Monarch Pass, 11,312 feet. We jumped on our bikes and started to climb....not far, but it was up. Initially on a jeep track, then a lovely piece of single track. Then for about 2km some more jeep track before hitting some more gentle climbing single track. Spectacular sort of sums it up. Magnificent views both sides of the main divide, and on an easily ridable trail. The weather was even cooperating, and any climb (they all made you puff), could be followed by a photo stop. We rode for a couple of hours south to about Agate Creek, perhaps a couple of km too far for an easy return, as those 2km were downhill to a saddle, which meant uphill on the return trip. Uphill, and any technical bits at this altitude are a real test. Even little rises that in Hanmer you would grunt up, are a huge challenge, as you struggle for enough oxygen to sustain the effort. I admit that once or twice I looked and just said..."nope, it's not happening". We raced a huge thunderstorm back to the van, despite the uphill sections. Mostly was downhill, sweeping tracks, and so much fun, and the views were tremendous in this direction as well.
The storm hit just as we loaded the bikes onto the van, and we headed west to Crested Bute, in torrential rain. Our first choice of campsite was up a closed road, but we found another up Cement Creek. On driving out to town this morning, we passed loads a mtbs coming towards us. Maybe we have stumbled on something here.
Trail 401 has been recommended by many, so that is where we are heading. Up through Mt Crested Bute village to Gothic and the Trailhead. A 8km 4 wheel drive road ride, through stunning scenery, gets us to Schofield Pass 10,700 feet, then a 2km climb, zig zagging up to the saddle at 11300+ feet gets us to the start of the downhill. That zigzag was once again taxing. After every climb we were left gasping for O2. Reminded me of Tibet, where
you are undoing belts, buttons and zips to allow for maximum oxygen sucking. (Ju did mutter a few words about sadist track builders) But oh so worth the effort. 10km up from the van, and now 18km of superb downhill....and the views.....wow. One little black hole was a challenge. A rocky gully which was pretty slippery in bike shoes and unridable. But the rest was superb. Ju had a bit of a spill lower down and decided to miss the last section and ride the road.
And then the thunderstorm hit. Lightening, hail and thunder. Suddenly the trail was very slippery, muddy and technical. I got very muddy, wet and cold, but what a blast. A fantastic ride. A great day. Creste Butte, the new favorite. And then the fantastic Mexican meal at Donitas Cantina. Triple A+. The very best Mexican we've had since arriving, and Ju rates the margaritas really highly as well. Go to the top of the class Creste Butte. I think we are going to have to stay another couple of days.