Trip Reports » Tabeguache Trail October 2011 Solo Bail Report


Summary:  Slow trail conditions and external time constraints forced me to abandon my northbound Tabeguache Trail attempt after one night and twenty-one out of 142 miles.

Background: Three overnighters, thru-hiked the CT in twenty-four days, barely sub-12ed the Leadville 100 MTB, lots of recreational hike-a-bike on snow and dirt. I am, as they would call me on MTBR, a n00b.

Gear (abridged): Specialized Stumpjumper 29, White Bros rigid carbon fork, 2×8, Flow rims, Ardent 2.4s // Cleaveland Mountaineering full kit // Osprey Hornet 24 // full list

Cutesy Human-Interest Fluff:

Friday 1830: Spirits are high. I’ve been planning this, my first multiday bikepack, for a month. The Plateau has gotten some snow, but I rode every morning of last winter in Lake City, CO (9,200′), so I’m not too worried.  En route to the trailhead, I pound a whole large pepperoni pizza as preemptive offering to the gods of caloric deprivation, and crank Rage against the Machine to get me pumped for carrying a loaded bike at two miles per hour.

1910: As dusk settles in, I do one last doublecheck and start the trail on a moderate dirt road climb.


The nearly full moon allows for moonlight climbs and single headlamp descents.

Even with six liters of water (the curse of Coworado), the bike feels fairly normal.

After a couple hours, I start running into traces of snow, previews of coming attractions.

I ran into some mud and intermittent hike-a-bikes, which slowed me down. When I hit Transfer Road, there was an inch of crusty snow on top of somewhat frozen mud with frozen puddles — very choppy, had to stop to free my drivetrain of the gunk every five to ten minutes.

Saturday 0030: Five and half hours after starting, I had only made eighteen miles. I had to bivy up three miles short of my objective for the night. It was a cold night; not as much as where I slept all last winter  , but not quite as cozy either.

I decided to go stoveless on this trip, so cold oatmeal for breakfast, eaten with an ingenious multipurpose gear solution (thanks, Jeremy)

Fall is in the air, but winter is on the ground.

Saturday 0800: I hopped back on Transfer Rd for two miles of fun but slow snowbiking, mashing the granny gear on the flats at 3mph. The snow was sticky, and frozen ruts and puddles underneath prevented any sort of rhythm. But hey, it was ridable!

(that was a good section)

0900: Made it to the start of Section 3 (Pool Creek singletrack). Three miles in the last hour. The snow was continuing to deepen. At this point, 21 miles in 6.5 riding hours, I realized that I wouldn’t make it to Junction in time to get back to my fifth graders, even with the long Columbus Day weekend. It was a tough decision, but I knew I had to bail. Also, I didn’t feel like hiking the next 27 miles of snowed-in singletrack in my Pearl Seek IVs, even with VBL socks (I obviously hadn’t planned on this much consistent snowcover). And so I pulled the plug.





As if to confirm my decision, as soon as I decided to bail, I realized that I couldn’t feel my right foot, and that I was shivering. I pushed fifty yards to the nearest patch of dirt — right in the middle of Divide Road — and hopped into my quilt and bivy and spent the next twenty minutes eating and recovering body temperature. It’s strange, because I was totally fine on the powerline road, then as soon as I hopped off, the cold

During that time, a guy drove by in a truck and said that everything further up was snowed in even more. Yeah, it was a good time to bail. I threw on every layer that I had and descended Divide Road.

1200: After dropping several thousand feet and all of those layers, I made it back to my car and promptly ate everything I’d packed on the drive home.

Epilogue: It has been well said that endurance activities such as bikepacking require no skill, only a selective memory. On that note, I would try the Tab again this season, albeit with insulated boots, luscious CM pogies, an 800-fill hooded down jacket, a second pad and other winter frivolities. My analysis is that my bail was due to several factors: 1) slow trail conditions, 2) having a job, 3) underestimation of snow levels, and most importantly, most condemning of all:

4) Lack of lucky T-Rex squeaky horn mounted on handlebars, to whom this silly enterprise is retroactively dedicated.


RIP Mara.

Comments (12)

CrashOctober 8th, 2011 at 9:09 pm

Great photos.

Tyler MarlowOctober 8th, 2011 at 11:25 pm


Freaking awesome! I cant wait to move to Colorado!

Crissy PhillipsOctober 9th, 2011 at 9:30 am

Lots of fun to read Fritz! Keep posting your adventures in Colorado so I can live vicariously through you. 🙂

Question: What was the spoon/multipurpose tool you were using?

And whatever happened to Mara?

fritzOctober 9th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Tire lever / spoon / frozen mud scraper, in reverse order of use.

Mara(2) couldn’t take the abuse of being ziptied above a rigid fork and jumped off a cliff in Fruita. Her predecessor, Mara(1) did the same on Slickrock in Moab. In addition to bringing me luck, these squeaky horns function as morale boosters, aural cattle prods, conversation partners, and thermometers (if the dino can’t make a noise, it’s officially cold out).

Allie BakerOctober 9th, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Even if the snow was more than you expected, it still looks like a great trip! I can’t wait to see more of your adventures…. or when you get to do this one all the way through. It’s funny to see that you slept in a bivy in the snow and it still not be as cold as your truck topper sleeping arrangement. You trained early (:

I’m sorry to read about Mara 1 and 2.
Keep posting!

jeremy11October 12th, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Surprisingly, the fluffy stuff has generated more interest than the technical stuff. Unprecedented.

MikedOctober 15th, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Nice write up, sometimes the things that don’t go quite as planned turn into the more memorable experiences and we learn a whole lot more than if it worked out.

SimonOctober 19th, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Geez, I was planning on doing the Paradox this weekend (Oct 21) but had to cancel because of other plans. I am glad I did based on this ride report. We would have started in the same place you did and climbed the same dirt road to Transfer Rd, but then keep on heading west where you would turn north. We did the Tab last year the same time of year you did and had awesome weather. Its a good thing you bailed because doing the next section of the Tab through all the drainage’s with snow and mud would have been a disaster. Our new plan is to try the Paradox middle of May 2012. When are you trying again?

FritzOctober 19th, 2011 at 12:57 pm

@Simon It’s funny, right after I bailed, the weather turned fabulous and has been ever since. I’d imagine the snow has melted and perhaps even the mud has dried in that time. I might be able to give it another shot for Reformation Day Break (Oct 31) if it stays dry until then, otherwise it’ll be a project for next summer.

How was the water supply when you did it last fall? How much did you end up carrying at a time?

SimonOctober 20th, 2011 at 6:41 am

Shhhh, don’t tell me about that, I want to believe that there is still a bunch of snow and there is no way possible to do any riding up there. 😉
Anyway, for water, we kinda cheated by driving through the day before and dropping food and water off at our pre-determined camp sites, however we did have a filter and used it a couple times while riding. I think the water supply would have been sufficient if we hadn’t dropped water off at the campsites before hand but we would have had to adjust our camping sites so we would be by water when we stopped. I can remember one water supply in the beginning of the single track off Transfer Rd. Many spots to fill up on the Roubideau section. Then, if I remember correctly there aren’t too many spots to fill up till Dominguez canyon, and after that there may be one more spot, but I can’t really remember.
Here is a link to my write up on it.

FritzOctober 20th, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Oh, you’re that guy! Right on. I read your report several times while planning this trip.
I ran into a good sourced in section 1 fifteen miles from the Montrose start; a bit close to be of any use going northbound, but perhaps useful in reverse. After that, it was all polluted to chocolate milk by the bovine bastards.

NickOctober 24th, 2011 at 9:12 am

Cold oatmeal is just plain hard core – nuff said! 🙂

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