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.
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.
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.
In time, I pedaled into the sub-alpine and took it all in.
As I approached the alpine, Cottonwood Pass played the usual tease game of looking closer than it actually was.
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.
Glancing back to the west, the distant Elk Mountains reach for the sky.
Now enter cowbells and people chanting up, up, up, to prod that last little burst of energy onto the pass.
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.
I reached Mount Princeton Hot Springs about 82 miles into the ride. At this point, I had the cat by the tail.
6:51:50 ride time (Add about 1 hour for water stops.)
4,500-plus feet of elevation gain