A Day Of Firsts

At 4:30 AM my internal alarm clock went off through the fog of a restless sleep. As my feet hit the bedroom floor my mind and body started to awaken with anticipated energy of the upcoming day’s adventure—it had the potential to be an epic day…sweet…

Ever since I moved to Durango, Colorado I have wanted to make a winter/spring climb and ski of one of the town’s signature peaks. Standing as a sentry over Durango, Silver Peak rises prominently to 12,496 feet. Its summit is not the tallest in the La Plata range, but it is the most recognizable, and picturesque from virtually anywhere in Durango. Gaining the summit of the peak is a worthy goal for most even in the warmest of months. Though not technically very difficult, it has a long approach with some steep scrambling. Once on the summit, one is welcomed with breathtaking views of Durango, the northern San Juan's, the rest of the La Plata range, and the desert country of New Mexico. One also gets to look into the giant alpine bowl, which is the crowning feature of the mountain’s east flank.

Silver Peak - 12496 feet...

Skiing this bowl has been on my winter tick list. My bike route to work each day provides me with a clear view of the bowl for nearly my entire ride. I always find my mind wandering to its snow-covered summit and the imagined feeling of dropping into the east bowl—center lining its face with smooth ski turns. Aside from the usual hazards that a winter ascent presents (avalanche dangers, short days, etc), perhaps the crux of the route is the even longer approach. Outside of winter, one can drive on a gravel forest service road to a drainage which leads to the peak’s west bowl and the eventual summit. In the winter, this road is impassable to all unless one has access to a snowmobile or has the fortitude to ski the five miles to the drainage (this typically isn’t feasible as it is another three miles up a steep drainage to the summit making one’s day a sixteen-mile round trip that will assuredly begin and end in darkness).

The advent of the fatbike made me start seeing what is possible on a bike in much different ways. With the bike’s ability to float through sand and snow, the dreamer in me began devising ways to utilize these fun machines to access terrain for other adventures and pursuits (i.e. backcountry skiing, canyoneering, surfing, etc). Needless to say, when my Salsa Mukluk arrived a couple of weeks ago I was eager to make my dreams a reality. The first order of business was to access backcountry ski terrain—to ride to, and then ski, Silver Peak.

Having designed and built my frame bags and other gear for the Tour Divide ride, I had thought a lot about how I would carry my backcountry equipment (skis, boots, poles, pack) on the bike. My ideas involved retrofitting a rear rack with PVC pipe for holding the skis (similar to what is often times utilized as ski holders on snowmachines) with a boot bag also acting as a rear pannier. Being anxious to do some snow riding, I decided to forgo the rack and PVC idea for a simpler method…transport the skis and poles across the handle bars utilizing an Ensolite pad and my gear sling. Now I realize this isn’t the most efficient of methods (for obvious bike handling reasons), but I believed it could work in the short term—especially on a forest service road where my wide load would not be inhibited by the tight trees of singletrack.

An unorthadox way to carry skis...but it worked...

Pedaling by headlamp the Mukluk easily rolled up the five snow-packed miles to Tirbircio Creek. What would have taken me more than a couple of hours to ski was covered in less than 50 minutes by bike. Before dawn broke I was skinning my way up the drainage towards my objective for the day. By 8:30 AM I was kicking steps up a steep couloir to gain the summit ridge.

Thousands of steps to the summit ridge...

Negotiating the summit ridge was a bit tricky as the snow conditions and cornices made the going slow and safe route finding interesting. By 11 AM I was on the summit of Silver Peak—wahoo! The views were some of the most rewarding I had taken in this ski season. It felt exhilarating to gaze down into the east bowl and realize I was about to drop in on a goal I have had for a long time. The snow conditions were stable and perfect and I was soon making my first turns down the bowl’s steep face. Sweetness! Before long I was at the bottom of the bowl and had to begin the climb back to the summit so I could ski the peak’s west bowl and descend back to my bike for a nice ride back to my truck.

Looking down the east face of Silver Peak toward Durango...

By 4:30 PM I made my last pedal strokes to my truck. What a great day! My first journey accessing the backcountry via the Mukluk was a success. Obviously, I have a few bugs to work out when it comes to transporting my gear, but overall, I learned that these amazing machines with their fat tires can be utilized for all kinds of new adventures. Oh what fun will be had in coming days!

My lone tracks in the west bowl...

This post filed under topics: Brett Davis Fatbike Mukluk Sponsored Riders

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Brett Davis

Brett Davis

I grew up in a military family where we moved 13 times before I left for college. Consequently, I have the continual urge to explore and travel having climbed, kayaked, and biked all over our amazing planet. My passion for the outdoors drives me to seek out adventures which often times combine multiple modes of travel or activities (i.e. biking to a wilderness area and then backpacking in to climb a high peak). "Keeping life simple" is a guiding motto of my life and for me, bike travel epitomizes simplicity.


Glenn Charles | April 13th, 2012

Great story.  I love the comment about fat bikes helping you to see new ways to use a bike, opening up new areas to explore.  With my Mukluk in tow, I could not agree more.

Scott | April 13th, 2012

Very nice adventure!  Combining bikes and skis together makes for a re-definition of “Dual Purpose” riding…  So - as far as transporting your skis, your PVC comment made me think of something:  A piece of larger-diameter PVC (maybe 5 or 6 inches), longer than your skis, cut in half length-wise, with a swivel mount at one end that would attach to the eyelets on the rear of a Wanderlust rear rack, and a fork attached at the other end, with a fat 26” or 29” MTB tire so you have a single-track capable machine that will haul your skis (or longer fishing poles, caber, or whatever else floats your boat).  Line it with foam, lay your skis in, and put some Anything Cage straps around the “tube” and you are rolling…  and sliding.

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John Shaski | April 26th, 2012

I am in awe!

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