A Fat Tire Day In The Mountains

Please note this piece is co-authored by Salsa sponsored rider Brett Davis and Kevin Sainio

Fatbikes are more than just bikes—they can be a means to an end. Where once only Jeeps, ATVs and hikers roamed, these two-wheeled beasts now share the land. Outdoor enthusiasts can now utilize bikes to access their favorite peaks and fishing holes. The word utilitarian comes to mind. No longer are you riding your bike just to bike, now you can have other goals in mind and being on two wheels is a beautiful bonus.

We started our latest adventure in the La Plata Mountains. Located just minutes away from Durango, Colorado, it is a mountain range steeped in mining history. The range is bisected by a steep mountain canyon which is bordered on both sides by peaks towering over 13,000’. Given the abrupt increase in elevation from the valley floor to the high basins, access to the summits of the range is difficult.

With rich deposits of gold and silver found in the 1870’s, the La Plata’s became a haven for miners. These hard men overcame the access issues by building rugged roads into the high basins where the valuable ore they sought was in abundance. These “roads” haven’t been maintained for years and are both loose and steep…perfect for Mukluk riding. Our objectives for the day were to: (1) Ride an old mining road high into Boren Basin; (2) Climb a snow couloir; (3) Summit West Babcock Peak (13,080’); (4) Traverse a jagged ridge aptly named the “Knife”; (5) Descend safely back to the bikes; and (6) Ride the fatties back to the valley floor. It was going to be an epic day in the mountains!

Looking down into La Plata Canyon from Boren Basin...

Gaining elevation quickly was the primary goal for miners, so to say that our road was steep is an understatement. There were several hike-a-bike sections that were just too loose and steep to be ridden. What we could ride was done in granny gear…slow and steady. Every switchback seemed steeper than the last. As we exited the trees and entered the high alpine zone, scree fields had to be ridden. The bikes handled the loose rock without a problem. Both the unique sound of our wheels rolling over broken talus and our laughter at being able to ride in such terrain broke the silence of the beautiful day. One final climb led us to the end of the road where we stashed our bikes in the trees and had a bite to eat. A look at the GPS profile revealed a near vertical line. We had ascended over 2000’ in a two short miles.

A break in the climbing into Boren Basin (Kevin - left, Brett - right)

The Mukluk and Kevin rolling over the scree...

We began the ascent to West Babcock by hiking over loose talus. With the angle steepening, the talus soon turned to snow and we were forced to kick steps to the saddle. A final short scramble led to the summit of West Babcock, the starting point of the ridge traverse. Upon taking a summit picture and signing the summit register we began to assess the “Knife.”

The ridge from afar looks like a house of cards, ready to collapse at any moment. But this is the La Plata’s, and loose rock is the norm. We proceeded slowly, checking hand and foot holds carefully. Surprisingly, the rock was fairly solid with most of the loose stuff having fallen into the basins far below us. The ridge is exposed, towering 2000’ above the basins on either side. The views were spectacular with the enormity of the mountain range spread before us. Without a cloud in the sky we could see for miles and even make out the expansive Utah desert.

The 'Knife'...

Kevin does a balancing act...

The end of the ridgeline traverse is marked by a short down climb into the lower saddle of Spiller Peak (13,123’). From there we began the descent back to our bikes. Half walking, half sliding through loose rock, we carefully made our way down. Rock soon turned into a steep meadow where the wildflowers of Colorado were in abundance. Columbines, Indian Paintbrush, and a dozen other varieties of flowers dotted the landscape.

A field of Columbine dominates the view back up to the 'Knife'...

After a final scree field we returned to our bikes to find a few surprises. Brett’s bike gloves and helmet, as well as Kevin’s bike seat had all sustained damage. In our absence, some four-legged creature had visited our two-wheeled beasts and had a chew party seeking some much-needed salt. Despite our casualties, we were looking forward to our descent back to the truck.

The damage done by a salt-deprived chipmunk or marmot...

What took us over an hour to ascend, took just minutes to descend. The road was steep and rough, filled with large rocks, fallen trees and troughs created by fast flowing water. Fat tires made quick work of the obstacles and it was hard not to smile. Fifteen minutes after leaving the basin we had descended 2000’ and were back at the truck sipping a well-deserved beer. What a great day in the mountains!

Brett taking his Mukluk through one of the rock gardens...

Big wheels keep on rolling...


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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.


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sean | July 16th, 2012

Beautiful post.  Thank you.

By the way…was hoping the 2013 bikes would be up on the site today?

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cmherron | July 16th, 2012

THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!  Sweet adventure!  Colorado is such a prime place for fatbiking because there are soo many different kinds of environments here!  We have snow, sand, scree, etc, etc; a perfect playground for a Mukluk.  I am now jealous and wishing I wasn’t sitting at my desk here at work.  I guess my mind will be elsewhere today.  Thank you!

William "Doc" Wenmark | July 20th, 2012

Great to see the guys in the mountains.  Just finished the BTC 462 mile six day tour on my Mukluk running the Black Floyds.  Only Fat Bike on the tour.  Gave out a bunch of OMG test rides.  The bike is not what people see, it is a sweet ride.  Last year completed my 15th Leadville Trail 100 MTB race on my Mukluk, never been attempted or completed before.  Finished in 11 hours 27 minutes.  This year I want to take the Mukluk under 11 hours at Leadville for my 16th finish at the age of 65.  Training everyday in Leadville.  Taking the Mukluk over the Continential Divide of Haggerman Pass over to Aspen and back to Leadville this next week.  This bike is the ATV of cycling.  You can go anywhere with all the confidence that the bike will stay with you steady all the time.  BTW…it will also make you skinny and very FIT. Happy to see more and more Fat Bike leading the way to new adventures and fun.  Game on and Semper Fi, Doc Wenmark PS.  Salsa guys, thank you for the super cool belt buckle for being the first ever to finish the LT-100 on a Fat Bike.  How about a new Salsa Grey kit for this years event?  Medium top, large bibs?  Here’s hoping Christmas comes early…thank guys.

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Brad | July 26th, 2012

No helmets? The trip looks epic however :-)

Arlie | September 21st, 2012

Hey there! I just would like to give you a huge thumbs up
for your great info you have here on this post. I’ll be coming back to your blog for more soon.

Doc Wenmark | March 2nd, 2013

Long over due time to up-date the Adventures of my Salsa Fat Biking.  Last August I did use my Salsa Mukluk in my 16th Leadville Trail 100 race and for the second time on a Fat Bike took it under ll hours as planned, albiet 10:59.  I then took my Fat Bike to the World Senior Games in St. George Utah for two days of mountian bike competition.  NO ONE expect me to have a chance with my Mukluk against all the racers and light and fast mountain bikes.  I showed everyone what a fat bike with a good engine can do.  I won the 65-69 age group Gold Medal and championship for 2012-13.  In the cross country event the closet bike was 4 minutes back.  Then on up to MN for the Chequmongon 40.  I finished 9th in the 60-64 age group (I was not 65 until December) This year I will try to make the podium in the 65-69 age group where I was only a couple of minutes out of 1st?  On my Mukluk?  I expect to see more Fat Bikes at Leadville this year for my 17th finish.  Last year there were two other fat bikes.  I will defend my Gold medal again at the 2013 World Senior Games going Fat again.  Along the way more Fat Bike adventures, 100 mile MN Ironman.  100 mile Almonzo, 460 mile BTC 6 day tour in June, 122 mile Triple ByPass in Colorado, 100K Eagle River, and lots of miles of showing others that Fat Bikes are not just for snow.  The only time I will be of my Salsa Mukluk this year will be the Mount Evans Hill Climb in July from Idaho Spring to the 14,000 sumit of Mt Evans.  I am in the Cat5 65-69 20 man peleton to take on the 28 mile climb.  I will ride my road bike, but can guarentee that my Salsa legs will make my road bike FLY.  The Salsa Fat Bikes are ATV’s of cycling and more fun than the law can allow.  Ride Fat, Pedal Hard.  Semper Fi, Doc Wenmark
Ps.  At the Denver Bike Builders show the 20# Fat Bikes are here.  Now the 21 year old pro who will set some fantastic marks in competition on a Fat Bike.  Let’s roll.

Bryon | December 11th, 2013

I wanted to thank you for this excellent read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it.
I have got you bookmarked to look at new stuff you post_

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