Today was the day I would have to cross Wolf Creek Pass. I was pretty thoroughly intimidated by it. I had been told it was a 24 mile climb at 7% grade. When I drove it in reverse a few weeks ago with my son, it looked really really hard.

Upon our arrival at the house of our WarmShowers hosts yesterday, I made the Pass a topic of discussion. Merlin (yes, that’s his real name) said simply, “Put your mind in neutral and your bike in low.” I also reviewed the elevation profile and found that the ascent was 8 miles, not 24. I liked the new information and I slept well last night.

Here’s a video of what the beginning of the ascent looked like to me. 

And here’s how I looked in motion.

Here’s how I looked from afar. 

David took this picture from a road off the main road.

I was smiling most of the way up. Susie said, “It looks like you are enjoying this.” I said, “I’m enjoying that I can do it.”


Susie also captured me on video saying, “I am moving and it doesn’t hurt.” The information about the pitch was exaggerated. While there were some segments of 7 and 8%, most of it was 5 to 6%, not that bad. And no mile marker has the pull of a loving friend and a supportive sibling, cheering me on from turnoff to turnoff. It took me 2 hours to climb the 8 miles to the summit.


A tourist we met at the summit said the phrase that went around in their car as they passed me was “legs of steel.” What I had was lots of training on all the hardest hills in my area that built my confidence as much as my legs.

What I needed for the descent was “nerves of steel.” I learned to feather brakes, alternating gentle application of them as needed. The descents are harder than the ascents for me, because I fear going too fast and losing control.

As soon as I started descending, I turned on my action cam. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I had only 13 seconds of time left on the memory card, so here is my very short video of the beginning of the descent. It’s been filmed by others, so you can get a more complete feeling for it hereOr best of all, you can go descend it yourself.

Speaking of which, what are you talking yourself out of or letting someone else talk you out of?


Ride details

Start location: Pagosa Springs CO

End location: South Fork CO

Distance: 52.2 miles

Cumulative distance: 990.3 miles

Elevation gain: 4117 feet

Strava link:


11 thoughts on “Intimidation

  1. I like that “put your mind in neutral”. It’s so true that worrying about what needs to be accomplished can be a roadblock to success. Congratulations on crossing the divide.


    1. We asked Merlin where he got that phrase. He’s an old-timer and he said it’s been around a long time. That phrase made a difference for me as did the fact that he rode to the pass and a little way up with me!!


  2. Congratulations, Lynn! What an accomplishment. Indeed, you’ve had several accomplishments so far, with more to come. It seems to me that sometime last week, you passed the one-quarter mark of your trip, and in the next few days, you’ll pass the one-third mark. Where will you pass your one-half mark–your personal “Great Divide”?


    1. Today we hit the 1000 mile mark! I’m thinking rides day by day now so not thinking ahead to the halfway, though it’s in my giant plan binder!
      La Veta Pass tmrw. Not nearly as tough as Wolf Creek but a pass nevertheless. I’ll have Susie for one more day then my brother Mike sags for several days.


  3. Hi Lynn! I’m a little behind on your posts.

    How do you determine the actual pitch? Descents scare me also…vivid projection at work…I know, you know, what I mean. I wondered if you ever talked to yourself while riding…I would be cheering myself on and attempting to steady my nerves! I am living vicariously through you! Go girl!


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