Last year, CFI celebrated its 25th anniversary with another successful year of trail maintenance and alpine restoration work around the state. In 2020, CFI is excited to kick off a new decade by completing two multi-year trail construction projects and hosting volunteer projects ranging from the Front Range to the San Juan Mountain. Below is a brief overview of CFI’s upcoming field season. Thank you for your continued interest in our organization’s work to protect and preserve Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks.
This summer, a four-person CFI crew will return to the East Ridge route of Mount Elbert for the final phase of new trail construction. An eight person Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crew will join the staff for six weeks. CFI hopes to complete and officially open the last section of trail by the end of the 2020 field season. Work on the East Ridge will include building technical stone staircases, constructing new switchbacks, and cutting new tread through a section of rocky alpine tundra. New this year, CFI will utilize gabions (metal cages filled with rocks) as soil erosion structures in place of traditional backwall and retaining walls. A large amount of restoration work will also be completed. This includes implementing straw wattles, cedar planks, and 6-foot long check dam structures. A main priority for the crew will be filling and re-grading eroded portions of the “Cat’s Claw” – a severely damaged section of tundra with multiple trail braids side-by-side.
In addition, CFI’s leadership team and Adopt-a-Peak crew will help oversee a second Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crew that will be working on the North Elbert route. The RMYC crew plans to reroute a 0.25-mile section of existing trail and construct a new trail reroute between an elevation of 10,640 feet and 10,840 feet. If time allows, the crew will close, stabilize, and re-vegetate 2,000 square feet of the existing, unstable trail.
2020 marks the fifth-and-final season of intensive new trail construction on Mount Columbia’s western slope route. This year, a seven-person CFI crew will work alongside a 10-person Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crew. Although the most technical work has already been completed, there are still several sections of challenging work ahead. The crew plans to construct three new switchbacks, finish one large rock staircase, install approximately 40 crib steps, and revisit sections of trail completed in 2016 for fine tuning. The crew will also have a heavy focus on restoration in 2020 as they seek to close, stabilize, and restore severely eroded sections of alpine tundra. The season will conclude with breaking down, packing out, and re-naturalizing the backcountry basecamp.
In 2020, CFI will return to these busy Front Range Fourteeners for the second-of-three planned seasons of intensive trail reconstruction. A two-person crew will work with an eight-person Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crew to complete much needed work on the upper slopes of the two peaks. Work will include trail delineation on Gray’s Peak from the saddle to the summit. This will be completed by constructing large barrier walls on both sides of the trail to clearly define the trail and keep hikers on one single route. The crew plans to complete a large section of backwall near the upper junction of the Gray’s and Torrey’s trails, construct retaining walls using gabions (cages filled with rocks and soil) to stabilize a severely eroded backslope, and improve the trail from the saddle to the summit of Gray’s by installing rock structures. The work in 2020 will occur at very high elevations. It will require long strenuous hikes each morning.
Last year, the Lake City crew focused their efforts on Wetterhorn Peak, Redcloud Peak, and the Grizzly Gulch approach to Handies Peak. In 2020, a two-person crew, working alongside a 10-person Southwest Conservation Corps crew, will shift focus towards Ucompahgre Peak, Redcloud Peak, and the American Basin route on Handies Peak. On Uncompahgre, the team will work to clean, maintain, and install new timber waterbars on the lower and middle portions of the trail, remove rock debris, close large trail braids, and rebuild sections of failing backwall. In addition, the crew will install timber checks on the badly eroded section located on the shoulder just above the junction near the summit.
On Redcloud, CFI plans to continue cutting, prepping, hauling, and installing timber checks on the lower section from the trailhead up through the drainage just past tree line. The crew will also begin addressing the highest priority area past the entrance to the alpine basin up to the saddle on the northeast ridge. Work will mostly consist of installing timber checks which will require a long haul from tree line.
In 2019, CFI’s eight-person Adopt-a-Peak crew hosted 59 volunteer projects on 19 peaks across the state. These projects engaged 752 individuals who contributed 1,706 volunteer days. This summer, CFI’s Adopt-a-Peak team plans to host approximately 60 volunteer projects with local businesses, youth camps, partner organizations, and individual from around the nation. The Adopt crew hopes to complete more than 1,800 days of volunteer trail stewardship in 2020.
Sustainable Trails Program
The baseline data collection effort that was conducted in 2011-13 is now finished and published as the 14er Report Card. In 2017-18, the Sustainable Trails Coordinator Tom Cronin returned to capture baseline data on more than 15 peaks that were not initially inventoried in Phase I. Tom also continued the re-inventory process and collected secondary data on multiple peaks to help CFI determine how on-the-ground conditions are improving or degrading over time. CFI plans to release an updated 14er Report Card later this summer.
In 2019, CFI released the third edition of its “14er Hiking Use and Economic Impact” report which estimated that 353,000 hiker use days occurred on Colorado’s 14ers in 2015. In 2020, CFI will place traffic counters at 22 locations monitoring use on 19 peaks. An updated report on hiking use and economic impact will be released later this summer.