There’s a new climb in town. Clear Creek County has recently finished paving the last 2 miles of Witter Gulch Road, which runs between Squaw Pass Road and Upper Bear Creek Road near Evergreen. While Witter Gulch lacked the sustained steepness of the dirt portion of Crawford Hill Gulch Road in Golden Gate State Park, its last 3 miles was still a sustained climb of almost 8% and featured multiple switchbacks to up the ante. The loop totals approximately 22 miles with a 2,700 foot elevation gain.
Shown above is one way to incorporate it into a longer loop, riding clockwise from Kittredge. Once past Evergreen Lake the traffic is light throughout the climb and the views of the impressive first and second homes along the creek will keep you entertained. If you ride the full loop the only cautionary stretch is between Bergen Park and the Kerr Gulch Road turnoff. There’s no way not to ride on the shoulder of the Evergreen Parkway. Minimize the unpleasantness (the shoulder is adequate) by cutting along Bergen Parkway. As you come flying down the Kerr Gulch Rd, remember that the surface of the last mile ranges from rough to very rough. Beyond that your only likely obstacles are random deer and elk in the road.
For those who ride from Denver and the Front Range, you can access this from Lookout Mountain and Genesee by riding a short and unsettling distance along the shoulder of I-70 between exits 252 and 254, by riding up from Morrison along the well-traveled Highway 74 (about 8 miles, winding, narrow, shoulder comes and goes), or from any number of nearby routes between Evergreen and Deer Creek Canyon. And there’s no reason not to start in Idaho Springs if you want to make a full day of it (75 miles, 8,400 feet). The profile below shows the route beginning and ending in Kittredge. You can find a Ride With GPS version with cue sheets and other goodies here.
The Deer Creek Challenge did not run in 2012 and may be gone for good. I’ll leave the maps up for their value. The Deer Creek Challenge bills itself as the toughest century in the country. And if you are counting only elevation gain they are probably right, since the DCC weighs in at 12,725 feet which is nothing to sneeze at. But the Triple Bypass comes close in elevation gain (10,990) and most of the Triple’s climbing is at altitude. DCC tops out at 8,700 while the Triple starts at 8,000 feet and climbs three times to 10,000, 11,000 and 12,000 feet. If you plug in these numbers to the oxygen calculators at Altitude.org you quickly discover that you’ve got 10% less oxygen at the top of Loveland Pass than you did at the top of the Black Mountain climb in the Deer Creek Challenge. So it is probably a push. But who really cares? They are both amazing and different rides and each appeals to different kinds of riders. More importantly, if you’re just learning about these two rides today, the Triple is filled by lottery with registration in early January each year. Today, there’s still room for you if you want to do the reverse Triple (Avon to Bergen Park) or the Double Triple. The DCC is first come-first served and there’s still space in all the rides (there are shorter variations on the long ride). Finally, where the Triple features long, uphill climbs that go on and on, the DCC is punctuated by medium and short length climbs, some of which are desperately steep. The DCC covers familiar ground to metro Denver riders (High Grade, Parmalee Gulch, Brook Forest) and throws in stretches that get less traffic (an out and back along Foxton Road to the N. Fork of the South Platte, City View counterclockwise, Black Mountain Road). The terrain is great, the riding difficult, and the organization is top notch. Add it to the list.