Bikepacking in Winter Conditions
As fate would have it, we had planned to bikepack the Colorado Trail following a historic snowfall year. The good news was that we had no shortage of water, the bad news was that there were thousands of hungry mosquitoes wherever we setup camp. Our Big Agnes Copper Spur and Fly Creek bikepacking tents were lightweight and packable, so each of us were able to enjoy our own one-man tent haven and pitch them close together in a little ‘tent city’ where we would all converse about the day, protected from the moisture bred bugs.
Navigating avalanche debris and snow pack became an integral part of our trip. The first few legs were relatively unaffected by snow, but after moving through a few avalanche paths, it became clear why some of the higher terrain was not yet passable. The new slide paths made massive trees look like toothpicks, snapped and flattened. Avalanche awareness quickly became relevant as we observed more slide paths each day, across trails and roads, in areas we wouldn’t have normally suspected a risk.
Surrendering to re-routes was initially a tough reality to face, but we reminded ourselves that we were out there to ride our bikes, no matter the terrain. One of our snow re-routes brought us over Cinnamon Pass which typically opens at the beginning of summer and had opened just one day before we arrived. It was hard to believe that in mid-July even our re-route was barely passable.
Taking in the Trail
Our final stretch of the Colorado Trail revealed scarred trees from the previous summer following an extreme drought year. The Hermosa Creek Fire ripped through 54,000 acres of land located in the watershed that feeds into the town of Durango. We felt a sudden wave of gratitude for the current conditions as we pedaled past another piece of evidence from Mother Nature’s volatility.
Biking and camping for those three weeks gave us a unique opportunity to experience the Colorado landscape and the effects that the weather has on its trails. It’s easy to get comfortable in our day-to-day temperature-controlled work environment, we tend to forget that our outside world and climate is controlled by the extremes of the seasons. Experiencing this by bike was a challenge, but it was eye-opening; a good exercise in modifying expectations.
FKT for the Win
Despite having to deviate from the trail more often than not, we were stoked to have accomplished our mission to ride our bikes from Denver to Durango. We had already decided we were going for the FKT (Funnest Known Time) which we feel very accomplished for. Our experience on and off the Colorado Trail will stick with us through the seasons to come, as unpredictable as they may be.
Check out coloradotrail.org for more info on how to bike or hike this incredible trail.
Authors: Lindsay Records, Hilary LeBlanc and Hanna Waldman – the Blackburn Rangers 2019. The Ranger Program is an annual campaign organized by our friends at Blackburn Design. Each year ambassadors, nicknamed “Rangers” who exemplify their founding principle – the spirit of adventure – are selected to cycle epic routes and take us all along for the ride. This is their story.