Amazing weekend on Independence Pass. In 8 words: Drive, Ski, Drive, Bike, Camp, Bike, Ski, Bike, Drive…
Having been wanting to get a shot at Grizzley Peak for a few years – we struck gold last weekend. Grizzley peak is a great ski descent with a bicycle approach, and a sweet excuse to put our GunSlinger Ski Carry to use. Carry skis on a bike – yes, what could be more awesome!!
After a fun morning of skiing and part at the top of the pass, we were baked from nearly a full day in the sun above 11,000ft, we poked around the debate of the standard questions: Do we really want to ride all the way up there? … Would the weather hold? … What if the line is too steep? …We could just give up now and go home… I’m Hungry… Am I hungry???
There was much ass-dragging in the parking lot at 4pm… But as soon as we were riding bikes, we remembered why were there. Sometimes it takes a little bit of a kick in the rear to turn a dream into reality.
The preferred route to Grizzley starts on the Aspen side of Independence Pass (yes, Colorado) about half way up the pass, the Lincoln Creek 4x4 road is maintained throughout the winter for 6.6miles to Grizzley Reseviour- where a sweet hermit/wilderness job exists with municipal water groups(Denver or CO Springs?) maintaining the tunnels & ditches that transfer water from the West side of Indy Pass through the mountain East to the front range. If you wanted to hide from the rest of the world (except of course the government!)… this could be your job. And from the barking I heard- yes they allow dogs in the work place.
I convinced Geoff to upgrade his splitboard rig to hard boots last year with new set of Scarpa Aliens & Dynafit toe pieces. I like to believe I’m on the cusp of converting Geoff from Split boarding to skiing with such nice ski boots… but it seems I’m on the wrong side of the tracks… His new setup is light and he is climbing faster and stronger than ever before. He is not at all closer to converting to skiing, and if anything, the boots are a re-enforcement of his determination to ride a board. The hard boots are an obvious improvement in his lateral stability when skinning steep cross slopes. His gains in kicking steps and crampons use is drastic. As a skier, climbing steep snow in a soft snowboard boot would be one of my worst nightmares, and I’m glad I won’t be watching him do it anymore.
Thankfully the bike ride was drama free… Kevin’s wisdom on bikes for heavy loads: I still love the ExtraCycle with 29x3 front end for this kind of thing. On this trip, I rode a fat bike – its low gears and stability were much appreciated. What is the right bike for this kind of thing? If you riding one – then you are doing it right. (If you are pushing a bike … that’s just as good!)
If you haven’t gotten out camping yet this year- you need to! Stoking up a fire & the camp stove was hands down my favorite part of this trip. There is something special about getting far away, sitting down and getting comfortable. Embrace the Buddha inside you.
How to get it done: Grizzly Peak, Pitkin County, Colorado 13988ft
Wait till Memorial Weekend for Indy Pass to open, or plan on riding up from lower closure gate closer to Aspen. Ride bike with skiis, camping gear, crampons & axe, avy gear, skins, healthy food, etc. Allow for 2-3 hours of casual riding along the road for 6+ miles and ~600’ elevation gain. Make camp and fire somewhere on a ‘durable’ surface. The road ‘may’ be closed and force skiing for the last 1.5 miles to the reservoir… Or you may be able to find a way around.
After 4 miles of skinning, be prepared for steep slopes with pointy objects. Most people would consider this slope to be scary steep.
We reached the steep chute later than intended – the lookers left aspect of the proper north facing chute was protected from direct sunlight by a small north facing ridge. With cool weather and clear skies, the snow conditions on this narrow aspect of north facing slope did not change from 8am-11am. But 50ft to climbers right in the fall line of the cliffs – cornice breaks, ice fall, and small wet sluffs were fun to watch but could prove deadly if you wandered underneath them.
Summit, and shred it like you stole it!... Exit through the trees without hitting one, and cruise back to the real world on your bike.