Sunday, September 11, 2016

Colorado Trail Segment #25, Molas Pass to Coal Bank Pass

[Previously posted on FB 11-Sept-2016]
Weather forecast was a bit temperamental Sunday. Got spoiled by endless bluebird days my first week out here. Forecast ruled out any of the epic, exposed loops I have planned in the Durango/Silverton area. So I hit one of my favorite loops here, one I've done a variant of many times now. Some of it is exposed, like 12,500ft Rolling Pass. But you can get down to some cover rather quickly, unlike riding a ridge.
The loop starts out below Coal Bank Pass on Old Lime Creek Rd, a jeep road that bypasses a large portion of Hwy 550. It comes with some climbing though. Most riders will shuttle this section of the CT with cars on Hwy 550. I prefer to self shuttle.
Radar already showed spotty showers in the area when I got up. Nothing about T-storms, only 20% chance of rain. My experience with a forecast like this in the mountains is you better plan on getting wet and cold. See where this is going?
I'll let the photo captions tell the rest of the story. I never post process my photos. I may take multiple different exposures of a scene to get one that works, but that is about it. They are all straight from the camera.
The ride went about 42mi with 6700ft of climbing in 5.6hrs moving time. Overall a pretty good ride despite uncooperative weather.

First view from Old Lime Creek Rd. Clouds were not encouraging. They were coming from direction looking in this photo.

Engineer Mtn, the shoulder of which I will come over at end of ride for a riotous 2700ft techy plummet.

Nice views from Old Lime Creek Rd, which hugs gorge wall

Little Molas Lake starting out on Segment #25 of the CT

Sky looking fine for now

View south from the CT, Engineer Mtn center, now about as far north of it as I was south earlier. Have to go over the shoulder on left side at end of ride.

Lots of buff miles initially on the CT. Contouring, not much elevation change, between 11,000 and 12,000ft.

Now that is a way to pack an Elk out! A pack of goats to do your work. I was very impressed by this and these guys were happy to let me take a photo.



...Ruh-roh. Photo doesn't adequately depict how ominous this really looked.

Minutes later from previous photo, I was ducking under umbrella tree putting storm gear on. There were some very close lighting strikes. Glad I hadn't made it out on exposed Rolling Pass when this popped up. As storm cell moved by, a girl came riding by similarly protected. A local, she wasn't as deterred by the weather. She too was hoping to go over Rolling Pass, having been turned away from it on her last recent attempt due to lightning.

Continuing, cell now past, lots of thunder overhead though.

Looking back as elevation is gained to Rolling Pass

Heading to Rolling Pass, sky looking much better. Girl I met ahead. I could not hang with her on the steeps.

Getting closer to pass, looking back to the north

On 12,500ft Rolling Pass. This is my FB page banner photo from 4yrs ago, the only other time I rode this pass. Possibly the best MTB view in Durango area.

Wider panoram view from Rolling Pass looking north

View south from Rolling Pass

Several hundred feet down south side of Rolling Pass looking back up

Superb contouring on White Creek Trail, not often used by MTBers. Sky not looking so good again.

Engineer Mtn getting closer on White Creek Trail. I was getting pelted by hail here.

Looking back on White Creek Trail

Approaching Engineer Mtn, looking back, skies looking poopy.

Approaching shoulder on Engineer Mtn.

From shoulder of Engineer Mtn looking up at summit. There were people up there!

Tiny profile dots are people coming down. Hikers on shoulder said they turned around. I bet, with the sky looking like that.

Beginning 2700ft singletrack plummet from Engineer Mtn. This is a very rowdy descent with so many switchbacks, high speed and heavy braking.

Engineer Mtn Trail initially follows ledge, occasionally offering views of Hwy 550 thousands of feet below.

View south toward Durango from Engineer Mtn trail. Can just see top of Durango Mountain Ski Area.

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