Saturday - June 27, 2009
pictures and same text as below at https://sites.google.com/site/funstuffweb/
My son Christian and I started at the base of Winter park ski area near the Zephyr at about 6:30am. It was less than 1 ½ miles to the turnoff to Rollins Pass.
The ride from up to Rollins Pass up County Rd. 80 - Corona Pass road is mostly wooded up to Riflesight Notch (mile 11), with occasional beautiful views Eastward. The dirt road is in great shape and the grade is a relatively constant ~4% up until about mile 8 where it kicks up a little (about 6% in parts) to Riflesight. We saw two moose at mile 6. There was no snow on the road up to Riflesight but a lot of very wet dirt which was very sticky in parts but not muddy. After Riflesight, the next 3 miles to the Summit are un-wooded and constant ~4% grade. We went through several drifts which had been plowed so we were unhindered to the summit. The main difficulty was with the very wet ground from melt which created a lot of suction and some mud and water crossings.
The summit was 20 - 30 mph wind and about 45 degrees at 11am. There were 4 cars at the parking area. The views on the summit and a few miles on either side are breathtaking!
Leaving the parking area there was a 300 meter drift completely covering all trace of the road. I put Christian's bike in the trailer and pulled and he pushed from behind. The snow was pretty firm, and I only had a few sink holes. It was not iced so I felt it was pretty safe and the drift did not present and avalanche risk. We completed this in about 10 minutes. After about 200 meters there was another 150 meter drift which covered all but one foot of the road. We walked the bikes here. We then crossed a couple of wooden bridges both in good shape and then got to a cave in section where we had to carry our bikes across 30 meters of rubble. We went through another one or two such carryovers before arriving at Needle's Eye Tunnel. The Tunnel entrances have large barriers to prevent access. There were some people there who ATV'd up another route unknown to me from the East side. We hiked over the top - less than ¼ mile up and over but pretty steep up and down. 3 Trips for me - one with my bike, one with Christian's bike and the gear/provisions pack, and one with the trailer.
On the other side of Needle's Eye the wind was intense. After about 300 meters Christian was blow completely off his bike. The wind direction was into the mountain so there was no blow off risk. The road after the tunnel was very rocky - mostly embeds - about 2"-8" - tightly spaced often leaving no workable lines. We then encountered 3 more snowed in sections and a couple more rockslide carryovers, all mere manageable but it was getting old and the wind, now mostly headwind, was punishing.
On the big turn about 3/4 mile from Yankee Doodle lake, the trail was completely snow covered for about 300 meters. We tried to cross and stay high, but it was tough and so steep that the trailer dangled downward instead of staying behind the bike. Fortunately Christian is a double black diamond capable skier so I felt we would be better off foot skiing down to where the road crossed underneath - 250 meters snow, 100 meters 1-6" runoff marsh, stream and slush. We each held our handlebars and skied along side our bikes - and had a great run. I had one pretty good tumble - Christian aced it. Our feet were soaked when we got to the road and we were already in our second shoes, so it would be wet feet the rest of the ride.
We then had about ¼ mile of half snow crossings, half road streams before reaching a very troubling sight about 400 meters from Yankee Doodle - the face was pretty steep and snow completely covered a 20 meter section of road at about a 40 degree pitch. The snow was near ice and it continued about 150 down into a rock field - losing footing was not an option and there was no good over or under route… I had Christian wait while I cut in foot holes with a rock. I got my bike across and came back for Christian. Because of the danger I spent extra time cutting double foot holes for both Christian and myself. Fortunately another man with his son who had hiked up from their ATV stop below arrived and ensured a safe handoff of Christian. He also had boots (versus my running shoes) and cut a good path for the last trips of the pack, trailer and Christian's bike (which he carried).
There were three more 20-40 meter easy snow walkovers as we looped around Yankee Doodle lake and on the last one we saw a jeep winching out of the snow (which coincidentally were a couple and there 2 kids whom we know that own a lot which neighbors ours in Grand County). They told us that there were only two more snow crossings which we were relieved to hear.
By this time the bottom of the trailer was shredded, fortunately I had some rope to tie the gear and provisions bag to the upper frame. The packed duffel bag weighed 35 pounds and soon broke the whole length of zipper. We were soon looking pretty ghetto.
The few miles from the summit had been more arduous and time consuming than I would have ever imagined. I thought all the work would be just going up, but the few miles from the summit had been lots of lifting, bouldering and hikeabike. About ½ mile after Yankee Doodle lake, there was no more road snow, and I thought that we were finally going to get a nice descent, but we now had our biggest challenge thus far. What ensued was about ten miles of very rocky road all the way to East Portal. I simply would not recommend this unless necessary to summit. It's basically a ten mile rock field, not especially challenging except to your equipment. Our pace was limited and what we thought was going to be a leisurely downhill was a jarring uninteresting rock field of a road - with a stream of ATV's, motorcycles, mini bikes and some 4 wheelers challenging their suspension. Very hard to find any clear lines - and long and repetitive.
I now had Christian ride behind so he could alert me of things falling out of the broken trailer / duffel bag. The rocky downhill seemed interminable and actually had some of its worst stretches in the last mile before East Portal.
The ride from East Portal to Rollinsville was around 10 miles on smooth dirt - nice low grade downhill…
At Rollinsville we stopped and grabbed some candy before heading up Hwy 119 to Hwy 72. This was about 2miles, with the first mile uphill.
I though that Hwy 72 would be a nice, peaceful downhill similar to Lefthand canyon. Wrong. A lot of cars and a small shoulder in parts - and after Pinecliffe there was a serious 2mile uphill section to Wondervu climbing 700 feet with grades often 6-8%. This, in itself, would not be bad, but when you do not know it's coming or when it ends, and it is sunny and in the 80's after a long day…it's challenging. Christian made it but had to stop and rest a few times. I was struggling too at this point. We had drunk a lot of our fluids but the loaded trailer was still about 45lbs. Also, we were both on pretty weighty low cost bikes. The last 10 miles to Hwy 93 were a nice gentle down grade - finally. But the shoulder was small. I would definitely not recommend this road and certainly not for kids.
I called my wife and asked her to pick us up at Hwy 93 as I felt that Hwy 93 was just too dangerous. Even though it would have been neat to bag the last few miles home, it was just too dangerous. Christian, of course, did not want to be picked up, but I was secretly relieved!
All in all, this route makes for a good adventure - and even without the snow there are still abundant challenges. I do not recommend a baby trailer as it will get shredded over the rocky road and carryovers. Though it was only 60 miles, the exertion felt like far more due to the considerable hiking and carrying all the gear and bikes - and the terrain and its condition.
Christian overall had a blast and wants to do more of this than I have time. He only had one bad wipeout which a band aid solved and he got a lot of good rock experience. He's 6 year's old and seemed less tired than me at the end of our ride!
I tried uploading pictures but they exceeded the 488 size limits - I will try to re-format...