Part 1: Red Cone and Webster Pass
One of my favorite places to ride my mountain bikes or run is Webster Pass to the top of Red Cone Peak. Red Cone is not a particularly high peak for a Colorado mountain. At 12,801 feet, Red Cone is dwarfed by the nearby mighty Mount Evans.
Here is a shot of Red Cone in the 6-week period during the summer when there is not much visible snow.
This is a good shot of both Webster Pass and the "spur" up Red Cone. From the start of Webster Pass to the top Red Cone is about 12 to 14 miles.
This is a US Forest Service map that makes the various trails seem well marked and easy to find.
In reality, Webster, Handcart and Red Cone move around a bit due to rock slides and washouts.
The trails on both Mount Evans and Red Cone have a lot of character. The trails on Mount Evans are very high and long. The trails on Red Cone are shorter and steeper! I mean really, really steep. The best trail on Red Cone is Handcart Gulch, which can only be accessed on foot or bike. However, quite a few trails on Red Cone are wide enough for 4x4s and ATVs.
Here is what Colorado Central Magazine has this to say about Red Cone for 4-wheelers:
"Red Cone gets the rating of 7 from Massey and Wilson — the most difficult route in their book. From this eleven-mile road (between Webster on US 285 and the Keystone Ski Area) the view is worth the effort. Supreme driving skills are mandatory to challenge this one. Close maneuvering through trees, tight switchbacks, and extremely rocky sections characterize the ascent to Red Cone Peak.
Red Cone’s descent is very steep. No vehicle can make it back up this stretch. The vehicle must crawl three-quarters of a mile downhill through rock talus and moguls. First gear in low range holds the vehicle speed to a crawl. Brakes can’t be used or the tires will skid. The rear-end wants to slide around. If this happens, the driver must slightly depress the accelerator or the four-wheeler will slide sideways on the steep peak and roll 1,500 feet into Handcart Gulch. Several more steep sections must be descended to Webster Pass."
People in four-wheel drive vehicles consider conquering Red Cone a badge of honor.
Fortunately, the mangled wreckage of those four-wheelers that didn't earn the badge of honor are promptly removed.
Since I only tackle Webster and Red Cone with running shoes and bikes, the four-wheelers think I am nuts.
The four-wheelers are a nice bunch of folks that give and take good natured ribbing. Anyone on these roads is a bit nuts.
This is Handcart Gulch trail.
Forget finding this trail in the winter. I know this for a fact because I looked for the trail and I know where it should have been.
This shot is near the Red Cone Summit.
I was thinking that I might be able to get this far on my 907 Fat Bike. I didn't make it. I was hoping that some of the slope would be wind-blown and exposed. The wind blows at umpteen bazillion miles per hour on high exposed peaks and can clear a path along a ridge. No such luck. BTW, Red Cone is so steep that it doesn't pose too much of an avalanche danger.
Mountain Goats live on top of Red Cone year round.
These hardy creatures are not overly skittish and very curious. Nobody with a lick of sense bothers these animals. The goats tolerate human visitors as long as the human keep their distance. These animals can do some real damage if they get upset. These critters do not take guff from anyone.
Part 2: Winter Bike Riding on Webster Pass
When I loaded my 907 on the bike rack I had plans to ride along the headwaters of the South Platte River starting near the summit of Kenosha pass. I still think the trail along the South Platte headwaters would be a very good ride.
Here is my 907 loaded and ready to go.
The weather was nice and in the 40's. We have not received much snow this winter, which does not bode well for the Western United States. Colorado is nicknamed "The Mother of Rivers" because more major rivers have their source in Colorado than in any other state. Of course, the water source is the massive snow pack we usually have. States like California and Nevada rely on the mighty Colorado river as a source of water. 65% of the water used in Southern California is from the Colorado River.
The Platte River drainage is a major contributor of water for the breadbasket states of the Great Prairie. In the mountains, roads and trails tend to follow flowing water since these routes are usually the easiest to traverse.
As I was driving by Webster Pass on the way to Kenosha, I decided to see how far I could get up Webster. I like the raw untamed feeling of the beautiful, and somewhat hazardous, Webster Pass and Red Cone.
I parked at the bottom of Webster Pass.
I had already covered about three miles when I came to this sign. You can see Red Cone looming in the distance. Like I said, Red Cone is a small mountain. But it looks pretty darn big and imposing from this angle.
The temperature was down right balmy at 26 degrees F. At high elevation, the sunlight is pretty intense.
Here is the sun beating down through the trees. Even though the the air feels cold, the thinner layer of atmosphere combined with lower air density allows far more ultraviolet rays to reach the surface. I wear sunscreen SPF 5 million.
As I climbed up Webster pass I ran into some difficult snow conditions. Snowmobiles had packed down the snow. The relatively warm temperatures made the packed snow very slippery and uneven.
I had to drop my tire pressure to 4 psi to get traction. Unfortunately, the snow conditions were just too slippery. I made it to the base of Red Cone but just could not make it up the extreme grade.
Here are a few shots of my 907, which I have named "Big Orange Beast" of just "Beast" for short.
The snow is deep enough that the Beast can stand all by himself. Fat bikes are very stable.
Although the big tires are the most remarkable feature, the Beast is a finely-tuned all terrain bike that is quick and agile.
The Beast has amazing traction and can plow through some pretty deep snow. Shifting is quick and flawless.
I like what this bike can do.
The 907 is a snow racing bike. Average speed on the ascent was 7.8 miles per hour for 8.1 miles. That is fast for a bike chewing through soft snow on a 15%+ grade.
Part 3: Descent
The lower part of Webster pass was in pretty good shape.
This is a photo of some nice packed snow. According to my Garmin 305, I hit a top speed of 30.7 mph. The Beast was steady as a rock at higher speeds. The massive tires are like mega-gyroscopes. The bike could go faster but my legs were just too tired.
I did take a small detour to visit the Platte River.
I am glad the Forest Service puts up signs.
The river is frozen.
The same idiots that harass the goats will walk out on the snow-covered river ice. Snow is a good insulator. Ice under snow is thin. A person falling through the thin snow-covered ice is in big trouble and may not be able to get out before hypothermia sets in. Mountain rivers are cold and fast.
I called my wife when I got to the car. There is no cell phone coverage on Webster or Red Cone. I asked her if she wanted me to pick-up Chinese carry-out in Bailey. She said she was pleased I wasn't dead and ordered Szechuan Tofu. I got Combo Chow Mein. I have got to say I don't worry much about calories after a jaunt on my 907.
Thanks for reading my blog.