canyon looking across

As a part of training for my Run Across America FKT attempt summer 2021, I’m planning several mini-challenges for training and to attract some attention prior to my main attempt. For the first mini-challenge, starting on July 29, 2019, I’ll attempt to set a competitive women’s Fastest Known Time (FKT) of the Collegiate Trail Loop and raise money for Girls on the Run. This loop consists of the East and West branches of the Collegiate Trail. The East trail is the original Continental Divide Trail through Colorado, which has been re-routed to include more peaks and less roads, and joins with what is now called the Collegiate West Trail. Each is around 80 miles, making the total distance a little over 160 miles. I’ll be attempting to complete the loop in five days, but have built in 10 days in case I need extra time, and to allow for bad weather, altitude adjustment, and—hopefully—some fun.

My flight is booked, so next I’m focusing on the details to make sure I’m ready to go. My first priority is ensuring I can complete the trek safely and with the right gear:

  • Garmin InReach
  • Water purifier + tabs
  • 1-person tent
  • Food+fuel
  • Flight
  • Transportation (travel to/from trail, airport parking, etc)
  • Lodging (arrival/departure)
  • Miscellaneous gear (rain gear, shoes, etc)

I’ll mostly use gear I already own, so the list above is the minimum of what I’ll need to make it through Colorado’s late summer unpredictable weather and afternoon storms. Luckily I can repurpose all of this gear for later adventures, which will bring the cost of those expeditions down (the exception, of course, is travel). The first priority on the list above is the InReach – it’s key that I am able to be found on GPS for safety reasons and to verify the FKT, if and when it happens.

I plan to start with the Collegiate West Trail. This is in contrast to most attempts, but I want to get the highest peaks done in my strongest days. Also, if conditions are poor and I can’t complete the full loop for any reason (e.g., weather, fires, health), my contingency plan is a FKT of West Trail and perhaps even some mini-FKTs up some of the 14ers close to the route.

The Plan

Start day 1 with a shorter day (goal: 22 miles) to acclimate, before I shoot for longer days (30-44) until I finish. If I need to resupply, I plan to do it at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs (on the Collegiate East trail) and Monarch Pass (on Collegiate West), because they are directly on the trail.

Because of afternoon storms, I’ll need to do most if not all of my mileage beginning early every morning so I’m not on dangerous exposed terrain during an afternoon thunderstorm. From the Colorado Trail Site, the segments will organize well into daily goals if I try to do two per day after the first day):

Collegiate West; five segments:

  • CW01 – Twin Lakes to Sheep Gulch, 9.8 miles
  • CW02 – Sheep Gulch to Cottonwood Pass, 25.9 miles
  • CW03 – Cottonwood Pass to Tincup Pass Road, 15.9 miles
  • CW04 – Tincup Pass Road to Boss Lake Trailhead, 15.9 miles
  • CW05 – Boss Lake Trailhead to Ridge above South Fooses Creek, 15.7 miles

Collegiate East; segments:

  • Part of Segment 11 – Twin Lakes to Clear Creek Road, 7.8 miles
  • Segment 12 – Clear Creek Road to Silver Creek Trailhead, 18.5 miles
  • Segment 13 – Silver Creek Trailhead to Chalk Creek Trailhead, 22.8 miles
  • Segment 14 – Chalk Creek Trailhead to U.S. Highway 50, 20.4 miles
  • Part of Segment 15 – U.S. Highway 50 to South Junction (Ridge above South Fooses Creek), 8.6 miles

For safety, I won’t post actual planned locations until after the FKT attempt is complete. 

You’ll be able to follow along here, at Salty Running, where I’ll post about the progress of trek planning and the FKT attempt itself. 

Finally, closer to the start I’ll provide the link to the GPS tracking so everyone can follow along in real time!

Questions? Concerns? Suggestions? Do you have any gear recommendations? I’m all ears!

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Ultrarunner, adventurer, academic, and feminist. Running Across the USA in 2021. I write about ultrarunning, adventuring, and the intersection of endurance athletics and life.

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