I completed the first traversal during wintertime of the Continental Divide of the continental USA. I started hiking on the Continental Divide Trail from Crazy Cook Monument on November 21st, 2022, a little after noon. I started skiing December 20th, north of Ghost Ranch, NM. I reached the Canadian border on April 15th, around 1330MST, with my partner Lukas S.
I was not yet done. I had postponed the heart of the Colorado Rockies and the northern part of the Wind River Range until late spring, due to typically unpredictable avalanche danger. First, I headed to the Winds, and afterwards to Cumbres Pass, Colorado. I finished at the Devil's Thumb Trailhead, near Fraser, Colorado, on June 3rd, 2023, in the evening around 1930MST.
That makes my endeavor 194 days long, with 25 days of hiking, about 123 days of ski-touring, about 3500 kilometers (2200 miles) traveled on skis. On an average ski-touring day I walked 10-12 hours, covered 20-25km (12-15 miles) distance, and climbing 1500-2000m (5000-6500ft) vertical.
I carried all of my food, shelter, and fuel for each section, as such self-supported in typical thru-hiker style. In a typical week, I would walk 5 days, and rest 2 days. I took about 1.1kg of food per day. At the beginning of a typical 5-day ski traverse, my backpack would weigh about 14kg (30lbs).
I suffered no frostbite injuries, no major traumas, and was not caught in an avalanche. The coldest times were when I was in the southern Wind River Range in late January 2023 and when an arctic front blew into the Centennial Mountains in mid-February 2023. I do not know how cold it was. Some reports say -25°F (-30°C) with winds of 30mph (50kmh). It was cold.
An epic ski traverse it was. But just as epic was the winter for much of the Rocky Mountain West! The winter of 2022-2023, a transition season from La Niña to El Niño, was one of the snowiest and coldest on record for most of the Rocky Mountain West. I was thankful that I had plenty of snow to ski on, but getting snowed on often and skinning through fresh snow slowed me considerably.
I skied a lot of powder.
Although inspired by the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), I deviated often from the CDT to optimize safety, travel speed, and fun. Downhill skiing the CDT is not much fun, unless there are otherwise too many fallen trees or other vegetation. In a few cases, I also took snowmobile trails for faster travel and, oftentimes, better scenery.
I used the Garmin Inreach Messenger. It worked satisfactorily and the integration with my Garmin Instinct Solar 2 and the Garmin Messenger Android app was not excellent, but satisfactory. The Garmin Inreach Messenger does not record tracks, but merely sends a tracking point to Garmin's satellites at a preset (10-minute) interval. These 10-minute tracking points are all I have for formal verification.
My Garmin Mapshare page is: https://share.garmin.com/skitraverse
|Map link||Start date||End date||Stretch||Alpine units||Days||Rest time||Units per day||Notes||Town stop||Co.|
|U6110||2022-11-21 12:30||2022-12-19 13:30||Mexican border to Ghost Ranch||1329||28||0||47||I took 4 rest (zero) days.||Cliff, Pie Town, & Cuba, NM|
|LEJSH||2022-12-19 13:30||2022-12-23 18:30||Ghost Ranch to Cumbres Pass||192||4.2||4.6||46||Skied! Storm Elliott kept it cool.|
|1DRC3||2022-12-28 08:54||2022-12-30 11:54||Fraser to Grand Lake||69||2.1||0.1||33||Grand Lake, CO|
|LEMN2||2022-12-30 14:18||2023-01-05 17:18||Grand Lake to Buffalo Pass||169||6.1||2||28||Pineapple Express snowstorm slowed me. I hitched on CO 14.||Steamboat Springs, CO|
|11AF0||2023-01-07 17:18||2023-01-14 17:18||Buffalo Pass to Rawlins||244||7||2.9||35||I hitched last 12 miles to Rawlins.||Rawlins, WY|
|NLSRN||2023-01-17 14:54||2023-01-22 12:54||Rawlins to South Pass City||219||4.9||1.9||45||1 false start, with wife. There were two feet of snow in Rawlins, and more at South Pass.||South Pass City, WY||Wife|
|CNRFF||2023-01-24 10:30||2023-02-02 17:30||South Pass City to White Pine Resort||192||9.3||4.9||21||Bad decision to attempt.||Pinedale, WY|
|FGJ8K||2023-02-07 15:06||2023-02-16 15:06||Togwotee Pass to Reas Pass||261||9||1.9||29||2 nights at Old Faithful Snow Lodge.||West Yellowstone|
|N0PCC||2023-02-18 12:42||2023-02-24 16:42||West Yellowstone to Monida Pass||194||6.2||1.75||31||Hitching on I-15 is difficult.||Lima, MT|
|0MD5H||2023-02-26 10:42||2023-03-03 19:42||Monida Pass to Bannock Pass||235||5.4||1.6||44||I skied off of Horse Prairie.||Leadore, ID|
|C000J||2023-03-05 10:06||2023-03-11 11:06||Bannock Pass to North Fork||252||6||1.05||42||Avalanche situation was too dangerous past Fourth of July creek headwaters.||North Fork, ID|
|53H4R||2023-03-12 12:18||2023-03-16 13:18||Lost Trail Pass to Georgetown Lake||156||4||2||39||Avalanche situation was too dangerous past Pintlar Pass.||Anaconda, MT|
|1GU1H||2023-03-18 13:18||2023-03-21 19:18||Anaconda to MacDonald Pass||112||3.3||0.8||34||Anaconda Cutoff taken.||Helena, MT||LS|
|QQT14||2023-03-22 14:30||2023-03-26 16:30||MacDonald Pass to Rogers Pass||189||4.1||2.8||46||Lincoln, MT||LS|
|R8F63||2023-03-29 11:42||2023-04-08 15:42||Rogers Pass to Marias Pass||315||10.2||1.8||31||Resupplied at Teton Pass Resort.||East Glacier, MT||LS|
|62M05||2023-04-10 10:54||2023-04-15 18:54||East Glacier to Waterton, CA||197||5.3||4.9||37||Chinook winds melt off snowpack quickly, east of the Continental Divide. Some bridges are deconstructed. St. Mary lake can be a scary ski.||Kalispell, MT||LS|
|GB1MC||2023-04-20 16:30||2023-04-28 15:30||Togwotee Pass to HWY 353||250||8||3.15||31|
|VBEB2||2023-05-01 19:06||2023-05-04 12:06||Cumbres Pass to Wolf Creek Pass||138||2.7||1.85||51||Pagosa Springs, CO|
|849FR||2023-05-06 08:30||2023-05-11 18:30||Wolf Creek Pass to Spring Creek Pass||260||5.4||1.75||48||Creede, CO|
|FU8S0||2023-05-13 12:30||2023-05-18 13:30||Spring Creek Pass to Monarch Pass||219||5||1.8||44||Salida, CO|
|TPLM7||2023-05-20 08:42||2023-05-25 17:42||Monarch Pass to Tennessee Pass||226||5.4||2.5||42||Leadville, CO|
|TFD6S||2023-05-28 05:42||2023-06-03 19:42||Tennessee Pass to Devil’s Thumb TH||252||6.6||38|
|units winter||34||← Counting vertical gain and distance, not down|
|units spring||41||← Approximately after March 1st|
Going over a mountain versus maintaining elevation and traversing around usually requires the same amount of effort. I rerouted often, but also skipped portions entirely. Due to avalanche danger, my unwillingness to walk on the side of a road, my unwillingness to walk a wind-scoured ridge to a pass as opposed to skiing off the ridge, or my need to make a up time, I skipped some of the parts typically considered part of the CDT. I list them in chronological order.
An overview can be found at https://caltopo.com/m/E0UE6, which contains an import of my GPS-tracks from the Garmin Explore website (red), and routes of the portions that I skipped (blue). This map contains an import of my GPS-tracks in red, and routes of the portions that I skipped in blue.
There are many reasons people have at most attempted only parts of the CDT in wintertime, the most common reason being personal safety. I am the first person to attempt to traverse the entire CDT in wintertime. My example sets the tone for future attempts.