Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What Are the Big Challenges?

Any Grand Randonnée or other big ride is a big challenge.  It's supposed to be!  But each event is different.  So where does the High Country "excel" in the challenge aspect?

  • Altitude
  • Extended Climbs
  • Wind
  • Temperature Range
  • Chilly Precipitation
  • Hydration
  • Wildlife
CHALLENGES RESERVED FOR OTHER EVENTS  (what you won't be facing!):
  • Steep Grades
  • Technical Turns
  • Complex Routefinding
  • Congested Areas
  • Crowds of Riders
  • Humidity
  • Insects
  • Poisonous Animals
I mention these topics - and others, such as cattle guards - on the Rider Info page, but here are a few more gratuitous thoughts:
  • Altitude - You'll top out above 10,000 ft. three times on the route, and sleep near 9,000 ft. the final night.  This verges on being "at altitude" as they say here, and does have its effect, even for folks who live here on the Plains (at 5,000 ft.).  What effect??  I'll discuss this more in a separate post, since a number of you have asked.
  • Wind - Canyons can channel wind.  The open high-country areas ("parks" in Colorado terminology) have few trees so wind can have its way there, too.  A good reason to practice those social skills and cultivate riding partners early on?
  • Extended Climbs - Those "endless rollers" where you may come from may seem tough (and are!), but you at least get a break every mile or two.  The one, or two, or three-hour climbs on this ride can grind a rider down.  Take this into account.  Take a stretch break; hydration break; chat break; whatever, if you need it.
  • Temperature Range - Although it's a "dry cold" and "dry heat" here because of the low humidity, you may need to carry more layering - for chillier parts of the day -  than you might otherwise in a more humid climate.  Have a look at the statistical low and high temps on the Rider Info page.
  • Chilly Precipitation - Summer showers in the mountains can be cold, not a tropical shower.  You should be fine if you have the right outerwear, are smart, and don your gear in a timely fashion.
  • Hydration - An arid climate + wind = lots of potential moisture loss.  It's the same old advice: you won't know you're dehydrated in a cool, dry climate until it's become a big problem.  So keep ahead of the game.  I'll have a post about hydration-challenging segments later on.
  • Wildlife - Each region has wildlife considerations.  Much of the High Country route passes through sparsely-populated areas: National Forests and National Wildlife Areas, where wildlife flourish.  Be mindful of moose, which are large and can be aggressive, and general wildlife on the roads in the pre-dawn and post-dawn hours (coyotes, deer, etc.)
Here is a detailed rundown on moose behavior, threats, and what you should do about them (sign seen last Saturday on the Devil's Thumbs Ranch nordic trails - click to enlarge - and yes, I have encountered moose hoofprints in the woods and on the trails, showing no respect for trail grooming):

 Stay tuned for more reflections and answers to your questions!


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