Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Backcountry Skiing Latirs: Bull Creek Loop


11.5 miles
~4k gain
Day tour

The Lonely Latirs:

In 2010 I walked through the Latirs for the first time. I couldn't stop picking out all the ski lines I hoped to do.  It was in the early fall of my first year in New Mexico, September I think.  There was no snow, and the sheep and elk were plump from a summer of grazing the high grass lands.  I had seen some pictures of this sweet place online and made a point of hiking the bowls and taking pics of the couloirs in their rocky, snowless state.

Latir, itself, means 'beat or pulse' in Spanish, and is most likely a reference to the heart of the Sangre de Cristo ('Blood of Christ') Range in which this group is found.  The altitude and elevation gain does get the heart pumping, and to get up into the alpine zone certainly isn't the easiest approach around. Rather, its an all morning job.  And, as the map below shows, the approach from Cabresto Lake is either steep, or long, or both.

I chose a reasonable day loop that excluded the premier northern peaks and couloirs, but that gave a taste of what was out there.  Being early November (in an El Niño year) there was some fresh and superb snow, yet the avalanche danger had not taken hold do to the lack of layers, wind effects, and the like.  


I started off bushwhacking up a ridge that was never easy, but that became less brushy towards the top.

Finally at full snowmen at 12k
 First run into 'Rock Glacier' Bowl:

This is looking down my first line, into an unnamed drainage with what looked like an old rock glacier.  I dubbed it Rock Glacier Bowl. 

My first line is the one in the left center, and the turns were great, even with the sharks...

An amazing face on unnamed Point 12456' with 6-800' of drop and plenty of lines for spring.

crystals were already starting to form just a few days after the storm

After hiking back up (line on the right) the entire Latir group came into view again. Wow!!! This is looking into Bull Creek (where I rode a trail out to the main trail and trailhead).

Me, psyched.  

Second lap down into Bull Creek.  The snow was variable but good for early November.

The trail was well cleared and led me neatly down to where the snow stopped and the hiking started.

The Bull Creek trail is blazed and cleared!! Good for the up or down.

Bull Creek

Finally back after 7 hours out.  Cabresto Lake was still and cold.  I hadn't seen anyone all day... Life was good, and I was good and tired.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Jemez Bikepacking: Rumbo de Chihuahueños

Rumbo de Chihuahueños: Seven Springs to Chihuaheños and Cañones 

STATS:           25m, day 1, 4.5 hrs.
                        45m, day 2, 9.5 hrs
                        ~3m of bushwhack hike-a-bike with rocky ups and downs
                        70 miles, 8,000ft gain

Route Type: 

Cabello, Chihuahueños, and Cañones Creeks, as well as at Flavio Spring.

Location:       Jemez Mtns, NM

Resources:    Coyote Ranger District, Santa Fe National Forest
                      Caltopo link to general area
                       Cañones Creek National Recreation Trail
                      Search our blog, we use key words for Jemez bikepacking searches.

I’ve concluded that there are some that rise to the top naturally.  Built to excel. Practice does help. But, whether one practices or not, some have something burning inside that shines through.  Happiness is more important than success to them.  The biking is the expression of something deeper and more fulfilling.  What is it, you ask? Not sure.  I won’t speculate, but instead will get to the point:  I’m practicing lately.


Having been inspired by the Tour Divide record breaking lately, namely Lael’s x2,  I’ve been thinking about ‘effort’. Our latest trip into the Jemez backcountry required some special effort and a willingness to ‘go without.’

Jemez Backcountry:                                                  

This effort was quite real, and included some of our best tidbits from our other Jemez rides (you can use the search bar to explore those, search "Jemez". 
We rode from Seven Springs , up over the flanks of  Cerro de la Garita and the high La Grulla Divide, to two remote Jemez canyons: the Chihuahueños and Cañones. Two full days with amazing views opened this awesome popcicle loop up with both pomp and the appropriate amount if shitty bushwhacking. This trip is a modified version to this Seven Springs Loop and this Polvadera Loop.  The idea is that it can access the northern Jemez, but be accessed from the south.  We didn’t have to drive around to Abiquiu from Albuquerque.
As with other loops we’ve done in this area, the Tour Divide cuts through the linked up features we rode on this trip. Views, Single Track, and Adventure with a capital A. (read bushwhacking)


Day 1:

Start: Fish Hatchery to Rd 527 (pipeline) via Trail 68
2. Up, east on Rd 527  to Rd 401
3. Follow 401 on curcuititous route until it meets the top of Chihuaheños Creek. (the 401 is the main northern Jemez forest road. 
4. Down Chihuaheños single track to FR448
Day 2: 

1. Take 448 west to 449 and back up to 401
2. Take 401 right to  Road 99, right and down to the top of Cañones Creek (right on hidden track) and the  Cañones National Recreation Trail.
3. Ride the trail down through awesome single track until you are stopped by  rock gardens of heinous proportions.
4. Head  left up an ATV track up Barrancones Creek to  Road 173, up, down, then up to Road 100
5. Take left onto FR 100 back up through the amazing meadows around Flavio Tank and  Valle de la Grulla

 6. Left on  FR 99 and head back up to the 144 and (right) westward back to the fish hatchery.

Day 1

Starting out from Seven Springs, the ride's pastoral character becomes immediately apparent.

After a long ride up through FR144, cut off here at the unsigned cattle path heading down into the amazing Chihuahueños single track!

This is Valle de la Mora, which leads into a steep forested track down into Chihuahueños proper.

I took very few pictures along the amazing single track, because it was so awesome.


Day 2

Heading back up FR 449

FR 449

Cañones from FR144 on our way down into it.

Heading down the 99 was fast and gorgeous, problem is, we knew we had to come back up it later that day.

Heading into Cañones National Recreation Trail.

More amazing meadows (just like Chihuahueños)

Sweet Jemez Single Track

Fuck, starting what became nearly 4 miles of rocky bushwhacking.

Finally up and out of the Cañons bushwhacking.

FR100 heading back up toward the crest, nearing the huge open meadows of the Valle de la Grulla.

Flavio Spring and Valle de la Grulla 
Water is plentiful during Monsoon season (this was slightly after monsoons).

Then darkness came and we rode with our lights for several more hours, and I was stalked by a cougar as I got in the truck.  But it was a great ride, and such a gorgeous ride.

The Jemez pays off BIG again!!!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Coconino 250 "Lite" May 2015

by Sarita

Miles: 230.6

Elevation gain:

Days in the saddle: 5

Season: Spring and Fall 

Trip Dates: May 30 - June 3, 2015

Wow factor: high

Resources:  Arizona Endurance Series Coconino Stage Bikepack page (maps, cue sheet)

The Coconino 250 is a stage bikepacking race route done as part of the Arizona Endurance Series.  As in New Mexico, these are grassroots endurance races sponsored by local riders: no fees, no permits, no support except course maps and cue sheets.  The Coconino 250 is typically done in 4 stages/ 4 days, with stage stops where the clock stops ticking for racers.  From the C250 race page: “The 250-mile route has about 40-50% singletrack, some of which is pretty darn technical, and about 33k of climbing. The route is: Flagstaff-Sedona-Mingus Mountain-Williams-Flagstaff. Those that have never ridden in this area, you are in for a treat!”  Yum.

This is the full Coconino 250 route
On paper, the Coconino 250 is a bikepacking route that I might not have chosen for myself.  The elevation gain alone would have scared me off- luckily I have braver friends... While our early summer plans to bikepack and explore the singletrack around Ketchum, ID were being swallowed by a sea of rain, my friend Lindsay was posting pics of her trip on the C250.  It looked awesome.  The cool Ketchum weather translated into desert dream temps.  In a quick about face, Dan and I started
our summer road trip in Flagstaff, on a route that promised to push our limits and blow our minds.    

Leaving from Mary and Chris' house high above Flagstaff.

Mingus Bipass
Our goal was to do the route in 5 days, breaking up the Mingus Mountain to Williams stage into 2 days.  We also made some route modifications: we rode the "Mingus Bypass," which added mileage but eliminated a steep hike-a-bike (“HAB”) on upper  Mingus Mountain;  we skipped the Bill Williams Peak trails, and instead took the pavement into Williams; we took the Schnebly Hill Rd into Sedona instead of the Munds Wagon Trail; and cut out some of the singletrack above Flagstaff due to where our friends live and the high mileage of our first day- we instead took the pavement into Flag from their place.  Our route ended up being 230.6 miles, with a little less singletrack.

We left our friends’ house on the flanks of Flagstaff Mountain and cruised into town, where we connected with the Arizona Trail.  Lots of singletrack, high lakes from spring snowmelt, and long moderate climbs were the name of the game….

navigating the lakes edge to get some water- great water on day 1

Some of the riding on the first day was along an old railroad grade that allowed for some easier miles.

Our ViewRanger app was better than the cue sheets, and we also carried hard copies of the gpx on Caltopo

 As sunset approached we reached our destination: the Schnebly Hill overlook.  61.8 miles.
Closing in on camp "Oh yeah"
The largest alligator juniper I've ever seen was pleasantly placed to stave off the hot afternoon sun
views of Bear Wallow Canyon and Sedona from camp

Day Two promised temps in the 90’s so we started riding at dawn.  Our plan was to make it to the town of Cottonwood before the heat of the day, siesta, and head up Mingus when the sun went down.  All went according to plan except for that getting into Cottonwood before the heat of the day part….

loverly morning shade
Chicken Point, Sedona
Sedona singletrack

Deep Shade under Route 89 in what we later found out to be 100 degree weather.
Coffe creek area

Sheepshead Creek area is one giant sand trap, miles of it.

We were super stoked to spend some time napping in the shade next to the lagoons at the Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood.  We soon found out temperatures that day reached 100 degrees.  Wah. 

Delirium had long set in by the time we reached our camp on the slopes of Mingus Mtn.  We crawled into our sleeping bags at about midnight, confident that our goal of pushing our limits was being realized.  

Days 3 and 4 promised lower mileage (39 mi. and 34.3 mi.), but the Mingus Bipass took longer than we anticipated.  The high elevations made for cool temps and beautiful views as we contoured around Mingus Mtn toward more sweet singletrack, clean springs and, finally, the 7 miles downhill to Verde River.

Big smiles on the Mingus bypass.  If you find a flip flop on the bypass, let us know...

Just when we thought the bypass would never end, we hit the road going up to the summit and were back on route.  Singletrack led us down to contour east of the Precott Valley and over to the Verde.

Psyched for the downhill to the Verde!
Day 4 was my hardest, winding up the Great Western Trail toward Williams.  We could see Williams Peak off in the distance the day before, so I knew we had a long way to go and a lot of elevation to climb… luckily, areas like Pine Flats provided our legs with some easier cruising and we were able to find water from recent rains.  After climbing all day, I would have been hard pressed to turn off the pavement to ride/ HAB up and over Bill Williams Peak.  This was the moment when my respect for the C250 racers grew into awe- to imagine riding from the Mingus to Williams in a day and finishing on Bill Williams Peak literally blew my mind…
starting early for a long climb up to Williams
We quickly left the main road to Williams and got on the Great Western Trail, which wandered through interesting canyons
Pine Flats- the delightful word being flats- a nice break for the legs and lots of rainwater
Showers and a real bed in Williams was equally as mind blowing

I was a little sad on our last day (48.1 mi.),  as our great adventure was coming to an end. We found our way back over to Flagstaff through high meadows and ponderosa forests, past Paradise Forks, and even managed to find some ice cream.  So delish.  
Sycamore Canyon selfie
Mandatory head dunk, Paradise Forks
Parks snack break
hells yeah
Closing in on Flagstaff: San Francisco Peaks 
Ski fence! Brannigan Park
Our mantra: Please! Close the gate
Final singletrack

We ended on the flowy singletrack above Ft. Valley, giddy as we sped toward Mary and Chris’ house.  We felt a little bad cutting out the singletrack above Flag, but not for long… beer, steaks, mac and cheese, friends’ company and creature comforts beckoned a couple hundred feet off the route… and we happily gave in.  The tone for our summer trip was set: spending time in the mountains together, with friends, and pushing ourselves in new ways.  

Magically, when we finished the C250, the clouds parted in Idaho!