Earlier this year I was invited to be part of an ambitious bikepacking trip planned by my friend Rob, a 4 day, self-supported trip from Boulder to Crested Butte. In the tradition of bikepacking, we would carry all we needed (shelter, clothes, bike repair stuff, etc.) and resupply with food and water en-route. Food we'd buy when we passed through towns, water we'd buy or filter from streams. With help from another friend, John, on planning the route (thanks John, and hope you can make the next trip!) we came up with the following route:
- Day 1 - Boulder to the Silverthorne/Dillon/Frisco/Copper area, via Rollins Pass, Winter Park, Frasier, East Branch Reservior, HW 9.
- Day 2 - Copper to Leadville via the Colorado Trail segment 8 and HW 24
- Day 3 - Leadville to Aspen via Turquoise Lake, Hagerman Pass, Ruedi Reservoir, and Basalt
- Day 4 - Aspen to Crested Butte via Pearl Pass
This route maximizes the amount of dirt (I have an asphalt allergy, you see, when riding paved roads I break out in a rash and get all itchy, and is why I don't even own a road bike) and puts us in a town about once a day.
For a few reasons, we made a last minute decision to start in Nederland instead of Boulder, taking the bus to the Nederland park-and-ride, cutting off about 20 miles. We also decided to make the bus trip the day prior to the real start of the trip (we jokingly called this the "prologue", or "Day 0") thinking, why not get in a few miles up front since Day 1 was the longest day (Day 1 was well over 100 miles even with this change). So, Day 1 really started near Rollinsville instead of Boulder, otherwise the plan was unchanged.
In the end, we rode well, suffered well, ate well, saw pretty good weather overall, had no mechanical issues worse than a cut tire and two flats, and we made it to CB in fine fashion, a bit ahead of schedule. Total ride stats were:
- Total miles: 272
- Total vertical: 27,400 feet
- Total moving time: 1 day, 10 hours, 15 minutes
- Total trip time: 3 days, 19 hours, 21 minutes
- Number of passes: 6
- Number of continental divide crossings: 3
- Highest point reached: 12,700 feet
What hits home most on a trip like this is the additional fatigue imposed by the self-supported approach. Our bikes weighed around 40 pounds with gear (more with a full water load). Eating, buying food, filtering water, setting up camp, tearing down camp, fixing flats above tree line praying a storm doesn't kick in (there's nowhere to hide from lightning above tree line), all take their toll. Not to mention how hard it can be to roll out of the sleeping bag at 7 AM, after barely any sleep, when it's 45 degrees and your shoes and clothes are still all wet, and you've got 12 hours in the saddle ahead of you. Very tough, but also very rewarding.
Thanks to Rob for being such a great riding buddy. And thanks to JP who was part of the route planning, but couldn't join in. Next time, JP (and JS too)!
Following is a map of the whole route. Each day of the ride is summarized in successive blog posts after this one, plenty of pictures are included:
Here's one picture as a teaser. I was the official photographer of the trip, so 99% of the pictures have Rob in them, but this one includes me and the noble steed at the top of Pearl Pass at 12,700 ft. I love the fact that the clouds are actually below us: