After a year off the bike, building a home, and race directing the Five-0 for the last 12 years, I thought it would be a good time to get back in the saddle and do some training. It was pretty intense training, along with proper gear selection, and logistic homework for the last 4 months, but it was not enough for the CTR.
On Monday morning July 30th we lined up in Waterton Canyon outside Denver and took off for a 500 mile (65,000' of climbing!) self supported "race" across the Colorado Trail to Durango. The start was full of excitement and high energy as all the riders had been prepping for weeks or years for this ride.
The first day was a huge day for me as I wanted to get off to a good start while fresh. I ended up w/ 104 miles and 16,000' of climbing on day one. I got soaked out everyday, twice a day, with the second rain usually happening at night around dark and persisting until the early morning hours. The first day/night I was going hard and staggering around in the dark on wet rocks and roots until 2:15 am. This took some fight out of me without me even realizing it until the next couple days. With around 2.5 hours sleep I was up and off on the bike for day 2. Day two would be another great introduction into the CTR and hike-a-biking over the 10 Mile Range above Copper and the SKY chutes. Now this is no short hike-a-bike.... this is straight up talus with steep switchbacks at 11,000 plus feet! After hours of mostly hiking, it was a great view of Copper Mountain and an awesome descent into Copper / Frisco. After a little dip in the creek I rode off to Copper for a burger and resupply. It felt great to lounge around the base and take in the tourist watching. The trail out of Copper had seen some horse guiding and was covered in horse apples and was hoofed out. It didn't take long and we were heading up up and out to Searle Pass 12,040' and a little further to the beautiful Kokomo Pass 12,020'. This was some of the nicest riding I had done on this trail. Above tree line everything is clearer. The descent from these summits was amazing. We followed the Cataract Creek headwaters and descended into Camp Hale. This was the training grounds for the 10th Mountain Division and you could see why, remote, big and intimidating... It would be another 20 miles before reaching Leadville in the rain at midnight. Time for a Motel 6 cleansing!
Day 3 came about rather slow starting out with the continental breakfast at 0630 and off riding at 0730. We headed out into the Leadville backcountry via Halfmoon Creek Rd. and joined the CT below Mt. Massive. Lots of primitive camping along this stretch of gravel rd. and some folks out prepping the Leadville 100. The next stretch of trail is some of the best Aspen tree lined trail riding of the CTR. Big Aspens and nice singletrack all the way down into Twin Lakes above Buena Vista. I rolled into town w/ my new friend Bill Shand and we met up with Paul Bosworth for some pizza next to the Trailhead bike shop. The Trailhead was wrenching on all kinds of CTR riders bikes. Paul had his disks trued and I had a new small ring put on. The Trailhead was offering free mechanical work for the riders. It was a nice shop that had all the things necessary to continue the ride. After the shop and pizza we rode off to the grocery store as this was our last restock we thought before the long segments ahead. I had the stupid idea of taking extra pizza wrapped in tin foil and wandered around the busy grocery store grabbing miscellaneous food supplies. Many veteran riders were outside the grocery store carefully going thru sacks of groceries and adding the calories carefully. I just threw a bunch of junk food on top of the pizza and headed out. I'm not sure what 'mistake number' this was, but it was a crucial one. Paul was already gone and out of town when Bill and I left together. We pedaled the road up below the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness and watched the clouds boil into a blackness that soon was shooting bolts of lighting followed by heavy rain. We took cover next to a house w/ a bicycle sculpture attached to the mail box. Soon a gentleman came out and invited us into the garage and we talked bikes over a beer w/ him. The rain was heavy and we considered his offer to spend the night in the garage, but an hour later the rain stopped and we decided it best to ride for the hour or two of remaining light. The trail was rocky and horse hammered out of Avalanche TH and into South Cottonwood TH for several miles as a horse guide outfitter was using the trail apparently. Bill and I camped together again this night along the trail as it continued to rain into the night. It was a tough nights sleep in a bivy, w/ rain falling at elevation. I would find myself covered up inside the bivy struggling to breathe and throw it open gasping for breath only to let the drizzle hit my face for awhile and cover back up. This continued thru the night. The next morning we rose at 5am to a dampness and Bill bailing because of a tied up stomach ache that had bothered him for several days. I was bummed to see Bill have to bail but was up for another day of riding. We parted ways and I enjoyed the next section of trails to Princeton Hot Springs. This is an establishment that I did not know about and they had lots of food in the Gas station/ deli. They also take mail delivery drops that many CT users use. I ate breakfast here and had some coffee before heading out w/ additional supplies. The pizza I had brought as my main meal was now a dough ball dripping juice from the tin foil... I continued to carry it and tried to eat it later this day but was disgusted by it. The riding out of Princeton lead up to Chalk Mt. TH was some stiff riding again. It was beautiful trail interrupted w/ springs and creek crossings. The day continued w/ much effort and fatigue and took me to the HWY 50 crossing and the big climb up Fooses Creek. It rained again at around 3pm and soaked everything only to bring on sunshine and a beautiful evening ride/climb along a nice creek. Again at about 8:30 it began to rain and the lighting was close. I took shelter near the pass at about 11,000' and put on all my clothes and rain suit. It stopped lightning and the rain was light so I continued into the darkness and pushed another 1000' up to the summit of Monarch Pass at 12,000' and camped for the night at 10:30. It was a moon filled clear night and cold at that elevation.
Day 4 started out w/ a really nice sunrise and me taking off w/ all my warmest clothes on. I had opted to not fill my water bladders on the climb the previous night as there were suppose to be water sources ahead. Well as I pulled into the water sources they were dried up or I missed the trickle and continued hoping to find a good source. The only water I found this morning was some spring water pooled in elk hooves and filled w/ sediment. I dipped up a couple small bottles worth and used my purification tablets on them but did not look forward to drinking it. I hoped to find better water but my guidebook indicated it would be 14 miles to the next source and that would be the last for several days perhaps. It was mid morning by now and I had studied the data book and contemplated my state of food and water and realized at the pace I was moving I would be way short on both. After much debate w/ myself I found it best to sulk down and out on one of Colorado's favorite trails the Silver Creek and Rainbow trail to Salida. It was a tough call to drop when bike and body were intact but I wanted to keep it that way without relying on outside help or emergency help plus all the bail outs beyond were into no mans land. Once into town or nearly into town my cell phone lit up w/ messages of "wrong way", "are you alright", "bailing to Salida", "call me", "stay safe", "are you alright"? It was great to know I had so many eyes on my blue dot, but disappointing to drop out out of my first race in 25 yrs. of racing. This race is different and I was ok w/ it I guess. Too late now I was about 4000' below the summit of last nights camp. I made it about 260 miles a little over half way on the CTR and learned a lot. Will I go back next year? Probably but it is a big commitment and lots can get in the way. With what I learned and a whole year to prepare chances are I will be back. I love this sort of race and all the character you build and characters you meet. I am thankful for the experience and hope to finish this ride one day.
Thanks to Stephan for organizing this amazing race and all the friends on the trail, Kristi and Sierra for their support and John Bailey for his Ridge Rider Rescue and picking me up in Salida. Congratulations to Paul Bosworth for his amazing race and finish and all the other riders out there who finished or attempted.
Saying Good bye is sometimes easy when you have a good understanding family, Thanks!
Paul, Perry and Bill, Black Hills entrants
The fast guys on the way out of Denver's Waterton Canyon TH
Into the Hayman Fire burn day one.
Stoked Moots riders giving it up!
Les Handy from Denver!.
Day one brought on a bent small ring. Trying a rock multi tool fix helped but it would drop off the small ring randomly until day 3 in Buena Vista where it was replaced.
Soggy Trail below Kenosha Pass
Approaching Georgia Pass
Top of Georgia Pass!
Some random trail magic for CTR riders stashed below Georgia Pass. Very Nice!
Bill Shand prepares to hike a bike over 10 Mile
Up and Up!
Dropping down into Copper Mountain was great!
Leaving Copper and heading up into Searle Pass, very nice.
Searle's Pass 12,040
Another Storm brewing above Buena Vista.
More rain ahead...
Fooses Creek bridge
Good Morning atop Monarch Pass
Rough morning after fighting my way to Monarch Pass! Swollen and bruised getting ready to Cruise.
Top of the Fooses Trail! Big Climb!
Bullwinkle crossed my trail on the Bail down Silver Cr. Trail.
Bailey's Ridge Rider Rescue was much appreciated. He took me back to Vail and I hung at the Eagles Nest Bistro at the top of mountain treated to comped fine food and drink! It was great to see all the friends in Vail and share some stories about another good adventure.