To make the Tour of the Highest Hundred work, my general strategy was to keep the number of separate trailheads I needed to visit by bike as low as possible, while designing my route on foot to tag as many mountains in an area as possible. Transitioning to/from bike-mode/hike-mode and superfluous riding are big time sucks.
One of the largest puzzles is the Sierra Blancas. Even enthusiastic peak baggers will separate this group of mountains into >= two trips:
Approaching from the east for Mt. Lindsey and “Huerfano Peak” via the Huerfano/Lily Lake Trailhead
Approaching from the west to access Ellingwood Point, Little Bear, and Blanca via Lake Como Road
And well, also approaching from the west for California Peak (if the Centennials are part of your goal), which is accessed from an altogether trail head: Zapata Falls.
Three different trips to three different trailheads is a lot of bike riding for six mountains that sit close together. Visiting the eastern trailhead, then the western ones means either crossing a northern mountain pass (Mosca Pass), or going around the entire southern end of the Sierra Blancas (La Veta Pass) – I was willing and needed to do one, but not both.
My time in Salida on tour soon came to an end, after a little time at the hostel with an honest to goodness shower. Time for me to travel north! Out of Salida, there’s some pretty awful highway riding to get directly to the next town, Buena Vista, and the day I set off saw me face a stiff headwind, that only got worse as I got closer and as a storm cell was moving from west to east. Frustrating!
I made it to Buena Vista, which I was going to only use as a top-off spot for food, etc – but my Brother was in town for Paddlefest, so I decided to linger a bit. After another partial day of rest, the weather turned much nicer, and I continued my ride to Chaffee County 390. The road out of BV North is dirt, and follows an old railroad line complete with tunneled out sections of the hillside, making things quite fun. TONS of people were out for Paddlefest – or just the good weather – I’ve honestly never seen it so packed.
I took a ride out from Salida to Poncha Springs then onto Chaffee County 210 to the rarely visited (by 14er standards) Little Cochetopa Trailhead, which gives you access to Mt. Ouray, a Centennial peak @ 13,971′. The last few miles of the well-maintained road turned into a legitimate 4WD track, and it was a nice challenge trying to get my over-burdened Surly ECR up this steep track.
I’m presently in the Salida area, enjoying the incredible weather, tough training, and reconning potential routes. Salida and its people are incredibly friendly, bike shops and bike people are everywhere, and the mountains are crazy-accessible.
I rode here from Colorado Springs, having taken the bus from Boulder -> Denver -> Colorado Springs to save some time. It snowed about 3 feet last week, so some of the more interesting routes out of Boulder are currently under water.
5:00pm on Friday. Time to set off towards Estes Park. Although I would have like to take a more dirt route off the bat, the day was getting long, and I had some exploratory tracks to travel, so I took the express-way down Highway 36; it’s traffic known somewhat for its rep of severely injuring cyclists. I’ve never had a problem – but I usually ride it around 3:00 in the morning on my way to Longs Peak where the highway is desolate rather than filled with rush hour traffic.
I survived to Lyons in no time, and turned onto St. Vrain Canyon, which must be one of the prettiest canyons to slowly pedal up. Or so I’ve heard – I usually do this pedaling in the wee hours of the morning – the last time was during a snow storm with zero visibility, so today was somewhat of a rare treat for me to see the canyon in the waning daylight. Large pinnacles and crags shot up from the canyon floor. Loads of climbing adventure potential!
My objective this evening was a FS 82 near Meeker Park. Word has it that there’s National Forest access in the tight squeeze of private property, Wilderness, and National Park of the Tahosa Valley. Surprisingly, I’ve never looked around to see what’s around this road before. My friendly National Forest Service Ranger Station, which I live across the street from, supplied me with a Motor Vehicle Use Map of the surrounding areas accessible by road, which helps greatly in finding legal campsites off private property.
No rest for the weary! My buddy David perhaps jokingly asked me if I wanted to go for Longs, via the Trough on Sunday (“Those Centennials ain’t gonna climb themselves!”) and I naturally went for the bait, on the condition that I’d probably be lagging behind given the climbing on my legs already for week, after Everesting Green Mountain.
Slowly, I roll to the gate. The Park ranger sees me from afar and returns to me only a tired stare. He himself walks slowly to the entrance booth, not resting his gaze. I now roll towards the booth even slower. Nervous. I feel as if I’m performing a border crossing, rather than just entering a National Park. The guard just continues his stare – his eyes looking right at mine; the rest of his visage saying absolutely nothing. I offer a hello, but get no reply. Meeting him at the booth, he continues his vacant look. Is he looking at me, or past me? I don’t know, but I hand him the entrance fee I just made change for at the coffee shop in town that I stopped at to regain feeling in my hands and feet after making that chilly descent into Estes Park. Having climbed out of town, I’m much warmer now. Unseasonably warm. Finally,
“Oh. Day Pass. Map?”
I accept, and that’s my entire interaction with this guy. It’s also the first time I’ve ever paid for entrance into the Park in my 5+ years of visiting it. It feel almost wrong. Some things, I ponder, shouldn’t be bought.
Gerry Roach’s Longs Peak Radical Slam as described in his 14ers book: top out on 7 summits in the Longs Peak area: (Meeker, Longs, Pagoda, Storm, Mt. Lady Washington, Battle Mountain, Estes Cone), topped off with 50 push ups at the trailhead.