The Hundred Highest Colorado Peaks,
Ridden to by bike; summited on foot,
Completely Self-Powered and Self-Supported:
In 60 days or less
Weaving a path of singletrack, 4×4 tracks, country and dirt roads, the Tour of the Highest Hundred project plans in the summer of 2017 to take the path less pedaled and gain the base to ALL the Colorado Centennial Mountains by bike, then summit those peaks by foot in one enormous self-powered, peak bagging Grand Tour. If that wasn’t enough of a challenge, I’m giving myself a goal of doing this all in 60 days. Or less.
Self-Powered and Self-Supported
During the project, no motor vehicles will be allowed to be used, no outside assistance will be accepted, no support crew will be following. The simplified rules I will be abiding by are as follows:
- Self-Powered, and Self-Supported
- No outside crew or support – do everything yourself
- Resupply in town, using only public resources available to all
- Follow ALL Wilderness rules and regulations, Leave no Trace
These types rules and this standard of going about a challenge is par for the course in Fastest Known Time, human powered challenges. One of the goals of Tour of the Highest Hundred is to trail blaze a competitive precedent for this particular challenge, and invite others to try it themselves. It’s also hoped that people will be generally inspired to try and use bicycles to access more hiking and climbing areas near to where they live, as I do myself ( #approachbybike )
Climbing the Highest Hundred Peaks in Colorado is the next-level in peak bagging goals after finishing the Colorado 14ers, which I have already done in the exact same style (approach by bike, summit by foot) in 34 days in 2014. This project will essentially double that adventure!
The last half of the peaks found on the Centennials list can be:
- more remote
- more technical
- less visited
When compared to the more popular 14ers, which comprise the first half of the Colorado Centennial list.
Many of the Highest Hundred are found grouped together in sub-ranges throughout the state of Colorado. By bikepacking (fast and light mountain bike touring) to a trailhead of these subranges, one can then make a basecamp, then start off on foot on an ultra-marathon enchainment traversing one mountain in the group to another, until an entire section of mountains has been summited quickly and efficiently.
Then, hike back to the bike, grab some food and supplies in the next town, and bikepack to the next set of mountains, to start everything over again.
I plan to start in Boulder, CO in late July, and weave a path through the mountains in a generally clockwise direction, riding my bike on mostly dirt roads and trails:
- South to the Sangre de Cristos
- West to the San Juans
- North to the Elks
- Back east to finish off on the Sawatch/Tenmile/Front Range
Then, finishing back in Boulder, Colorado after summiting Longs Peak and Mount Meeker.
Major Centennial Enchainments
These groups of mountains comprise some of the longest on-foot sections of the adventure, where mileage is high, resupply is non-existent and retreat is costly. These sections are the crux of the project. For example:
The Colorado Sierra Blanca: 23 miles, 15,207′ elevation gain, six mountain summits:
- Little Bear
- “Huerfano Peak”
- California Peak
Featuring some of the more technical routes and sky-carving traverses, enchaining the Sierra Blanca would be a serious mountaineering objective on its own.
Starting from the Zapata Falls TH near Great Sand Dunes National Park, my route will make its way to Ellingwood Point, then drop quite a ways down to start the Northwest Face of Little Bear – coming close and personal with the Black Hand that marks the route itself. The day though, has just begun: Onwards onto the super-exposed ridgeline between Little Bear and Blanca, on one of the Four Great 14er Traverses, then continuing on downclimbing Gash Ridge (crux) to the other side of the Sangres de Christos to summit Lindsey and “Huerfano Peak”. Climbing back west onto the spine of the ridgeline to tag California Peak, then head back to the trailhead and the bike.
Contesting the Crestone Conglomerate: 25 miles, 15,000′ elevation gain, seven mountain summits:
- Kit Carson
- Crestone Peak
- Crestone Needle
The beautiful Crestone Conglomerate will make this trek almost delightful. Coming in through the back door of the Willow Creek Trail to first crest Mount Adams, it’s a sending train hitting up Challenger, Kit Carson, Columbia, Humboldt – and, if the weather cooperates, Crestone Peak and Needle, ending with one of the four great 14er traverses between the two, before slogging it back via an entirely different drainage on Cottonwood Creek, slowly, to find oneself back at the bike.
The Weminuche Throwdown: 52 miles, 28,000’ elevation gain, nine mountain summits:
- North Eolus
The big one. Making up almost a tenth of the entire challenge, the Weminuche Wilderness set of mountains is clearly the crux of the entire project. Having the most remote approach, with some of the most challenging peaks to summit, this sub-week adventure is in of itself a solid mountaineering challenge.
Where to even begin with a description? Take the largest, most remote Wilderness area in Colorado. Then, eschew the normal, time-saving approach shortcut of grabbing a ride on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge train, and make the trek on foot deep into the Wilderness itself. After climbing Vestal Peak (via Wham Ridge, 5.4 – for style points), it’s time to climb Jagged Mountain: one of the hardest (5.2) and remote Centennials in Colorado. Clear two more stout 13ers (Pigeon, Turret) and now you’ve only just begun to think about climbing the four 14ers found in the Chicago Basin, plus Jupiter. Finished? Look forward to an 18 mile backpack death march back to the bike, following the trail that parallels Animas River.
The San Juan Caldera Labyrinth
The San Juans still hold twenty one more Centennial mountains to summit, not always so conveniently grouped together. Indeed, some of the most remote mountains of the whole project will be found in this area. Rio Grande Pyramid alone will take a 20+ mile bike ride from the nearest town, just to reach the trailhead and begin the hike in. The Wilson Group (Mount Wilson, El Diente, Wilson Peak, and Gladstone Mountain) could be done in a day or two, but still other mountains close together like Mt. Sneffels, Dallas Peak, and Teakettle Mountain may need a day each to be completed. Ticking off the San Juans, and moving into the Elks will be a huge psychological win, keeping the stoke high when pushing into the second half of the adventure.
Ringing the Broken Bells: 16 miles, 12,000′ elevation gain:
- Thunder Pyramid
- Maroon Peak
- North Maroon
Red, Rotten and Rugged: “only” four peaks in this set, but nothing to trifle with: the Elks hold some of the worst rock in this adventure, and extreme caution will be required to safely negotiate it all. Thunder Pyramid itself wasn’t climbed until 1970! A nightmare traverse to Pyramid Peak – itself crumbling apart, then down to a short respite into the valley and over to the other side to ring the bells of Maroon Peak and North Maroon via one of the Four Great 14er Traverses.`