Saturday, August 04, 2012

Colorado Trail/ Engineer Mtn. Trail

With Leadville coming up, I wanted to get in a good alpine ride at over 11,000 feet. Got in plenty of that today. Matt and I stopped by 2nd Ave. Sports in Durango last night for some recommendations. After being helped by an abnormally enthusiastic employee (they must not deal with tourists on beach cruisers there all day) we knew where we wanted to go. We'd leave from Molas Pass, ride the Colorado Trail about 9 miles (10), hang a left on Engineer Mtn Trail for a 3,500 foot descent, then ride hwy 550 North back over Coal Bank Pass and up to Molas where the van was. With a plan in hand we got some food, hit the grocery store, and headed off to bed.
I woke up at 4:57 am ready to roll. We were packed and out the door by 5:30 and on top of Molas Pass by 6:20. An early start was needed to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms in the high country ( which can get very severe ). As an added bonus we got to see the sunrise from over 11,000 feet! Before departing, we ran into one of the Colorado Trail Race Racers. If you've ever seen the Ride The Divide movie you would have recognized him as the guy that says he is Brad Pitt. After some talk about the last section of the Colorado Trail being the hardest thing he's done on a bike, he disappeared into the restroom with his bike and never came out. I think he may have gone to sleep in there.
Anyways- off we went. Climbing steadily upward on a very nice trail with a quite reasonable grade made for a nice warmup. Soon we climbed up out of the trees and into the sunlight. The first 8ish miles of the CT were spectacular. Quick climbing and flowy downhills coupled with hero dirt made for a fast ride. Then it went up. And got technical. I was able to ride nearly all of it but I was at the limit of my 34 x 36T low gear. Keeping my heartrate just under redline, I soon reached the intersection of the CT and Engineer Mtn. Trail at 12,200 feet. Not too long after, Matt made it walking due to a cleat coming loose. I pulled the cleat out of his SPD and prepared to bolt it back on. No bolts. No problem- disc rotor bolts work in a pinch. With the repair made we headed up a little more, then bombed a fast descent off the pass. I swear we dropped 1,000 feet in less than a mile. Drops into steep switchbacks made it very fun and took alot of concentration at speed. So much concentration that we ran full speed right into about a million sheep. Sheep. Didn't expect a huge herd of sheep in the trail at 11,800 feet! By in the trail I mean that I couldn't even see the trail. What to do? I rode right into them and herded them down the trail in a sheep stampede. Fortunately, the trail soon switchbacked down to the right and the sheep went left. Downhilling resumed we made our way off the side of the mountain with the barnyard smell soon dissipating. Soon before the main downhill, I cut a sidewall on my rear tire. Matt rolled on expecting me to soon catch him on the downhill. Not so much. I got rolling again soon but about a half mile down the mtn I executed the wreck of the century. I was in open terrain on smooth fast singletrack. As easy as it gets. With visibility of 1/2 mile of trail ahead of me I was moving out. Tallest gear, spun out, standing up, with all fingers wrapped around the bar. No chance of touching the brakes. I had to be going at least 125 mph. I had that bike going as fast as it would possibly go when I scrubbed my front wheel on the side of the foot deep rut I ended up in and got ejected. Total yardsale. I was in the air long enough to think and flail my arms and legs before landing on my shoulder and head sliding for what felt like forever. I had apparently landed on wet vegetation that may have actually accelerated my landing speed. After eventually stopping, I gathered my wits and looked around. My stuff was scattered for 50 feet back up to the trail. Camera got ejected, GPS came off, sunglasses gone, bottle missing, and my camelbak blew up. Soon, I found all my junk, re mounted and rolled off in hot pursuit. Amazingly, I got nary a scratch in that whole debacle. Matt and I had spoken of getting a GoPro camera...I sure wish we had. That would have been hillarious to see.
What a downhill as promised! That was the best downhill I've ever ridden hands down. It had everything- fast trail, tight switchbacks, technical rock sections, flowy sections, and blazing fast open meadow sections as well. It seemed like it took over a half an hour to descend. Could have been quicker if I hadn't flatted again one minute from the end! Oh well. Fun stuff over, we headed up the highway for 12 miles and 2,500 feet more of climbing. Head down, I motored on back to the van feeling strong. Ended up with almost 6000ft of climbing in 35 miles. After loading the bike, I U-turned it and headed back down to pick up Matt. He was glad to see me as expected and we were soon off to Silverton for some much needed food! What a great ride. Highly recommended. DH

1 comment:

Andre Pope said...

Be careful out there.