Ride the Pass will help remove old fencing from high peaks east of Aspen | PostIndependent.com

Ride the Pass will help remove old fencing from high peaks east of Aspen

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Ride the pass, help a mule.

That could be the rallying cry for cyclists participating Saturday in the annual Ride For the Pass fundraiser benefiting the Independence Pass Foundation.

One of IPF's major projects this year will be harnessing a U.S. Forest Service mule string to haul metal rebar and heavy cable out of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness south of the summit of Independence Pass, according to IPF executive director Karin Teague.

The project is part of the foundation's ongoing effort to get remnants of massive old snow fence out of the high country. The Forest Service erected the fencing on Mountain Boy Ridge in the 1960s in an effort to collect snow and boost spring runoff to the eastern slope. The project was abandoned, but the snow fencing was left behind.

Former IPF executive director Mark Fuller toiled for years to remove some of the fencing. A helicopter was used in fall 2010 to remove about 20 tons of metal.

Teague said a lengthy process was required to get a permit for use of the helicopter in 2010. Motorized and mechanized uses are banned in wilderness. Exceptions are rare for cases that don't involve rescue or body retrieval.

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So that's where the mule train comes in. Teague said school groups and work details comprised of inmates from the Buena Vista Correctional Facility have been gathering the remaining pieces of the snow fence for removal.

"It's something we've been working on the last couple of years," she said.

Rebar for the fencing was hammered and screwed into the high tundra. Getting it out isn't easy, Teague said. It's ongoing.

Mountain Boy Peak and the ridge leading to it are over 12,000 feet in elevation, so the work conditions are tough. Nevertheless, it's one that school groups call the most rewarding, according to Teague. They will get plenty of chances to reap rewards this summer.

"It's a big push for us to get as much out of the ground and stacked as possible," Teague said.

She learned over the winter that the Forest Service would make its mule string for the Rocky Mountain Region available for the project in mid-September.

Dave Condit, deputy forest supervisor for the Pike and San Isabel National Forest, said either a 12- or six-string mule team will be used for the Mountain Boy job. They are large, sturdy, well-trained animals that are used for backcountry projects often involving wilderness, he said.

While the string has been stationed in the southern part of the Rocky Mountain Regional for some time, they will be transferred back to the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming at the end of the summer, so availability for project such as Mountain Boy Peak may diminish.

Teague hopes that all remaining rebar and cable will be stacked and ready for the mules to take off the mountain.

"We're shooting for all of it," she said.

Another prime project IPF has planned this summer is working with partners to place a turnpike on the trail that leads to Linkins Lake. The trail to the lake splits off the Upper Lost Man Loop trail and climbs steeply to a bench. There is a wetland at the top of the bench at the approach to the lake. People tromp all over the fragile area in an effort to keep their feet dry.

The goal is to create a turnpike — a path created by rocks — for about one-tenth of a mile, Teague said. The project depends on successfully finding rocks in the area and moving them on-site, she said.

IPF will undertake the project with Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, Wilderness Workshop and the Forest Service.

If enough volunteers turn out, the coordinators will also consider placing a turnpike or replacing timbers for a stream crossing over Lost Man Creek about 1 mile upstream from the upper trailhead. An avalanche regularly wipes out the bridge, Teague said. Creek crossings are difficult into summer on years with average runoff, which might not be a concern this year.

scondon@aspentimes.com

24th ANNUAL RIDE FOR THE PASS

Independence Pass Foundation will host its 24th annual Ride for the Pass on Saturday.

The ride has a twist this year. Pedal-assist e-bikes will be allowed.

“I don’t think we’ll have a huge number (of e-bikers),” said IPF executive director Karin Teague.

However, allowing e-bikes could draw newcomers to the event. She knows of some couples with one rider stronger than another. One rider uses pedal-assist so they can enjoy rides together, she said.

The ride has two finish lines. Everyone will start at the winter closure gate about 5 miles east of Aspen. A family-friendly finish line will be located at the Weller Lake turnout, slightly more than 2 miles from the start. The regular finish line is at the Independence ghost town, 10 miles from the start.

The Aspen Cycling Club will hold a competitive race. Racers will launch at 10 a.m. E-bikes will start about 10 minutes later and recreational pedal-power bikers will start immediately after e-bikes.

Teague said registrations are rolling in at a steady pace because the weather looks so good.

“Weather is always the number one factor,” she said.

The event is a great way to take advantage of riding the pass while Highway 82 remains closed to vehicles. It is scheduled to open May 24.

The event nets about $20,000 for IPF and, just as important, builds important awareness about its mission and projects. The event couldn’t be pulled off without numerous sponsors, Teague said.

The event receives a permit from the U.S. Forest Service for up to 500 participants, but it’s never reached that high, Teague said. Maybe this is the year.

After the event, riders can continue to ride to the summit of Independence Pass, but the 5 miles from the ghost town to the summit is unsupported.

Preregistration and a waiver can be found at https://www.independencepass.org/ride-for-the-pass/ or in person at Limelight Hotel. Online registration is available until Friday at 7 p.m.

The fee is $45 for individuals, $75 for families for the ride to Independence, and $25 for individuals and $50 for families for the ride to Weller. Fees go up the day of the ride, so preregistration is worthwhile.

Rider packets with a number plate, information and schwag will be available in the lobby of the Limelight from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday.

Registration will also be available the morning of the race near the start area but anyone registering Saturday must be there by 9 a.m. to be timed during the ride.

A post-ride party will be held at the St. Regis Hotel from 1 to 3:30 p.m.