Saturday, August 1, 2009

Argentine->Lenawee->Loveland Loop

The Argentine->Lenawee->Loveland loop is a ride that I've done the last three years. The last two years, I did it solo and about a month earlier. This year, I was fortunate to have a good friend send me an email on Thursday asking if I was up for a ride. So I told him my plans and he and a friend were interested in joining. They didn't think they'd have the time to complete the whole loop so we met in Keystone at 6:30am, dropped a couple of cars, and made the shuttle back over to Georgetown. We were on the bikes by 7:30am and headed up the first climb (Bike path to Pavillion Point).

I was shocked on the drive up to see so much snow on Bard Peak, Torrey's and even a little on Lenawee Ridge. I was glad I threw my winter hat and a pair of long underwear in my pack before I left.

Within a couple of hours, we were within sight of the top of the climb (Argentine Pass)

Argentine Pass

With lots of snow in sight too.
Argentine Gulch

After the Waldorf mine (~12,000ft), the real work began. It had been a railroad grade up to this point, but beyond was granny gear and walking to reach the pass. I kept thinking on the way up that we would top out around 13,100ft, but my GPS told me I was off by about 400ft...The pass is at 13,500ft...When we reached the top, it was time to put on all the clothes in the pack to manage the cold and the wind. Just as I started down the pass, my rainpants get caught on the seat and I rip the butt out of them...The rip just got worse and worse on the descent.

Dave pointing at Lenawee ridge

For one of the guys, it was his first time riding at this altitude. I think that the mixture of the altitude, cold, and exposure of the trail was a bit intimidating for him. He took two good tumbles off the downhill side of the trail onto the scree (OUCH!!!) Here's a shot of where he fell off the first time.

Don's tumble spot

He ended up banging up his knee and wrist pretty good. But continued to push through his fears and remount his bike to ride through the loose talus that composed the trail.

Argentine Pass

Anyone who's ridden Argentine Pass into Peru Gulch will remember the 'step' about half way down. In the previous two years, I've had to traverse steep snow fields at the step which really increased the difficulty of this loop. Traversing the snowfields was considerably more difficult that the cornice on Jones because you're always off balance when you move the bike or have to kick in steps to the side instead of straight up. Moving this ride to early August made it much more enjoyable.

The Step
Argentine Pass

A short video of Argentine Pass:

When we reached the base of Lenawee, I was able to convince DK to continue up and over to A-basin with me while DD parted ways and headed down the road to Keystone. We didn't get but a few feet up Lenawee when DK's cassette came loose. Of course, we didn't have a cassette tool so we had to try to tighten it as best we could with my leatherman. It ended up holding the rest of the ride. I didn't get many shots of Lenawee because DK was kicking my butt on the climb and every time I was able to get the camera out he was out of view.

Lenawee trail climb

Lenawee Trail

It only took us 2:10 to reach A-basin from the Peru Gulch Rd(including the mechanical issue) and we bombed down the service road to Loveland Pass.

A view of the last climb of the day from the top of the second.
Top of A-basin

I almost had DK convinced to finish off the loop with me...But it was down to just me climbing up and over Loveland Pass. I made a quick stop at the top to get on more clothes (again) and then it was coasting and cruising down Loveland Pass, BLT, the frontage road, and finally the bike path back to the car.

It took a little over 9hrs this year.

More Pictures here

Monday, July 27, 2009

My other passion

I love flying just as much as I love biking.

It's always an internal conflict on the weekends...Do I go flying or do I go biking? The videos below show what kind of fun we have in the mountains with our RC gliders. Just a bunch of boys playing with their toys! Karl took the first video up on McClellan Mtn near where I'll be riding next Saturday. NO MOTOR on this RC plane, just using the wind like a wave and the backside of the mountain like an eddy behind a rock in a river (dynamic soaring). The whole group of Front Range RC slope pilots are a blast to hang out with. Sometimes we do combat and try to knock each other out of the sky, sometimes we do fast dynamic soaring circles going for personal speed records, and sometimes we just get mezmerized by the fluidity and grace of riding the wind. You can bet that while I'm grinding up Argentine Pass, I'll be thinking about the wind conditions on McClellan.

(Video from Karl Decker)

Here's another video of Nick reaching unreal speeds with his glider (from Ian)

The sounds of DSing at Jones Pass (from Ian)

Combat on Lookout Mtn (Zion) (from Ian)

Monday, July 20, 2009

West Empire Loop

July 18, 2009

Solitude or companionship. Both can bring joy to our lives. In the past, I've done the majority of my big rides solo, but this time I had an opportunity to ride it with other like-minded mountain bike junkies. I relished their company.

Although the physical path my be the same, a solo adventure creates vastly different memories from a journey with friends. Teamwork and comraderie don't exist on solo adventures. These aspects of riding were missing from many of my previous adventures.

I rode out of Empire by myself at 7am. I rode Hwy 40 and Jones Pass Rd with the conviction that I could make it this week without stopping. Besides having to check my front quick release near Empire, I was able to accomplish that goal. I made it to the top of Jones in 2:30 with less than a minute of stop time (yeah!)
Jones Pass-last bit of snow blocking the road
Jones Pass cornice

Just as I was about to climb up the last pitch of snow to crest the cornice, I saw three bikers coming up the road. I thought it may be the group of guys I'd been emailing over the past week about doing this loop together (MGE, Bad Andy, and Lubes). I figured I somehow got the start time wrong. I was elated to see them because the thought of riding Bard Ck solo just gives me the chills. There's something about that trail that just freaks me out. I don't feel comfortable riding it solo (but I would if I couldn't find others to ride it with me).
Lubes climbing Jones cornice
Bad Andy! climbing Jones cornice
MGE climbing Jones cornice
Jones Pass July 18, 2009
Once on top of Jones Pass, the fun began. I was able to ride more of it this time than last week.
CDT south of Jones

The wind was pretty strong out of the WNW and every time we hit that aspect along the continental divide, trying to stay on the trail got harder. It would have been a great day to fly my RC glider atop that ridge. A few of my flying buddies were headed over to McClellan Mtn that day and they asked if I was coming too, but biking has been at the top of my list the last few weeks. Additionally, other flying buddies were asking if I was going to compete in the LoveAir precision aerobatics competition that weekend too...but biking takes top billing this time of year.
View of Greys/Torreys from CDT
Coming down off the divide into Woods Gulch was as fun as ever...except for my flat...It was a good thing that I went back for my tool bag after initially leaving it behind when I left the house this morning.
CDT downhill
Before we hit Herman Gulch, we spotted another rider coming down the trail. It turns out that it was someone else from MTBR. We hit the crowded Herman Gulch trail as a group to try to minimize conflict on the trail. All of the hikers were courteous as we passed them on the way down. Lubes was right beside me when he inconceivably propelled his bike on top of a log bridge but for some reason he couldn't ride it out and had to abandon the attempt. He ended up breaking his front brake lever so I thought his day was over...But I was wrong...He was able to rig it and ride the rest of the day.

Sidenote: I took my cousins from Virginia up Herman Gulch about a month ago (that was my first time up Herman Gulch) and they really enjoyed it. Afterwards, he couldn't remember the name of the trail and kept calling it 'Homer's Gap'. It made me laugh and for some reason, the name just seems to fit.

We stopped and rested at the base of Homer's Gap before tackling the next uphill (Watrous Gulch). I was able to ride more than I expected up Watrous and when we reached the Bard Ck Trail, we stopped and filtered water before continuing to climb (now even steeper).

Bard Ck Trail
The Bard Ck Trail was more difficult this year compared to last year. I think it was because of all the miles we had already put in at altitude. In any case, I walked more this year than last year (but I didn't go over the bars at all on this ride). We made slow but steady progress as we contoured around the mountain. Everyone was feeling the miles of very difficult terrain by the time we turned the corner into the last basin before Bard Creek. As soon as we hit a defined trail in Bard Ck drainage, Lubes took the lead with determination. Within what seemed like minutes, we were back at the car.
West Empire Deathmarch Jul 18, 2009 (Google Earth)
West Empire Deathmarch Jul-18-2009

Overall Stats:
37 miles
10,000 ft of climbing
13:36 total time
4:43 stopped time
4.2 mph average speed
37 mph max speed