Cold, foggy, and windy, I left the hotel at 2:10am and headed twenty-five miles straight up into a cold headwind blowing down the mountain on a large paved highway (US 285) that had me stopping to put on an extra layer even on the climb. After a few miles of climbing, the route turned onto Marshall Pass Rd (dirt) climbing up the shoulder of the highest mountain (I think) we climbed in the race. At 13,971′, Mt Ouray is one of those tantalizing close but not quite a 14er. Our route, stayed fairly low on the shoulder with the pass not even hitting 11,000′. Still, it was the second longest climb of the race with total elevation gained on the climb of 3,700′.
It was dark until about 2/3rd of the way up with a stunning sunrise sky back behind me and the high point of Mt Ouray off to my right but hidden by the slope and trees – also, I didn’t know to look that way to see if I could see the top. I thought all the cool views were back down into the valley off to my left. I’ve annotated the map below showing the route up to Marshall Pass and also included the Marshall Pass sign annotated to show you why there aren’t any pictures of Mt Ouray.
Marshall Pass was followed by a long, very gradual drop down to the restaurant at Sargents. It was also a bit thicker (but smooth) gravel so it was weird to be working hard on the descent. There was no wind that I can remember. It was also a bit chilly especially given I was having to work some on the descent. But I made it to Sargents still fairly early in the morning, and it was hopping. Two dirt bikers who had passed me the day before on my way into Salida and who must have made it all the way to Sargents were just getting ready to leave on their way southbound on the course and they came over to me with some coffee and were amazed I had caught back up to them! It was great to chat for a minute and then go inside and have the best cinnamon roll ever.
Lots of video commentary between the passes split up into three videos below:
Rain shadow high desert
County Road PP (partially paved?)
Afterwards, two more passes that both went well, so well that I tried to hold up a three while taking a picture of the sign at the top of the third pass, thinking it would be all downhill to Del Norte where I would intersect with the Race Across America route I’ve ridden twice (2015 & 2017). Instead of heading straight into town on pavement, we veered onto a rough dirt road that climbed for agonizing 750 vertical feet before a long singletrack descent that would have been great if I wasn’t trying to beat a very dark storm. In my rush I almost fell on the sandy singletrack but just barely managed to keep it upright. I wish I hadn’t stressed, though, because the storm never did make it to town. I stayed at a historic hotel that wouldn’t let me bring my bike to my room for fear of getting things dirty. Fair enough as they let me have access to it in the downstairs storage closet. Also, the owner gave me a heavily discounted rate, so that was great!
Commentary on various types of navigation required while riding washboard.
Maps and data
Pickuta photo album
See even more pics from the entire race along with the exact time/location where each was taken on the tracking website I created called pickuta.com. If you are on a phone or small screen web browser, click the “hamburger” triple bar icon in the upper left to slide out the photos and turn on/off the tracking markers: https://pickuta.com/album/258