Long regarded as one of the worst 14er hiking trails in the state, Mount Columbia is much overdue for new sustainably-aligned summit route. When CFI performed baseline route condition inventories in 2011-2013, Mount Columbia’s North Hornfork Basin route ranked near the bottom of the list with an “F” rating. In order to replace the unsustainable social route, US Forest Service Peak Manager Loretta McEllhiney spent 5 years designing a better route to avoid impacting sensitive plant and wildlife species, many of which are present on the exsisting social trail. The new route is carefully designed to limit erosion, minimize impact to the surrounding habitat and provide a better hiking experience.
The first of five planned seasons of trail construction and restoration wrapped up in September. The team consisted of three CFI crew leaders and 14 (a group of nine with rotating staff) Rocky Mountain Youth Corps members. Collectively the crew worked more than 4,200 person hours over the short four month field season. Their combined efforts helped to construct 2,700 feet of new trail with nearly 70% of that work being completed in the tundra far from nearby rock sources.
The crew members built some seriously enormous and impressive soil retention features, including a 70-foot long x 3-foot tall backwall which leads into another backwall 67-feet long x 2.5-feet tall. Eli, a returning veteran a crew leader, constructed a retaining wall that is 18-feet long x 12-feet tall!
The next phase of the project will start in early June 2017 and continue where the crew left of this fall focusing on completing the middle section of new trail construction. During Phase II in 2018 and 2019 the crew will continue to build new portions of the route connecting to the ridge line, focus on re-constructing portions of the trail, and begin closing the old socially-created route. Phase III is planned to start in 2020 and will focus entirely on the restoration and revegetation of the old trail. The finished project is projected to cost CFI more than 3/4 million dollars!
For an interactive look at the work completed in 2016 on Mount Columbia check out this Gigapan, created by crew leader Eli Allan. This tool consists of multiple high resolution photographs stitched together, and it allows you to zoom into particular features built by crew members this season. Scroll forward or double click to zoom into any area highlighted in green to learn more about who built the feature, the time it took to complete, and see photographs. CFI is super excited about this new technology as it gives us a unique way to convey our work to donors and supporters without breaking a sweat. http://www.gigapan.com/gigapans/193110
A huge thank you goes out to Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) who has supported CFI longer than any other corporate sponsor! Last summer REI hosted the “Every Trail Connects” campaign to raise money for trail construction and maintenance projects around the United States. Through this campaign REI donated $85,000 to help fund the five-year Mount Columbia trail construction project!
CFI would also like to thank Colorado Parks and Wildlife “State Trails Program” for funding the project!