Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The CHC Stages - a Thumbnail Sketch

The Colorado High Country is divided into four recommended stages, corresponding to the staffed controls with overnight sleeping spots.  The first and second stages are the most prolonged and challenging, after which things get easier - intrinsically at least.  There's no accounting for weather or how you're feeling.

This is a thumbnail sketch of the big themes for each stage.

Over the July Fourth weekend in 2011, Tim "Foon" Feldman and I pre-rode the route, so we'll include links to those blog reports with more photos.  You may also wish to follow along with the course narrative, with more details about terrain and services. 

The Poudre River, climbing Poudre Canyon on the first day.

Stage 1 – Louisville to Saratoga WY – 224 miles

  • Horsetooth Reservoir – scenic; a few stiff climbs
  • Poudre Canyon to Cameron Pass (10,276 ft.) – 57 miles of climbing, very gentle except for final 12 miles
  • North Park – Open, marshy terrain, 9,000 ft.
  • Walden to Saratoga – 67 miles rolling terrain, no services 60 miles – be sure to resupply at Walden

Cameron Pass looking west - you can see the irrigation ditch
cutting across the flank of the Never Summer Mountains.

The terrain alternates between wooded mountain climbs, and open sage and prairie.

North Park - an open marshy and sage area you will revisit.

Catherine Shenk's photo of the Snowy Range on our 2010 recon ride.

Stage 2 – Saratoga to Steamboat Springs – 197 miles
  • 20-mile climb to Snowy Range
  • Big Hollow” west of Laramie – few trees; can be windy
  • 6-mile stiff climb past Jelm after Laramie
  • Walden to Steamboat Springs – 60 miles with no services - be sure to resupply at Walden (staffed control)
  • Muddy Pass (8,772 ft.) and Rabbit Ears Pass (9,426 ft.)
  • 7-mile descent from Rabbit Ears Pass to Steamboat – a steady, engineered 7% grade – keep an eye on your speed – esp. descending after nightfall or in showers

Lake Marie at the summit of the Snowy Range Highway.

Stage 3 – Steamboat Springs to Walden – 181 miles

  • 18-mile climb from Toponas to Gore Pass (9,527 ft.) – not a tough climb
  • Byers Canyon between Kremmling and Hot Sulphur Springs – a scenic section
  • Grand Lake, Lake Granby, and Shadow Mountain Lake on the Grand Lake spur – traffic but a shoulder
  • 21-mile climb to Willow Creek Pass (9,621 ft.) - first two-thirds shallow after initial climb over ridge

Grand Lake, one of three lakes below the Continental Divide.

Stage 4 – Walden to Louisville (147.5 miles)

  • 30-mile climb to Cameron Pass (10,276 ft.) – If you climb early in the morning, the descent from Cameron can be chilly, but the later you get off, the more up-canyon winds you may encounter lower down, so it’s a balancing act
  • 57-mile descent of Poudre Canyon – food/drink at Rustic (halfway down) and big breakfast/lunch potential at Vern’s in LaPorte
  • Larimer and Boulder County roads to the finish – You may encounter other cyclists, for a change.

Climbing Cameron Pass from the west on the final stage.
Savor this extended descent on the way to the finish!

Narrows section of Poudre Canyon, midway down.
Bonne route!

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