Restoration and protection of popular alpine hiking and climbing routes.
Rocky Mountain Field Institute utilized a 2004 RTP award to restore and protect popular hiking and climbing routes in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area in the San Isabel and Rio Grande National Forests, while providing access to the high country. This project addressed the most difficult sections of the routes with some of the areas over 14,000 feet high.
The peaks that were restored had suffered route degradation due to increased use, extremely steep terrain, severe weather, fragile vegetation, poor drainage, and difficulty of maintenance. All trail work in Wilderness Areas must be done by hand since any form of mechanized equipment is not allowed. Mitigation of the peaks included identification and construction of a single hiking and climbing trail, the closure of unwanted and unnecessary trails, and the restoration of damaged sites through slope stabilization and re-vegetation.
Due to the steepness of the terrain, and the damage to the tundra, much of the trail included natural rock steps with many water structures. Re-vegetation often included backfilling with native materials, hauled in by human power, and transplants of fragile tundra plants from other damaged areas.
Completion of this project required staff and volunteers to camp all summer above timberline and to work in adverse high-altitude conditions and often in severe weather.