The Colorado Trail is an awesome thru-hike route! But I noticed while hiking the CT, that much of the time that the best parts of an area you hike through just aren’t really showcased. The trail just weaves itself along a contour line below treeline, and you miss out on seeing most of the high country just outside your grasp.
Are you an advanced hiker?
If so, spice up your thru-hike by summiting a 14er or two (or all of them!) you can find right off the main trail! Below, I’ll describe all the 14er routes I’ve taken off the Colorado Trail, and some high 13er peaks that are also easily accessible. Most of the routes of the CT are in the Sawatch Range, between Leadville and just outside Salida. One is located in the San Juans outside of Creede, CO (San Luis).
For most of these routes, I would suggest dropping your main packs, and taking only what you realistically need from the out-and-back summit bid (hang your food, etc – of course). I describe the route mileage as one way, rather than RT, unless otherwise noted.
For some of these peaks, I do suggest an alternative loop which will ascend one route, and descend another, if you don’t mind missing a small portion of the Colorado Trail. For those options, bring everything, but realize that this makes the hike to the summit much harder. Make sure to time your hikes to miss the seasonal monsoon/thunderstorm weather (start early), and be mindful you’ve brought enough food for these CT alts. – they’ll take longer than the main trail.
It’s rush hour. I approach the busy intersection cautiously. I’m in a bike lane, but my side of the road is choked with cars that want to make a right turn. Once our light switches to green, I feel it’s a race to get out in front, before I get side-swiped by someone that wants to make that right turn, crossing the bike lane I’m in. Then, I hear someone yell out their car passenger car window. My anxiety heightens:
“HEY! NICE LIGHT! I CAN ACTUALLY SEE YOU!“
My stress levels return to normal, and I’m relieved that the car besides me not only knows I’m there, but acknowledges my presence with a compliment! The light I’m using? The Magicshine MONTEER 1400.
As Fall turns to Winter, and a lot of my riding happens now at night, it seems fitting to investigate some lighting solutions I’ve been looking at. I’m willing to invest in a nice light, as my main form of transportation is my bike. My main goal is to see, and be seen. I’m usually either riding the streets at night, or riding trails bikepacking, but both scenarios need the following for a good bike front light:
Long Lasting and Dependable. For the majority of riding, I want a light that can be on for a long while between recharges. I want it to Just Work, to not fall off, to not turn on expectantly (while stored in a pack, say). Seems like an obvious wish list, but you won’t believe how many times this gets done wrong.
BRIGHT! If I want to flood my immediate vicinity, give me that choice. When I’m going Mach 5 down a winding road, I wanna see every piece of sand on said road. If I’m in a busy intersection, I want the light to scream: “Here I am“.
Rechargeable. Make it easy to recharge the batteries without making me carry half a toolbox of cables and chargers. Make it easy for me to swap out batteries with freshies if need be.
No Nonsense. I don’t want external battery packs and wires running all over the place – these just get in the way and get broken. External battery packs just hide the fact that the batteries inside are ones I can buy off the shelf cheaper than buying an entire battery pack.
There’s many different lighting solutions out there, including battery-free, dynamo-powered lights. The fact still remains that a battery-powered light is going to be brighter than a dynamo-powered light. A dynamo-powered light is also going to be more expensive. In the end, it’s convenience of not needing a external battery source (outside of the dynamo wheel, of course), may make it a fine solution. But, if you have more than one bike and you wanna fully invest in dynamo lighting, you probably need more than one of everything. With a battery-powered light, you can swap things out.
Adventure Cycling‘s Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR for short) is one of my favorite off-pavement bike routes in the country. I’ve done two tours of it myself while racing it, and have used segments the route itself quite a bit while doing shorter bikepacking tours. It’s well-designed, lots of beta about accommodations exist, and you’re bound to find like-minded people traveling on the route to bump into.
When I designed my Tour 14er, and later Highest Hundred tour, knowledge of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route was key in piecing together my own custom route. It’s actually pretty surprising how many 14ers can be accessed without getting too far from the main GDMBR.
Here’s some of the more convenient detours off of the GDMBR to Colorado’s 14ers. Names of mountains will be linked with the appropriate route to the summit from the trailhead my directions give access to.
My usual advice for anyone doing a long-distance backpacking trip would be to pick a trail runner that you really enjoy, and find that you can wear all-day. The days of extremely heavy, overbuilt, inflexible, high top boots for backpacking are over (save them for special purposes, like full-on Winter conditions).
My pick for both my all-time favorite trailrunner and what I would usually pick for backpacking is the the La Sportiva Mutant. Sized correctly, they hit the sweet spot for me as a more than viable trail runner (I would run an ultra in these, without hesitation), kicks for fastpacking – like my time in the Weminuche, and even for a scramble a low/moderate pitch of alpine rock when the great majority of the time is on the approach – like the Maroon Bells traverse. I personally stick with low to mid height shoes, because of my ankles – I want the mobility that a lower shoe gives, as I want to keep my ankles constantly challenged by terrain – it’s the only way they became, and remain: strong. And believe me, I’ve had some serious challenges with ankle injuries.
But, all shoes exist on a spectrum and no one shoe will work for everything. For a wishlist, I would certainly want:
A more bulletproof upper. Off-trail hiking can cause a number on the uppers of a pair of well-ventilated trail runners.
A tough outsole. I’ll be carrying a lot more additional weight than I usually do – even when I’m on my own fastpacks.
Generally, I want to make sure that whatever shoes I use will last me until the end, and I’m not hobbled – I’m workin’ here.
Housemate Nolan wanted to do the Flatiron Quinfecta for his 25th Birthday Challenge (climbing the standard east face route of each of the five numbered flatirons) and I was happy to help him make that happen. I started off guiding him on the the easiest flatiron routes just a few months ago.
“The route Freeway is one of the first scrambling routes you do in the Flatirons,” Simoni said. “It’s just really easy. It’s the first one I did. I was training for something much larger, and we had to do a lot of scrambling and at night.