Ride Report; Granite Range, Negro Creek to Leadville Canyon

The Calico Hills and Mountains as I had left them Division (8533′) and South Donnelly (7719′) Peaks are snow covered

In planning this route I knew I was going to peak out at 7100′ yet my goal was to keep my elevation low to avoid the snow. Low and slow is a challenge in this terrain, when the road goes up, you go up! My last ride in the area, over the Calico Mountains was similar. I hiked for miles through snow and was out for 16 hours. But that ride was 70+ miles and this was only 37. No problem. Northern Nevada had a couple of snow events in between but it had been warm and sunny. Maybe it is mostly melted out. There is only one way to find out – go ride it.

Gorgeous conditions from the start, roads fast and frozen

I arrived north of Gerlach where Washoe County Road 34 turns to dirt at about 6:30 in the morning, dawn was breaking. By 7:00 I was rolling on my Falconer B+ down a frozen mud road. It looked like the weather events brought plenty rain to the lower elevations (~4000′). I was really impressed by the quality of road. I passed Iverson Ranch Reservoir and Negro Creek Ranch. After this the road was cobbled with larger stones. Up until this point, mile 7, I thought this route would be perfect for gravel riding. The cobbled dirt roads though made me appreciate my wider tire choice. I am not sure what lies under the snow but I am sure gravel riders with the 700×40+ tire sizes, willing to occasionally “under-bike”, would get a kick out of these roads.

Confluence and crossroads, Negro Creek descends from snow country starting at about 5500′

I came to a crossroads where the south, middle and north forks of Negro Creek converged. This looks like an intriguing point to explore some branching options, or use as a campsite in an overnight. There was already a stone fire ring of past camps. But it was shortly after I was on snow. At first I was breaking through a crust into several inches of heavy snow. I aired down my tires and was able to continue without breaking through the crust. Eventually the conditions changed enough that I was hiking with my bike. At times I was ankle, calf, and knee deep in snow. I figured it might get better ahead. Possibly with south facing exposure the sun had melted the snow away, or the winds swept most of the snow clear. That wasn’t the case. But I did find patches of waist deep snow. Waist deep snow was frustrating but not hopeless. I knew I had only “x” number of miles to go. My Garmin kept me on track when the snow completely obliterated any trace of a trail. The birds and animal tracks kept me company.

Looking into the Granite Range

The views were outstanding. Snow gives the mountains a particular quality, accentuating certain features that might appear flat when carpeted in green, brown, and gold. I didn’t see much wildlife but I saw tracks for rabbits, coyote, deer or antelope, wild horses and a few indistinguishable sets. I saw crows, magpie, and tiny song birds. I passed Shovel Springs and Leadville Troughs. There are plenty of opportunities to filter water on this route.

Shovel Springs, one of several I passed, not hot but productive enough to keep from freezing. Plenty of water on this route

Approaching the final climbs to Leadville Mountain there is a branch in the road to Grass Valley Ranch. This looks like an fantastic opportunity to explore once the route is snow free. The ridge above Leadville Canyon was windswept. I still had to hike the descent to Co Rd 34 as it was between calf and waist deep with snow. Hiking through the Leadville mining site was gorgeous. There were aspens and willows competing for sunlight in this abrupt canyon. The geology had intrigued prospectors with the chance for riches.

Like trying to photograph the setting moon, my photo does not quite capture the grandeur of these mountains, Division Peak
Prospecting Leadville Canyon

The final descent on a slightly muddy Co Rd 34, Leadville Canyon Rd, was welcomed after the miles of “postholing” in the snow. The canyon is beautiful and warrants its own ride. From where it turns to dirt to the Oregon border the road is just under 100 miles. Provided there are opportunities for water this could be a great out and back.

Leadville behind me, a damp but fast return to my starting point. Washoe County Road 34 will be a future outing

My set up for this ride was fairly standard. The Falconer B+ is proving to be the right tool for the job. By virtue of its construction and design it is light, nimble, and fun to ride. As a work horse it could be setup to carry 2 gallons of water and a week’s worth of food and gear. On this ride I carried 2.5 L of water, not an excess for the amount I perspired. A thousand calories of snacks or so, not enough but I am never hungry when I ride, were in my top tube bag. My seat bag had my first aide/survival pouch, my bike repair pouch, pump, rechargeable Niterider headlamp and extra layer of clothes. The bar mitts were particularly comfortable at the beginning and end of the ride. It is always a struggle to maintain proper nutrition, calories and hydration, on a ride and I need to remember a backup battery for my electronics.

Vittoria Polar Mountain Bike Shoe – Gear Review

This was only my second ride in this shoe. My first outing was the sloppy trip in the Desatoya Range and from the slushy snow to gross mud I thought the shoe performed beyond my expectations. But the ride conditions were otherwise moderate.

This ride started with cold dry temperatures (mid 20’s F) but by time it was sunny and warm I was postholing through wet snow. Here the shoes far exceeded my expectations. For hours my feet were warm and dry. Eventually enough snow and ice packed in the shoe and my feet were wet but comfortable. With hindsight a pair of snow gaiters would be a solution.

While summer shoes plus booties are the most common option for winter riding in most adventure touring conditions they are less than optimal. Last winter I toured with the heavy neoprene shoe covers from Pearl Izumi, dated for sure, but plenty effective except when the toe would peel back exposing the front of the shoe. With extensive hike-a-bike in snow and mud this would very difficult to manage. I wonder if the trapped moisture in the shoe cover breaks down the shoe upper prematurely.

Amazingly warm for how little bulk

I wear a size 8, I measure to a men’s 8 with a Brannock Device. I wear a size 42 consistently in my cycling shoes. This model was no exception. It uses the Boa lacing system and a velcro closure around a neoprene cuff. The toe box is roomy and comfortable and I have a good fit around the heel. I have weird shaped feet, especially around the ankle bones so finding a good fit especially out of the box is a challenge. The neoprene ankle cuff is very comfortable without being excessively bulky.

Full featured, excellent heel cup, great grip off the bike

The sole is pretty standard looking but the shoes come with a very aggressive set of replaceable toe spikes that I could appreciate on the hike-a-bike sections of this ride. Icy creek crossings were traversed with confidence, as if I had mini-crampons for my cycling shoes.

I wore thick Defeet Wollie Bollie socks as my go-to for thick, yet performance, winter socks.

Update from my latest ride; even after sub-freezing temperature in the pre-dawn, hours of hike-a-bike in mud and snow, and hours of riding after the sun had set my feet were comfortable. Not warm and dry, but comfortable. So I still believe these shoes exceed expectations.

2 thoughts on “Ride Report; Granite Range, Negro Creek to Leadville Canyon

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