02 July 2015

Stardate 2015.501

Cottonwood Pass, Sawatch Range, Colorado

Day Five RtR
Where's the Air

Day Five was the lengthiest day of the tour. It also was the highest day elevation-wise. The day yielded 102 miles of riding, including a lung-searing climb to 12,126-foot Cottonwood Pass. Success depended upon an individual's ability to process available air. I like to be high (not that kind of high) and mentally, for me, Day Five's 4,000-plus feet of elevation gain over 38 miles didn't quite match the difficulty of Day Two's 5,000-plus feet over 20 miles.

The tour organizer likes to throw in nice little climbs toward the end of the ride. This day was no exception. After a wonderfully long descent from 12,126 feet, we were rewarded with a nice little climb of 6 or 7 miles from the Town of Buena Vista to Mount Princeton Hot Springs. That pretty much finished my legs for the day. Thankfully, the remaining 20 miles to Salida were downhill.

Sawatch Range towering over Taylor Park Reservoir, Colorado

Predicting a long day, Snowcatcher, as well as numerous other riders, wisely left early. However, with morning temps in the upper 30s, I was quick to break camp and swiftly get on the road myself. After a fast 17-mile descent to Almont, we turned east, heading up morning-shadowed Taylor Canyon. I was 30 miles into the ride before I stashed my jacket. At about mile 37, beautiful Taylor Park came into view, the peaks of the Sawatch Range awash in radiant morning light. Snowcatcher and I crossed paths here, which was a genuine treat.

Water station approximately halfway up Cottonwood Pass

I like riding dirt, especially high altitude dirt. I was facing about 13 miles of dirt to the summit of Cottonwood Pass. My wonderful other half knows I like to push myself, so she sent me on my way.

Sawatch Range, Colorado

In time, I pedaled into the sub-alpine and took it all in.

Cottonwood Pass, Colorado

As I approached the alpine, Cottonwood Pass played the usual tease game of looking closer than it actually was.

Sawatch Range, Colorado

The Three Apostles, with Huron in the background, catching early sun .  The pic is taken from just below Cottonwood Pass, on the west side.

I never tire of the haunting siren of the Three Apostles. Ice Mountain (Middle Apostle) reigns at 13,951 feet, ranking 60th highest in the state. West Apostle rises to 13,568 feet and checks in as 210th highest. North Apostle touches the clouds at 13,860 feet, the 79th tallest peak in Colorado. The bottom photo is for comparison and was shot late August 2011.

The Elk Range (background mountains) touching the sky

Glancing back to the west, the distant Elk Mountains reach for the sky.

12,126 foot Cottonwood Pass, Sawatch Mountains, Colorado

Now enter cowbells and people chanting up, up, up, to prod that last little burst of energy onto the pass.

The west side of Cottonwood Pass is dirt, whereas the east side is paved.

The paved east side of Cottonwood Pass is a fast descent into Cottonwood Creek and down to Buena Vista. I should have videoed the descent because it is a bowlful of awesomeness. Awesomeness is a word, is it not? I don't see a red squiggly.

Mount Princeton Hot Springs, Colorado

I reached Mount Princeton Hot Springs about 82 miles into the ride. At this point, I had the cat by the tail.

102 miles
6:51:50 ride time (Add about 1 hour for water stops.)
4,500-plus feet of elevation gain

See y'all on on Day Six!



  1. Wonderfull fotos captures and landscapes,greeting from Belgium

    1. Greetings Retriever! Thank you very much. I'm glad you liked the pictures.

  2. You got some really great photos that day! I was too tired most of the day to take as many scenic photos, so I'm glad you filled in my gaps! What a great tour this was. I'm so glad we get to do Ride the Rockies together as often as we do.

    1. Thanks Snowcatcher! RtR is a hoot, especially with an Oreo Blizzard after a hot afternoon ride.

  3. Yes, awesomeness is a word (as far as I know). Definition: a quality found in great abundance amongst Colorado cyclists.

    Good thing the dirt was on the UPHILL side of that climb. I can't imagine making that descent on dirt.

    2011 was pretty dry compared with this year, by the looks of it. Beautiful mountain shots. I think I see Snowcatcher in that water station photo!


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