Making the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Even Greater: The Peaks Trail in Summit County, South Park alt. Out of Hartsel

The GDMBR in yellow; alternative in red

Time again to revisit the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route! As the Tour Divide race rolls along and the top riders are flying through Colorado, I’m once again reminded on how much fun this route is, and also some great alternative lines to the official route. My last foray into this topic lead to a major reroute up and over Rollins Pass to the east side of the Divide, then back to the west side on Argentine Pass. That alt. adds major miles, and a whole lot of adventure – it’s pretty audacious!

This time, we’ll keep things a little more straightforward and direct: we’ll get rid of the bike path riding out of Frisco Colorado into Summit County, and do a slightly different line through half of South Park. Let’s check things out!

We’re going to start at the intersection of Highway 9 and East Main Street in Frisco, CO. From here, the official route basically follows the bike path out of Frisco, and into Breckenridge. But, there’s a fairly fun single track trail that also gets you to Breckenridge!

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My Sleep System for the Tour of the Highest Hundred

Update: The Ultimate Direction FK Bivy and FK Tarp are now available on the UD website!

Disclaimer right away: much of the gear I’m showing has been provided by me from the companies that produce them, and many of the links to their product pages to purchase the gear are affiliate links.

To my surprise, people seem curious in the gear I use that comprises my sleep system. I’ll be describing my current setup that I’ll be using for the Tour of the Highest Hundred, a two-month bikepacking and peak bagging adventure. Like everything, it’s a constantly evolving kit, that changes depending on weather, seasons, geographic location/environment, and conditions. There’s no One True Sleep System. My own sleep system is constrained by some pretty crazy requirements:

Season

I’ll be out from ~July 15th to ~September 15th, mostly in the Colorado high country and sleeping at an elevation from around 6,000′ above sea level to well, let’s say 12,000′ if I’m feeling frisky. I’m expecting temperatures at night from around 50 degrees F to well below freezing and foul weather including wind, rain, sleet, snow, grauple, and everything in between. Mostly though, I’ll be hoping for clear, calm nights, and the occasional monster thunderstorm. My sleep system has to protect me 100% from precipitation of all the forms listed. Even one night exposed to a freezing rain could be dangerous.

Environment

For the most part, I’ll be sleeping at trailheads of the Centennials, around 6,000′ – 10,000′, well below treeline in the subalpine forest. I’ll have ample opportunity to find enough flat ground to at least put my sleeping bag down. In rarer circumstances, I’ll be camping above treeline, around 12,000′, so I’ll need a system that doesn’t rely on using something like a tree to set up my shelter.

Vibe

For lack of a better term, my sleep system really just needs to keep me sheltered from any weather and to be warm enough – it’s not going to be a basecamp for weeks on end as I lay siege on a mountain, or a place to whoo a ladyfriend – or even to play an extended game of cards well into the night. I need it to be easy to set up and take down without a lot of fuss, and flexible enough to work in different environments. I don’t want to take a lot of time to find the perfect spot – I want to get there, set things up within minutes, throw some food in my mouth, and pass out underneath it.

The Fundamental Parts: Tarp/Bivy/Bag/Pad

My sleep system is comprised of these four parts that, when put together, can keep me relatively comfortable in all the extreme cases I can think of. What’s even better, is that each one is really optional, so I can make decisions on just what I want to set up, given my current circumstances.

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Podcast: Justin Simoni – The Ultra-Endurance Artist @ Mountain & Prairie

Justin Simoni – The Ultra-Endurance Artist

I joined Ed Roberson earlier this week after we bumped into each other running in Chautauqua. Ed runs an interesting and diverse podcast called Mountain & Prairie and invited me to do an episode which I agreed to.

Ed loved how our interview went and I hope you do, too. Give it a listen yourself, and thanks again to Ed for having me on.


Chaffee County 390 Ramble: The Three Apostles, Huron, Missouri, Iowa, Emerald,

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.

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Ouray and Chipeta

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. Eventually, I got ‘er done, and after a little wandering around looking for a flat place to set up the Ultimate Direction FK Tarp while it slowly began to rain, (then snow), I was able to get some sleep.

The next morning (after sleeping in a bit), I set out from the trailhead following the actual trail for a little while, until I turned south and started gaining a saddle of the ridegline. That went smoothly, even though the trees were choked with snowdrifts. Once on the ridgeline, I was greeted by bristle cone pines – quickly turning into my favorite tree, and started the hike to the top of Ouray. The ridgeline proved a little spicy – with a few Class 3 moves if you didn’t want to drop too far off the ridge itself.

Soon the summit was gained, but weather seemed to want to move in, in the form of some angry looking clouds. The wind picked up, but I decided to keep moving along the perimeter of the basin on then same ridge to see if I couldn’t also summit the neighboring peak, Chipeta. There’s a bailout point between Ouray and Chipeta, so I kept an eye on the quickly degrading weather, as I made my way down the ridge.

The weather did hit, but came only in the form of some hail – no thunder or lightning, and I took just a few minutes for the worse of it to pass over me, before continuing my hike to Chipeta. The rest of the day was fine, and Chipeta was summited with not additional difficulty.

Descending back into the basin was a bit spicy – I had no beta on this, so I just chose a saddle on this side of the ridgeline, and pointed ‘er down. I glissaded a bit to a talus field and rock-hopped a bit, until getting suckered into a steep ravine, with a small creek running swiftly down it. Deciding it would go with a bit of care, I quickly descended into a huge field of thickets, with whip-like branches. Slow going, but not impossible, and lucky for me, a social trail (animal or otherwise) suddenly appeared to take me out of that and back into more manageable bushwhacking, where I then re-found the main trail. Good route!

Really fun day. I’ll almost surely approach Ouray on the Highest Hundred by Marshal Pass, as I can ride from the west side of the pass, leave the bike at the top of the pass, take the quick hike to summit Ouray, then ride down the east side of the pass and onward to either the town of Salida, or directly to Shavano/Tabeguache. I wasn’t sure if Marshall Pass is open all the way open to the top, and I wanted to explore a different trailhead, so Little Cochetopa worked perfectly.

I also know Marshall Pass somewhat intimately; it’s part of the Tour Divide route, the Colorado Trail Race route, the Vapor Trail race route, and with all the racing and recon of all those rides, I’ve visited Marshall Pass almost more times than I can count. I’ve never managed to summit Ouray though – having tried once from Marshall Pass, but failing due to the threat of lightning, so it was nice to finally tick it off. I look forward to visiting its summit again in a few months.


Shavano/Tabeguache, Antero/Cronin Recon

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.

Some photos from the bike ride,

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Surly ECR and the Surly 24-Pack Rack: Enter The Mud Season

(Part One)

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!


The Watchtower

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.

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Surly ECR and the Surly 24-Pack Rack: Initial Impressions

Imagine my delight,

when an enormous box from Surly was delivered to my door, with instructions to do something cool with the contents: A medium Surly ECR, and a 24-Pack Rack! I was planning a trip to Breckenridge to say hello to my Brother who was becoming a year older, and I wanted to climb some mountains to train for the Tour of the Highest Hundred, so naturally, The Surly ECR entered into the thick of my plans.

In this post, I’ll go over the unboxing process, some of initial thoughts, and how I’ve set things up for a 5 day bike tour + mountaineering (bike-a-neering?) trip to Summit County. In a follow up post, we’ll talk about that trip itself.

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