Last licks, first licks in `mountain triathlon’ |

Last licks, first licks in `mountain triathlon’

Todd Hartley

A most unique sporting event hit the Roaring Fork Valley last Saturday morning when a handful of intrepid locals arose at the crack of dawn to participate in the second annual running of what could only be described as a springtime mountain triathlon.

Organized initially as a way to bridge the winter and summer seasons, the event started bright and early at the top of Independence Pass with 13 skiers hiking out along a ridge to ski Fourth of July Bowl back down to the highway on the Aspen side of the pass.

From there, 11 participants hopped on bicycles and rode about 28 miles down the pass and along the Rio Grande Trail down to Wilton Jaffee Park near Woody Creek.

From there four kayakers and 18 rafters completed the triathlon by riding the Roaring Fork River 11 miles down to the put-out near the Lazy Glen trailer park.

“It was great,” said event organizer Greg Paul. “But at the end of the day, we realized it was actually a heptathlon, because it also involved hiking and crossing the river, plus eating and partying afterward. So it was actually like seven events.”

Eleven competitors took part in all three legs of the triathlon, which could not in all fairness be considered a race since the participants all stayed in a group.

“It’s more a social thing,” said Paul. “Nobody’s in a hurry. By and large everybody sticks together. It’s not a race.”

The event organizers would like to make the triathlon an annual rite of spring, but Paul admitted that has quite a bit to do with Mother Nature cooperating.

Conditions have to be just right, otherwise the pass won’t have enough snow, or the river won’t have enough water.

“This was the only weekend with enough snow and enough water,” said Paul.

“Last weekend there wasn’t enough water because of that cold spell we had, and next weekend there probably won’t be enough snow.”

But with the conditions right, Paul’s triathlon idea, which was sound enough that competitors were willing to start hiking at 9 a.m. and not get off the river until about 6 p.m., just might catch on with the rest of the local crowd.

“It’s a reasonable way to get your last licks in on the last season with the skiing, and to get your first licks in on the new season with the biking and rafting,” said Paul.

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