2015 Ride the Rockies and Cottonwood Pass
Day Six of Ride the Rockies will be a 102-mile ride with only one pass to cross - Cottonwood. The catch? The west side of Cottonwood Pass is dirt, gravel, usually pot-holed and saturated in places with dust inhibitor. It'll be a hoot! The above pic is the northerly view from the summit of Cottonwood Pass.
The pass is quite scenic and surrounded by mountains. Rising to the northwest, the Three Apostles are popular with climbers, especially Ice Mountain, the Middle Apostle. I took the above shot while "lizarding" around the west side a bit. We had pedaled up the east side early to secure a good vantage point for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. As a result, we had to wait awhile. At this point, the riders had not even left Gunnison.
The Apostles have been known to be on the shy side.
Cottonwood Pass is on the crest of the Sawatch Range, 12,126-feet above two seas. Yes, the pass sits on the Continental Divide.
The east side is paved, has seasonal moods and provides a fun descent through numerous sharp turns that continue to pop up well below treeline.
Cottonwood Pass is a popular climb with cyclists. It's occasionally crossed by Ride the Rockies, and often used as part of a Stage in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. In the above pic, we were several hours away from the expected summit time of the peloton. Being monsoon season in the high country, the weather went south several hours later.
Winter comes early here, and the pass usually is closed during the snow months. The above photo was taken in late September.
In the above pic, the view is toward the west side of the pass on a frosty fall afternoon. The pic was taken from below the final switchback before the narrow traverse to the summit.