Aaron Johnson | CTR: Day 5

CTR: Day 5

March 06, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

September 5, 2013

Wurtz Ditch to Georgia Pass

58 miles, 10,269' gained, 15 hours

I awoke at 2am not to my alarm, but to raindrops hitting my face.  It had started raining pretty hard, and was damn cold out....all I wanted was to curl back up in my warm sleeping bag and sleep, but there was riding to be done.  It took all the willpower I had to get me out of that sleeping bag into the wet cold. I had an immediate descent down to Camp Hale, the base of a huge climb up Searle Pass, so I layered up with every piece of clothing I had. I warmed up immediately once I started moving, and it was actually pretty awesome zooming through the darkness and rain, feeling warm and dry.  The descent went quickly, and after a brief violent deluge at Camp Hale, the rain subsided as I began the long hike-a-bike up to Searle.  It was super steep, mostly unrideable, and a damp, cloudy dawn greeted me as I crested Kokomo Pass.

Nearing Kokomo Pass, the saddle in the distance

Ryan heading over to Searle Pass

I was slowly catching up to Ryan, who apparently had slept somewhere up the hike-a-bike.  The traverse over to Searle Pass was a muddy mess, and the descent to Copper Mountain Ski Resort was made trecherous by endless slick roots and rocks.  It was comforting to arrive in Copper, the first truly familiar place I'd been in 4 days, and I actually felt like I was going to finish this thing!  After the trail took an infuriating, unexpected, climbey, wholly unnecessary detour around the ski resort and across the highway (I was starving and had expected to just beeline towards the Conoco after reaching the base of the ski area), I pulled into the Conoco to find Ryan stocking up and enjoying a huge cup of coffee.  Had fun chatting with him - he looked as shattered as I felt, but was super motivated to keep moving and finish strong.  He took off 20 minutes before me, as I ordered multiple breakfast sandwiches and stuffed my bags full of more junk food for the final push home.

I was actually looking forward to the climb up and over the Tenmile Range, as I had done it 6 years earlier during my first taste of endurance mountain bike racing, the B-63 (the Breckenridge 100's little brother).  It wasn't nearly as bad as I remembered, mostly hike-a-bike but I made it up above treeline in seemingly no time.

DCIM\100GOPRO Looking back towards Copper, near the top of Tenmile

I was feeling great and was motivated to catch Ryan who I could see about 20 minutes ahead of me, but my Achilles tendons were becoming distressingly more and more painful as I approached the summit.  It was noon, and some worrisome clouds were coming in, motivating me even further to get up and over as quickly as possible.

I had been looking forward to the descent down to Hwy 9 for days, and it did not disappoint.  Chunky, rough, steep, endless views. Amazing.

As I approached Hwy 9, both Achilles tendons were screaming in pain. I'd never felt anything like it, and I was forced to walk the final couple small climbs before the highway. Shit shit shit....I stopped at the highway and sat down for 20 minutes, massaging both heels and took some ibuprofen. This was not good.  They felt OK for hiking, but any sort of riding, even on flat ground, was excruciating.  I was in disbelief....I had made it this far, only to be stopped by something as stupid as this?? I considered my options - bailing out here, or continuing on in pain and hope it gets better?  No way was I going to bail out unless I absolutely had to, so I decided to push on, even if all I could do was hike.  To make matters worse, as soon as I started moving again, the sky opened up with a violent hailstorm.  Yeah, I was in a bad place mentally, devastated that my race might be over.  I decided to call my parents and warn them I might need to be picked up at Kenosha Pass the next day.  I was determined to make it to the base of the climb up to Georgia Pass, and alternated hiking and riding, trying to work out whatever was wrong with my Achilles.

A strange thing happened here....I was coasting down a short descent, and came around a corner to find an old man, probably in his 80s, leading 3 llamas, heading in the same direction I was going.  The noise of my bike spooked the llamas, and they took off in a panic, knocking the old man down, trampling and dragging him for a couple hundred feet as they stumbled down the trail!  He refused to let go of their ropes, and screamed as they dragged him, "STOP! FUCKING LLAMAS! AARGHHH!!!" I watched in disbelief - holy shit, did I just kill an old man?? There's no way he just survived that trampling without at least a some broken bones and internal bleeding! When the llamas finally stopped, I yelled out to see if he was OK....he got up immediately, and to my surprise, was laughing and smiling: "They do that all the time! You can pass now!" Are you kidding me? His clothes were all torn up and dirty from being dragged through the rocks, but he did look OK. I apologized profusely and carefully made my way past the llamas as they eyed me angrily. Jesus....I couldn't help but wonder what his story was, where he was going with 3 llamas in the middle of nowhere, where he came from? Hopefully he's not dead right now off the side of the trail somewhere due to the trampling...

As I approached the base of the climb up to Georgia Pass, a huge lightning storm rolled in.  I was safe from lightning, being down in a valley, but it was some scary shit....incredibly loud, violent thunder, and it started to rain HARD.  I was soaked head to toe when I finally reached a campground at the start of the climb, and hastily made camp, stringing up my tarp into a ghetto rain shelter.  It was only 7pm, but I unintentionally fell asleep as soon as I crawled into my sleeping bag, still soaking wet but too tired to care.  The rain and lightning was intense....I knew Ryan and probably Pete were up ahead climbing up Georgia Pass, I hoped they were safe from the lightning.  I closed my eyes, and the next thing I knew, it was 4am, freezing cold, and still raining.


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