TR: Climbing Guides Ridge on Mount Crested Butte

It all started in the Gore. Natalia and I were on a backpacking trip, enjoying the beauty of summer. But, summer was quickly wrapping up for Natalia as she was beginning school in just a couple of weeks. We realized our schedules did not align well with her having weekends off and me having weekdays as my weekends.

Then I suggested, “You know, I don’t have to work until 3 pm on Saturdays. You should come down and we should climb Guides Ridge one weekend”. This past Saturday ended up being that weekend.

Guides Ridge on Mount Crested Butte

Guides Ridge located on the west side of Mount Crested Butte.

A few years back Frank and I attempted climbing Guides Ridge.
Frank Konsella climbing Guides Ridge

We got a good chunk of the way up it, but the last bit was particularly committing. I wasn’t sure I felt comfortable doing it without a rope. And, to put the icing on the cake, the weather was threatening. A bailout past this point was basically impossible.
Frank Konsella climbing Guides Ridge

So, we did the smart thing, and turned around. But, it ate at us. We don’t give up on objectives very easily. This time, I returned with Natalia, who was training to be a guide. And I was her practice on this low 5th class route.

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TR: From Crested Butte to Aspen- Hiking East Maroon Pass (20 Aug 2015)

The morning air was crisp. Frost-tipped plants decorated the sides of the trail. The winds blew and held the scent of the next season, all signs that fall was knocking on our door.
frosted plants

The southwest monsoon winds had shifted to northwest bringing the twinge of cool air. But, along with it came the smoke from the many forest fires in Washington and Oregon. Despite the haze in the air, it was good weather for a long hike.

A few years back, I hiked to Aspen via the more common West Maroon Pass. Since then, I’d been wanting to hike from Crested Butte to Aspen via East Maroon Pass, which is longer and therefore less crowded. I had tried periodically to get someone to join me for this hike but had been unsuccessful. Itching to do something different, I headed into the Wilderness alone. And I didn’t see a single person for 16 miles.

I began at the Judd Falls trailhead just after 8 am, following the Copper Creek trail toward Copper Lake and East Maroon Pass. It was a fairly late start for this hike, but no precipitation was in the forecast.
Copper Creek Trail in the morning.

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Best Beginner Mountain Bike Rides in Crested Butte

Crested Butte is one of the best places in the world to ride a mountain bike. But what if you’re looking for Crested Butte beginner trails? The elevation alone can make Crested Butte a tough place to learn. Most rides here are technically moderate- it’s the elevation gain and altitude that make it difficult. True beginner trails are tough to find. Trails often described as “beginner trails”, such as Snodgrass and the Upper loop, are actually a rough ride for a beginner. The best place for a beginner is definitely Crested Butte Mountain Resort, which has several designated beginner trails, and even a practice area. I would suggest buying a lift ticket, so you can get a lot of miles in while honing your technique. That said, there are other areas which an aspiring mountain biker should check out.


Wagon Trail

Wagon Trail in Crested Butte

Brittany enjoying a cruise down the Wagon Trail.

Distance: Varies
Level: Easy
Description: The wagon trail is a newer trail that traces the old wagon route up Kebler Pass. Largely paralleling the road, most of the trail is neither too steep nor too technically demanding for a beginner rider. The Wagon trail is also well-suited to beginners because it works equally well in either direction. Look for the Wagon trail on the north side of Kebler Pass road, and choose which sections you would like to ride.


Lupine Trail

Mountain biking Crested Butte Lupine Trail

Looking out over Nicholson Lake and the Slate River Valley on the Lupine trail.

Distance: 18 miles, including the lower loop
Level: Easy.
Description: While the Lupine trail is easy for riders with experience, brand-new riders may have some trouble with some of the sidehill sections. Still, the Lupine trail remains well suited for beginners, with only a smattering of technically demanding rocks and roots compared to most trails in the valley. Start at the Saddle Ridge subdivision in Mount Crested Butte (no parking here), and finish the ride with either a road ride back to town along the Slate River, or add the Lower Loop trail for more fun.

View DirectionsRead the Trip Report


Lower Loop

Mountain biking Crested Butte Lower Loop

A beautiful late fall ride on the Lower Loop trail system.

Distance: Varies
Level: easy
Description: Speaking of the Lower Loop, this is another good beginner ride. There are actually several trails that comprise the lower loop trail system. The GB loop is very steep and exposed, and not at all suitable for beginners. The “Lower Lower” loop is probably the best one to start on. These trails generally work well in either direction. Occasional rock gardens will challenge aspiring mountain bikers. This ride starts right from town.

View DirectionsRead the Trip Report


Cement Creek

Mountain biking Crested Butte Cement Creek trail

Flowers and scenery on the Cement Creek trail.

Distance: varies
Level: easy
Description: The Cement creek trail follows the road and creek of the same name for several different sections of trail. The lowest sections of trail are more difficult- but since they’re so close to the road, it’s easy to use the road if the trail proves too difficult. The upper section is one of Crested Butte’s best-built trails. Leaving the road at a switchback just past the Deadman’s parking lot, the first quarter mile is very difficult, even for experienced riders. Past that, however, the trail gets easier and traverses through flower-filled meadows.


Crested Butte Mountain Resort Frontside Route

Mountain biking Crested Butte Mountain Resort

A taste of what awaits on Awakening.

Distance: Varies
Level: Easy.
Description: If you don’t want to pay for a lift ticket at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, this would be one good loop to try. From the base area, go up on “up, up and away” to either Columbine or Painter Boy, then head down Awakening. Or, from the top of Painter Boy, continue up to the top of the Red Lady lift, and enjoy the twists and turns of Hot Dogger.
View DirectionsRead the Trip Report


Crested Butte Mountain Resort Backside Route

Mountain biking Crested Butte Mountain Resort

Heading up Prospector.

Distance: Varies
Level: Easy.
Description: If you don’t want to pay for a lift ticket at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, this would be another good loop to try. From the Snodgrass trailhead, head up Prospect road, and then look for the Prospector trail starting near the bottom station of the Gold Link chairlift. Or, simply head up the road itself. For the descent, head down the Meander trail. Parts of this trail are sidehilled, but the area is so beautiful, give it a try!
View DirectionsRead the Trip Report

One other option for a beginner ride is to take any of the dirt roads in the Crested Butte area. Gothic, Washington Gulch, Slate River, and Kebler Pass are all great roads to work on your endurance as well as your skills.
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Gear Review: 2015-16 Black Diamond Carbon Megawatt – More than just a powder ski

Black Diamond’s Megawatt ski has been a favorite for both inbounds and backcountry skiers alike for quite a while. Through the years, this ski has been redesigned, with slight changes being made along the way. A few years ago, the Megawatt was joined by it’s lighter brother, the Carbon Megawatt. This article will review the performance of the 2015-16 Carbon Megawatt.

Brittany Konsella checking out alternate lines on Mount Audubon with Carbon Megawatts on her back.

Brittany Konsella checking out alternate lines on Mount Audubon with Carbon Megawatts on her back.

Redesign

The 2015-16 Carbon Megawatt is basically the same as the 2014-15 version. However, significant changes to were made from the 2013-14 version to the 2014-15 version, making the ski even lighter.

Construction

Brittany enjoying spring skiing conditions on Carbon Megawatts.

Brittany enjoying spring skiing conditions on Carbon Megawatts.


The Black Diamond Carbon Megawatt is built with an industry-favorite paulownia core. After testing several skis built with paulownia as their foundation, I can attest that this wood has the capability of performing well as a core in skis. This core is sandwiched in between a layer of carbon fiber and pre-preg fiberglass, and reinforced with ABS sidewalls (not capped) to make the ski more torsionally rigid. Throw in the topsheet, base, edges and a few other things, and that’s more or less how the Carbon Megawatt is made.

Carbon Megawatt is not JUST a Powder Ski

I had the opportunity to test this ski for a couple of runs at SIA in 2014, but after spending many more days on it in 2015, I am surely impressed. The Black Diamond Carbon Megawatt does everything it’s supposed to do and more.

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