My Maiden Voyage - Summit to Park to Lake to Eagle to Summit County
This was my first bikepacking trip ever. I own no actual bikepacking gear besides lights, so I chose a night with no rain in the forecast so I could take a sleeping bag only, foregoing any type of actual shelter. I carried everything on my back in my large camelbak skiing backpack. Although I would travel through Fairplay and Leadville on this loop, I still took way to much food.
Here is a GPS profile of Day 1:http://connect.garmin.com/activity/190290713
GPS of Day 2:http://connect.garmin.com/activity/190290730
Marmot Hydrogen 30 degree down bag.
2-PBJ's, Cheese and Salami, Beef Jerky, Candy Bars, Trail Mix, and Honey Stingers.
100 liter water bladder and MSR filter pump.
Long-sleeve shirt, tights, puffy jacket, stocking cap, and light gloves.
2 tubes, pump, and toolkit.
I've been doing huge mileage lately in "training" for a survival effort in the Breck 100 on July 15th. As it is, I'm no speedy racer, as my "training" really just consists of fun long rides. I do very little road-riding and zero intervals, although I may try a few of those before the race. My whip is a worn-out 6-year old Specialized FSR Pro weighing 30lbs.
So my legs were already feeling a little dead as I set out about 4:30pm last Wednesday, June 13th. I headed up the Peaks Trail to Breckenridge. I didn't weigh my pack, but lets just say it was very heavy. Little punchy climbs that I routinely clean were giving me fits and I was reaching into the granny-gear often. From Breck I used the Breck 100 climb to the top of Boreas Pass.... Blue River Trail to Indiana Creek Jeep road to Boreas Pass Road near the top.
It was about 7pm and the day 1 fun was about to begin on the Gold Dust Trail to Como. If you have never ridden Gold Dust you should put it on the list immediately. Starts with a screaming descent before tranitioning into a bobsled flume.... nasty rock garden thrown in with a little 300' climb before finishing with a twisty aspen-studded gift to Como. I generally avoid highway riding like the plaugue, but there would be some necessary miles to make this loop happen. I kept pushing hard to try and get to Fairplay before it got too dark. I pulled into the first convenience store I saw and ate pizza and oreos and filled up my water bladder again. I still had a few downhill highway miles before reaching my route over the Mosquito Range to Leadville... Weston Pass Road.
I reached Weston Pass Road about 10pm and breathed a sigh of relief to be off the highway and away from cars. Now I could just settle in to the climb. I planned to ride until about midnight and thought that would give me a good shot to get over the pass about that time. I travelled through private property for several miles and was reminded about the one thing that scares me more than anything else while night riding... Dogs! I braced myself several times for the attack to come into my light's view, but I guess the menacing pups would back off at the last instant....nerve-racking though. I was glad to get past ranch-county and into the forest again.
Sadly, the elevation readings on my new Garmin Forerunner 910XT can become quite unreliable during a long ride, and the night was very dark, so I was pretty clueless about where I was on the climb. It was so dark out that you couldn't even see a silouette of the mountain ridges around the top of the pass. About a mile from the top I had to start doing some hiking, and I passed a jeep road that let me know I was getting close, but it was still exhilerating to see the reflection of my lights on the Weston Pass Summit sign as I crested the top at midnight exactly. I propped my bike up and watched a herd of eyes ambling across the pass across the road from me. Not sure if it was deer, elk, goats, or sheep, but it spooked me out enough that I decided to quickly descend down to treeline before finding a place to camp. I dropped to about 10,750 and found a nice campsite with a soft bed of pine needles to lay my bag down on. Day 1 was 64 miles and 7400' of climbing.
I had a late dinner of PBJ and beef jerky, hid my food a ways down the road, and drifted off to sleep quickly. My feet were a little cold during the night, but I slept well. Once I heard birds chirping, I pulled my head out of the sleeping bag and was surprised to see how bright it was. It was already 6am. I usually don't sleep straight to first-light even while backpacking, so I must have been wiped out. I enjoyed a quick breakfast of salami and cheese and got back onto the trail about 7am.
I still had about 1500' to descend to HWY 24 for my linkup through Leadville to Tennessee Pass and the Colorado Trail. Although I stopped for coffee and a quick gas station breakfast, I still made it the 25 miles through Leadville to Tennessee Pass by 930am. Now it was time for singletrack again on the Colorado Trail from Tennessee Pass over Kokomo and Searle passes and down to Copper Mountain.
I had ridden this section last summer from a shuttle drop-off by the GF in barely sub 4 hours. I was having visions of an early afternoon return to Frisco and a nap before the Frisco BBQ Challenge kickoff concert that evening. I was still feeling great after the too-fun-to-be-legal descent from Tennessee Pass to Camp Hale. I needed food and a little rest break, but I was making myself wait to get a few hundred feet of climbing towards Kokomo Pass done first. Unfortunately, hungry, tired riders make bad decisions and I missed a turn on the CT and climbed 1000' unnecessary feet up a jeep road towards the Climax mine. I was pretty demoralized when I realized the error as I just didn't have too much excess energy reserved for screwups like that. I considered a few sketchy ideas for traversing through the mine to reach Kokomo, but ultimately decided to descend down to the CT where I missed the turn and start the climb over.
Back on the CT, I soon realizsed that I must have mentally blocked out how horrible the hike-a-bike is from Camp Hale to Kokomo Pass. There are some rideable sections, but most of it is extremely steep with loose rock. Its tough just to hike it with bike shoes. I finally reached the top of Kokomo about 1pm and 6 total hours of riding on the day. I took another long rest / food break and filtered my final ration of water. I hoped for newfound energy as the 3 miles of alpine riding between Kokomo and Searle Passes are some of the best around of you've got the legs. I walked more than usual (I ride this a lot as an out-n-back from Copper,) but I finally reached Searle Pass about 2pm.
I spoke with 2 nice girls who were through-hiking the CT to Durango. They were nervously eyeing the building clouds and wondering if they could make it down from Kokomo to safety before it got really scary. It was tough to tell. It was one of those days where you aren't sure if its gonna clear up or rain fire within the next 15-30 minutes. Lucky for them, I think it didn't get much more than scary-looking.
I was fired-up for the big descent off Searle Pass to Copper. I am very familiar with that section of trail so I was hammering it pretty good. I knew there were a few punchy little climbs after crossing Guller Creek before reaching Copper so I called myself a few nasty names for motivation to try and avoid the granny gear and clean them strong. I did, but not without near-revolt from my heart-rate each time.
It was about 3pm when I finally reached Copper Village. Now it was just easy rec path back home to Frisco and it went by fast. Totals on the day were 58+ miles in a pathetic 8.5 hours. But hey, it was bikepacking, not a race and I was thrilled to have pulled off a loop of that size.
Bring another pair of socks, even if just for sleeping.
Get some bar bags to get some weight off my back. I'll need something to carry a shelter anyways. I'm very accustomed to carrying a heavy backpack, but its gotta be easier to get some of that weight on to the bike. I only wonder about the sacrifices in bike-handling, especially on the big descents that I love so much.
Awesome experience... I'm hooked.
Route Recap starting and ending in Frisco:
Peaks Trail > Ski Hill Road > Boreas Pass Road > Blue River Trail > Indiana Creek Jeep Road > Boreas Pass Road > Gold Dust Trail > Hwy 285 > Weston Pass Road > Hwy 24 > Hwy 91 > Colorado Trail from Tennessee Pass to Copper Mountain > Rec Path home to Frisco. 123 miles. 16.5 hours riding / hiking / resting / eating with the bike.