Chasing Color and Light on Colorado's Alpine Singletrack

Nov 20, 2015
by Dave Trumpore  



We all hold certain experiences to be extra special and unique, to be above so many other things that pass in and out of our daily lives, for the feelings they evoke can rarely be replicated elsewhere. These are the rare experiences often forged out of hard work and desire, for if they were easy and commonplace their luster would surely fade. For myself and a tight-knit group of friends who call Colorado home, this feeling can only be found in the mountains, the tall peaks of the alpine where the air is the thinest and the risk to reward ratio the greatest. This is where we chase down the elusive feeling that comes from riding ribbons of singletrack across ridge lines who's views go on for miles and miles, down through the dense aspen trees where the dirt has a magical feel beneath your tires. No it is never easy to get out and get up there and for many of us just entertaining the idea of such a thing is of rare occurrence, but this is what makes it so memorable. Watching the sun rise and set while perched above the tree line as nature paints a picture with light and shadow across the vast open landscape is a beautiful thing. Made even more special by the fact that you've accessed such far off and remote places by bicycle under your own human power. Then at night sleeping under the stars so far away from any human settlement that there is no light pollution to spoil your perfect view of the Milky Way as it is projected brightly overhead. These are the moments that are not so easily forgotten.

However, winter stays late and comes early at elevations pushing 13,000ft so the season for bikes on these highest of peaks is often very short-lived. Add to the seasonal restriction the commitments most of us have to families and work, which in my case means near constant travel during the prime summer months, and this window of time to chase after these blissful moments shrinks considerably. It's for this reason that I make an effort each fall when I get a break from my life on the road, to gather some of my favorite people together and head off to the place that for us feels the most like home. The mountains.




This year I joined Shawn Neer, Ben Conroy, and Joey Schusler for three days of road tripping, camping, and of course, riding mountain bikes through the Rocky Mountains. The plan we forged was quite a simple one really. To chase the unique colors and light of the Colorado alpine during the fall season, and ride some of our favorite trails for what would likely be the last time before the cold of winter set in for good. For us, this was not only a way to reconnect with each other, as our own hectic schedules mean we often don't see one another for months at a time, but also a time to reconnect with the places that give us the most joy. It wasn't about logging the most miles, climbing the most vertical, or being the fastest in a race to the bottom. It was about being present, being aware, and indulging in the whole experience. A whole experience that isn't just scenic vistas and pristine trails but one with a bit of adversity hanging out around many a corner.

Sure we ended up dodging thunderstorms on Monarch Pass, slept outside on the side of the road near Salida and abandoned one plan for another only to be turned around by wind and snow on Mount Elbert. Shawn still had a DH chainring on his bike and no dropper post, Ben lost his helmet at one of the campsites, I was not even close to acclimatized, and Joey racked up a few tickets for having a tail light out, but none of it ever seemed to matter. We loved every minute of it, rode some amazing trails, brewed coffee at 13k feet, slept under the stars, and had the time of our lives.



With cold weather on the horizon it was time to hit the road and explore a few new spots on the map.
With cold weather on the horizon it was time to hit the road and explore a few new spots on the map.

The Colorado alpine sitting tall at 10-14 000 ft offers incredibly diverse trails and views that go on for miles and miles. It is the last zone to open in the spring and the first to be closed down in the fall. With a fall chill already in the air this was to be one of our final chances to get out and ride some of our favorite trails.
The Colorado alpine, sitting tall at 10-14,000 ft, offers incredibly diverse trails and views that go on for miles and miles. It is the last zone to open in the spring and the first to be closed down in the fall. With a fall chill already in the air, this was to be one of our final chances to get out and ride some of our favorite trails.




DAY ONE:

MONARCH PASS



The first order of the day was the climb and traverse of Monarch Pass.
The first order of the day was the climb and traverse of the Continental Divide Trail just off the summit of Monarch Pass.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Shawn Neer all alone on the high ridge that divides the east and west of the United States.
Shawn Neer all alone on a high ridge while chasing that elusive light up and over the divide.

Chasing that elusive light over the Continental Divide.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Shawn Neer and Joey Schusler drop west off the Continental Divide on a line that if they were water would eventually lead to the Pacific Ocean.
Shawn Neer and Joey Schusler drop west off of the Continental Divide on a line that, if they were water, would eventually lead to the Pacific Ocean.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Exposed ridge lines one minute aspen groves the next. Whatever it is you are after you will likely find it here.
Exposed ridge lines one minute, Aspen groves the next. Whatever it is you are after, you will likely find it here.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Once reaching the bottom the only logical thing to do was to go back up the pass and come back down again. But this time of a different trail
Once reaching the bottom the only logical thing to do was to go back up and have another go at it. This time on Foose's Creek Trail.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

If it s not already there add this one to your bucket list.
If it's not already there, add this one to your bucket list.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

This. This is what we were after. The light an color show that is unique to the alpine high above tree line.
This. This is what we were after. Nature's light and color show that is unique to the alpine and best enjoyed while riding high above the tree line.

Shawn Neer crests the top of the climb and enjoys the warm but brief ray of sunshine.
Shawn Neer crests the top of the climb to enjoy one of the days warm but infrequent rays of sunshine.

After what looked to be a cold and cloudy evening we were treated to a few brief moments of beautiful golden light.
After what looked to be a cold and cloudy evening we were treated to a few brief moments of beautiful golden light.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.
Sunshine What sunshine As quickly as it appeared things on the horizon began to change.

At 12 000 feet you can feel and smell thunderstorms as they roll in even when they are still far off in the distance. While it may be spectacular to look at it is not a time to linger.
Sunshine? What sunshine? As quickly as it appeared things on the horizon began to change. At 12,000 feet, you can feel and smell thunderstorms as they roll in, even when they are still far off in the distance and while they may be spectacular to look at, it is not the time to linger.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Mountain weather follows no logic and just like that the storm blew out and the sun shinned in.
However, mountain weather follows no logic and in the blink of an eye the storm blew out and the sun began to shine in before disappearing behind the horizon for good.

Heading down to Salida in search of dinner and that one other crucial detail be had yet to sort out. A place to sleep.
Heading down to Salida in search of dinner and that one other crucial detail we had yet to sort out. A place to sleep. And while not a four-star hotel, sleeping outside on level ground composed of soft sand, that you happened to randomly find in the middle of the night, sure feels close sometimes.

Not a four star hotel but sleeping outside on level ground made of soft sand that you happened to randomly find in the middle of the night sure feels close sometimes.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

While rainbow was a visual to awake to it became very apparent that the sky was quickly turning black and heading our way. So half asleep we packed up and pinned it in the opposite direction.
While a rainbow was a nice visual to awake to, it became very apparent that the sky was quickly turning black and heading our way. So, half asleep we packed up and pinned it in the opposite direction.




DAY TWO:

MOUNT ELBERT



Originally we had planned to ride a segment of the Colorado Trail near Copper Mountain but seeing the high peaks outside of Buena Vista freshly frosted with snow above yellow aspens we new a change of plan was in order. A plan that would have us making an attempt at the 14 440ft summit of Mount Elbert.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.
Originally we had planned to ride a segment of the Colorado Trail near Copper Mountain, but seeing the high peaks outside of Buena Vista freshly frosted with snow above yellow aspens, we knew a change of plan was in order.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.
A plan that would have us making an attempt at the 14,440ft summit of Mount Elbert.

After a long push up through the dense forest we hit the tree line. From here up to the summit there is zero shelter from the weather and things can change in a heartbeat.
After a long push up through the dense forest we hit the tree line. From here up to the summit there is zero shelter from the weather, and things can change in a heartbeat.

With blue sky appearing overhead it was shaping up to be another awesome day in the mountains.
With blue sky appearing overhead it was shaping up to be another awesome day in the mountains.

Just like that the temperature plummeted and the real fun began to rain and snow down in buckets.
Just like that, the temperature plummeted and the real fun began to rain and snow down in buckets.

While a flask of whiskey as always a good way to warm up...
While a flask of whiskey is always a good way to warm up...

We had a better idea.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.
Hot coffee brewed trail side seemed like a far better idea.

Shawn Neer warming up with some coffee made trail side on Mount Elbert.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

A brief break in the cloud cover shone a bit of light on the summit we were chasing. It also gave us a few moments to warm up and contemplate out next move.
A brief break in the cloud cover shone a bit of light on the summit we were chasing. It also gave us a few moments to warm up and contemplate our next move.

Even though the weather cleared momentarily it became apparent the cycle of wind rain and snow was going to continue all day at the higher elevations. Since what goes up must come down it was as good a time as any to make the most of the long descent back down through the trees.
Even though the weather cleared momentarily, it became apparent the cycle of wind, rain, and snow was going to continue all day at the higher elevations. Since what goes up must come down, it was as good a time as any to make the most of the long descent back down through the trees.

Shawn Neer leads Joey Schusler down from the wind and weather and into the trees.
Shawn Neer leads Joey Schusler down from the wind and weather and into the trees.
Hero dirt fall colors and riding sigletrack through a forest of aspen trees with friends. I am sure there are more fun things to do but in this moment we couldn t really think of any.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Aspen trees as far as you can see in all directions.
Aspen trees as far as you can see in all directions.

With so much focus on high peaks we almost forgot how much fun zipping through the trees can be.
With so much focus on high peaks we almost forgot how much fun zipping through the trees can be.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.
Hero dirt, fall colors, and riding singletrack through a forest of Aspen trees with friends. I am sure there are more fun things to do but at this moment we couldn't really think of any.

Ben Conroy threads the needle.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.
Ben Conroy threads the needle.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.
No summit was had this day, but plenty of fun still made its way into the mix.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Onto the next destination the weather would continue with it s uncooperative ways. Rain sun rain sun on repeat all day and night.
Onto the next destination where the weather would continue with its uncooperative ways. Rain, sun, rain, sun, on repeat all day and night.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Camp on the final night was pushing 11k feet well above the summit of Vail Pass
Camp on the final night was pushing 11k feet, which is well above the summit of Vail Pass




DAY THREE:

TWO ELKS


Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Rise and shine. Shawn Neer once again handling the alway important coffee duties.
Rise and shine. Shawn Neer once again handling the alway important coffee duties.

Ben Conroy enjoys the view from Vail Pass. A quick traverse from camp quickly lead to the real goods hiding in the woods just below.
Ben Conroy enjoys the view from Vail Pass. A quick traverse from camp quickly led to the real goods hiding in the woods just below.

While we all love high alpine sigletrack the best dirt lives in the pine forests just below tree line. Steep loamy flow for miles.
While we all love high alpine singletrack, the best dirt lives in the pine forests just below tree line. Steep, loamy flow for miles.

Our tour guide on Two Elks was Local rider and friend Alex Gonzales who showed up to camp in the middle of the night slept in the back of his truck and kept in pinned all day. Thanks Alex
Our tour guide on Two Elks was local rider and friend, Alex Gonzales, who showed up to camp in the middle of the night, slept in the bed of his pickup despite the rain and still kept it pinned all day long. Thank you Alex

Ever wonder what it would be like to carve Vail Ski Resort s famous back bowls on your bike If so Two Elks is not to be missed.
Ever wonder what it would be like to carve Vail Ski Resort's famous back bowls on your bike? If so Two Elks is not to be missed.
Joey Schusler carving his way down the open meadow of China Bowl on the back side of Vail Mtn.
Joey Schusler carving his way down the open meadow of China Bowl on the back side of Vail Mtn.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.
By the time you read this we've likely lapped the hills in the background on skis.

As green transitions to yellow summer transitions to autumn and with it our favorite trails will soon disappear for until spring.
Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.

Images by Dave Trumpore for his Chasing Light article.


AS GREEN TRANSITIONS TO YELLOW, SUMMER TRANSITIONS TO AUTUMN THEN ON TO WINTER
&
IN TURN MANY OF OUR FAVORITE TRAILS WILL SOON DISAPPEAR UNTIL SPRING



Check out Trailforks to follow this adventure or make your own.

Monarch Crest:

Mount Elbert:


MENTIONS: @davetrump / @joeyschusler



Posted In:
Stories



67 Comments

  • 115 3
 Colorado sucks, don't come here
  • 34 2
 Yeah. The mountain towns are way boring and so is legalized pot.
  • 31 0
 Yeah, go to Kansas. I heard it's epic....
  • 8 23
flag heissescheisse (Nov 20, 2015 at 10:15) (Below Threshold)
 Don't be that guy.
  • 1 0
 Or Chicago... yeah head back there great for cycling.
  • 1 0
 naisemaj - i'm on my way! Can i couch surf at your crib?
defineindecline - puff puff give!
  • 20 1
 Dave Trumpore for president. Unreal
  • 2 55
flag bishopsmike (Nov 20, 2015 at 4:06) (Below Threshold)
 Next time, don't use a cellphone to take all the pics though.
  • 15 0
 ^^ I hope this is a joke?
  • 14 0
 Nikon D750 cellphone .. sounds good to me!
  • 5 0
 Better than Trump... He's got three more letters...
  • 18 0
 Do you get taxed more in CO if you don't drive a Subaru and ride a Yeti?
  • 3 0
 You do!!!! However, if you are not from here, and can shralp!!?! Instant street cred
  • 9 0
 You actually receive a Subaru and Yeti with your first Colorado drivers license. It's one of the perks of the state. They have so much money in the state coffers from pot sales, they had to do something!
  • 16 0
 An awesome article. I'd love to get a trip like this in one day.
  • 1 0
 me too
  • 12 3
 Having been living in CO for the past year and a half, I will say that this only captures a fraction of the beauty of this state.
  • 5 0
 You're right there! I'm a few weeks in (just moved from Australia). Managed to get Monarch Crest in before the end of the season too. It's a must do....that narrow, high alpine trail is a real challenge. The views for miles....and did I mention the Altitude. Looking forward to the skiing, but I think a fat bike is in order....sooooo many trails! I'm like a kid in a candy store...I can't see much reason to go anywhere else every again...except maybe BC Smile
  • 10 0
 Looks at article, looks out window at cold, grey, rainy, flat, midwest...

*Facepalm*
  • 10 0
 This is life, man. No more, no less, this is it...
  • 6 0
 Colorado seems like such a beautiful place. No idea why it's not known at all over here. When I type 'Colorado' into google images I just HAVE to go there. This article seems to confirm it must be mtb heaven over there. Really enjoyed this article Beer
  • 6 0
 That right there is how you put together a photo epic... holy sh*t. That's one of the best collections of photography I've seen anywhere, much less just on Pinkbike. Nicely done, Dave.
  • 4 1
 Hopefully will be able to do just one of these rides someday. Right now at 48 years old and with my 15 year old baby girl still in High School, it seems like a race against time to get her out of school and grown up enough before I'm too damn old and worn out to hit it! I guess the up-side is my wife is a nurse and my riding partner...
  • 4 1
 Refreshing, as we sit here in our Colorado office near Vail, to look back at these rides....iconic rides....rides that are must-dos every single year! Thanks for posting, Dave!
  • 5 1
 Too many hipster stoners... Don't come here!!!! It's all segway paths.... Seriously!!!! It's sooo sick in the Salida area, Soooo sick....
  • 3 0
 Some think it's so sick, they will just park their van up on the Crest and hit that all day, every day. Wink
  • 2 0
 Damn right!!!!
  • 2 0
 As we switch to winter and my mountain bike stoke diminishes for the splitboard, you brought back memories of a stellar summer we had out here. Absolutely brilliant in how you captured it, great stuff. Until we can ride over 12K again next year I guess.
  • 6 0
 I nominate this article for POD.
  • 6 3
 hipsters wouldn't be able to ride without their coffee hahaha. can't believe they actually brought all of that. but this was super awesome. gotta go to CO now
  • 1 0
 Hard to read this, really been missing CO lately, it is without a doubt the best place on earth. Having moved out there when I was 19 just had to move back to MN at 24 man its tough. But ill finish school let my child grow up around the grandparents for a few years, then it will be time to move back. The past 5years flew the next 5 are gonna crawl. And to make it worse I just got into mtbing last october so I havent got to explore much. Sick article though! Glad to live vicariously through someone else for a while!
  • 1 0
 We ran into these guys in the Monarch Pass parking lot and saw them again on the trail. My iPhone pics of the same locations don't even come close to the epicness of Dave's. Wish he would follow me around and me make look that awesome Wink
  • 3 0
 @profro it was awesome running into you guys. Thanks again for the shock pump ;-) did you get up for a second lap late in the day? That's when the light went wild.
  • 2 0
 I don't think we did that day, but for the week we did the full Crest Tour, Agate, and Canyons plus a little four wheeling. Salida is a special place.
  • 1 0
 Amazing photos. That forefront helmet looks cool but actually was worst in test when crash tested by a swedish insurance company.

www.folksam.se/testergodarad/varatester/cykelhjalmar2015

There´s an english version of the report in there...
  • 1 1
 That report was good for a laugh. Completely worthless and irrelevant.
  • 1 1
 Naah, when most mtb mag´s reviews helmets they could review any beanie or cap out there, good fit and looks good but nothing about protection. The conclusion about the smith helmet is that it is to hard and doesn´t absorb impact as good as other helmets....
  • 1 0
 yes and by that logic a full face DH helmet or moto helmet would be even more unsafe. It's a pretty useless study especially when they rank helmets higher that do not even have extended coverage for the back and side of the head. They hit helmets in one spot and decided that the ones that absorbed the most impact were the "safest". I think I speak for lot of people when I say I'd prefer a helmet to be on the strong/stiff end of the spectrum, especially since the crashes of faster riders are going to end with far more impact velocity that that study. And none of us what out helmet blowing up on the first impact of a big crash (where you hit your head more than once)
  • 3 0
 producing soo many banger photos in three days really shows some skills... great job! @davetrump
  • 2 0
 Wow! What more can I say? Amazing photos, can't wait to spend more time in Colorado. Nothing more magical than riding through an aspen grove in the fall.
  • 5 1
 Soooo many desktops here.
  • 1 0
 Can you please put these photos on Trailforks with their location! I would love to know exactly where some of these sections are so I can find them. Not too far a drive for me from Utah.
  • 2 0
 Pretty cool. They removed their packs for most of the photo shoots though, which struck me as impractical, but maybe those packs were huge.
  • 4 0
 Great shots and writeup @davetrump, Thanks for doing Colorado proud!
  • 2 0
 huge motivation! just sitting here waiting 2 weeks after knee surgery to get back on any kind of bike...even a trainer...
  • 2 0
 Oh my lord, the epicness of it all! I was almost speech, SUABARU, less. This story has all things important in life.
  • 2 0
 Loved the pics. Maybe the wife is right and we should visit Colorado next summer.
  • 2 0
 Colorado is amazing. Could go every year if the bank account agreed. Great peice you guys, stokes the fire.
  • 2 0
 and I'm sitting here with my laptop and coffee staring into the rain outside...
  • 1 0
 Great Photos, Great article, Great trails!! Honored to have been able to ride there fall!! Check - off the Bucket list, but had to put it back on again, cause its so Epic
  • 2 0
 Wow. Really nice stuff, Dave.
  • 2 0
 Like they said, Colorado sucks, don't come here........its turrrble!
  • 1 0
 what is mean"racked up a few tickets for having a tail light out",i don't understand……
  • 1 0
 It looks like day two would be my favourite day of that trip!
  • 2 1
 Colorado is pretty awesome! The PNW still rules as king though 3
  • 1 0
 Epic composition. Very Pro.
  • 1 0
 So awesome. I'd love to spend a week on the trails in CO.
  • 1 0
 Whoa, did I see a Radscorpion in that sleeping bag?
  • 1 0
 texas sucks as far as mtb goes
  • 1 1
 @andnyleswillriot
I saw more than two when I was there.
  • 1 0
 Nice pics!
  • 2 2
 Awesome, but doesn't alpine mean "of the alps"?
  • 1 2
 How about "like the alps" Alplike just doesn't sound as good.
  • 3 4
 No shot or video of someone hitting canyon gaps?
Below threshold threads are hidden

Post a Comment



Copyright © 2000 - 2021. Pinkbike.com. All rights reserved.
dv42 0.014158
Mobile Version of Website