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THE 2012 COLORADO EXPEDITION - CHAPTER 4

 

The last few days have been pretty busy.

The fourth ride of the trip was Monarch Crest. Because it was a big one we had an early start, leaving Breckenridge at 7am and driving to the top of Monarch Pass, 3400m above sea level. We joined another section of the Colorado Trail and rode along a ridge with ridiculous views in all directions. The trail is spectacular, narrow singletrack winding along the sides of alpine meadows, or rooty and rocky trail where the way leads through trees.

We topped out at 3650m. Because of the steep and tricky climbs along the way we got split up, and were in several groups when the weather suddenly changed from bright sunshine and high temperatures to rain, hail, lightning and cold. Neil and I were scratching along looking for Mike, who had gone ahead and would be waiting at the planned lunch stop. We arrived just as he was sprinting for a small stand of pines to take shelter.

Lunch was eaten sitting in the rain, semi-sheltered but wearing crash helmets to avoid copping hail on the head. Along the ridge various groupings were doing the same thing, but after a while we gathered and got ready to start going downhill. By this time the trail was more or less a river, and we slithered down it with all the clothing we had brought along being used to keep warm. The descent was epic, made even more exciting due to the deluge.

We had sort of decided to take a shortcut out at the end of a huge rockslide we negotiated, but by the time we got to the turnoff the conditions were improving so we split the group and some of us continued on. The Rainbow Trail after that was dry to the point of being dusty, and sketched along a steep hillside with numerous small climbs and long snaking descents, generally trending down toward the highway to Salida where we would meet the tour bus.

Eugene had his third puncture for the day, we got up to 70 on the highway by pulling extreme tuck positions, and we ended the day in a cool bike store come restaurant on a river where we washed some of the grime off.

The drive to Crested Butte got us to the rest day, which seemed like a lame idea until we had finished four days of riding. Rest day saw laundry done, bikes fettled, and a bit of a look round the very cool town of CB.

Today’s ride was probably the biggest of the trip so far, and called by the locals Reno/Flag/Bear/Deadmans, all of which are abbreviations of trails the loop uses to cross three decent climbs with their associated insanely great descents. The trails are all shared with motorbikes, the upside of that is that the surface is quite hard packed dirt with some rocks, and the trail has been sculpted into whoops by the motos, which make great pumpable shapes in the trail. The downside is that when some motos come past on a climb the two-stroke doesn’t go anywhere towards making up for the lack of oxygen. Today’s ride had a total of 1135m of up if my GPS can be trusted.

Next stop Silverton, where we apparently sleep in a reconstituted bordello, where wi-fi is unlikely. So more news in a couple of days from Moab, Utah.