Sangre de Cristo Traverse

On the afternoon of September 5, I completed an eight day traverse of Colorado’s Sangre De Cristo (i.e. “Blood of Christ”) mountains.


Overview map of Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Range (photo from

My route began in the town of Salida and finished at the informal trailhead for Blanca Peak, just off CO HWY 150.

It was a largely cross country affair, approximately 120 miles in length and had a cumulative elevation gain of more than 40,000 ft.

The rugged terrain was mostly above tree line and included lots of exposed scrambling. The knife-edged nature of much of the Sangre Crest meant that when the elements were raging (and they often were) bailing off the ridge was by no means an easy proposition. Planning, adaptability and objectivity were key. Strong ankles didn’t hurt either.

What were the highlights of the trip?

When not shrouded in a blanket of thick rain clouds, the mountain scenery in the Sangres was stunning. Jagged peaks, alpine lakes and beautiful glacier carved valleys on both sides of the crest. Equally spectacular was the time I spent traversing the Great Sand Dunes National Park, from it’s northern boundary to its southern tip. This particular stretch was about 10 miles, and I have to say I loved every undulating yard.

Finally, from a personal perspective, one of the best parts of the traverse was having the opportunity to hike with my good mate, Paul “Mags” Magnanti. Mags joined me for the final two days of the trip from the Dunes Visitor’s Center down to Blanca Peak. Even though most of my longer backpacking excursions over the years have been solo affairs, it’s always great when I have the chance to spend a bit of time hiking with friends that not only enjoy a good laugh, but also share a similar love of the outdoors as myself.

Below are a small selection of my favourite images from the trip.

(Note: I’d also like to give a shout out to Teresa from the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and Disco & POD from the Trail Show, for being kind enough to host me before and after the hike. You guys are awesome!)


You know that feeling when you’re about to be rained on……..really hard?


Early on day 2, the weather forced me to bail off the crest a little shy of Red Mountain. I limited my elevation loss by jerry-rigging my tarp in a small stand of trees situated in the scree field.


Looking north from the summit of Cottonwood Peak | HMG Southwest 2400


View of Banjo Lake from Electric Peak.


HMG Square Flat Tarp pitched in storm mode.


Creeping clouds.


Because of the inordinate amount of late August/early September rain, the flowers were in full bloom in the Great Sand Dunes National Park.


Sunflowers and Desert Storms.


Ridge walking in the Great Sand Dunes.


Flowers & Backpacks.


Looking north from whence I came.


Paul Mags ascending an extremely windy California Peak with the Great Dunes and the Sangres as a backdrop.


Yours truly with the incredible Huerfano Valley situated behind.


Paul Mags near the summit of Ellingwood Point (14,042 ft).


View from the summit of Blanca Peak (14,345 ft).


Looking north down Huerfano Valley from Blanca Peak.






Sangre de Cristo Traverse — 8 Comments

  1. I am particularly impressed with your tarp pitches. How did you handle water – given you stayed above tree line for much of the trip?
    I am definitely adding this one to my bucket list. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow! That’s quite the mileage and elevation gain! That sounds like a pretty sweet backpack route. What kind of food are you packing for a trip like that? And where were you refilling on water?

    • Hey Ashley,

      Thanks for the kind words. Food-wise I took my usual combo of dehydrated beans, nuts, dried fruit, granola, powdered milk, chocolate and some energy bars. Finding water was challenging at times and occasionally involved dropping a long way off the crest.



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