Scratches on top of scratches is the price Brittany Konsella has paid for her title as the queen of TrailQuest.
This past Saturday, Konsella completed the contest brought by Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association (TA) to ride, run or hike all 750 unique singletrack trail miles throughout the Gunnison Valley. She mountain biked those routes, and is the first to accomplish the feat in TrailQuest’s second season.
But the off-the-beaten path, remote routes that have taken Konsella to the farthest reaches of Gunnison County in recent weeks took their toll.
“There are literally days when I would come back and my legs would be scratch over scratch and bleeding,” she said. “I’ve pretty much been scarred all summer from it.”
Konsella, of Crested Butte, wrapped up the project on Inter-Ocean Pass trail — a section of singletrack near Crawford. Just prior, however, she rode a nearby trail called Little Elk Basin to help put her over the 750-mile hump.
“Both of them actually weren’t that bad,” she said. “Some of the trails are not the best for riding, but these were really good. Both of them are fun descents.”
Konsella is no newbie to long-term feats of physical endurance. In 2011, she became the second woman to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks.
“I’m just somebody who always searches for goals,” Brittany Konsella said. “Skiing 14ers was obviously similar to that.”
Her husband, Frank, in 2008 became the fourth person ever to ski the 54 peaks — and, not surprisingly, sits in second place currently on the TrailQuest leaderboard with plans to follow in his wife’s footsteps in coming weeks.
TrailQuest is an outgrowth of the cbtrails app, which TA leaders commissioned Crested Butte’s Derrick Nehrenberg to create a few years ago amid the realization that existing trails software platforms had missed many of the routes in existence throughout the county.
“In the process, we found that we had one of the largest mountain-bike accessible trail networks in the world,” said Andrew Sandstrom, TA public relations manager. “We really wanted to encourage people to explore.”
Naturally, the contest that followed utilized the app Nehrenberg created and, paired with Strava, allowed a rider’s exact routes and mileage to be tracked. The intent of TrailQuest was to highlight many of those outlying, lesser-known routes and encourage the public to use them — thereby lessening resource damage in specific areas and reducing crowding on the most popular trails.
Sandstrom describes the 750-mile network as “the Gunnison drainage and essentially anything that touches Gunnison County.”
But many of those trails receive little use — resulting in challenges for navigation and required bushwhacking in places, as Konsella can attest.
In recent weeks, she’s spent significant time in the Crawford and Paonia areas simply to finish the project. That portion of the overall system was left until last both because of its distance from Crested Butte and the fact that the couple knew little about it.
“It’s really beautiful out there, but it’s kind of raw, rough and hard to travel through,” she said, noting that TrailQuest had the intended effect of encouraging exploration of her own backyard that she never would have otherwise.
“There are some trails that we rode because of this challenge that we would not have previously that now we would happily go back to,” she said, citing trails in the Fossil Ridge Recreation Area and near Sargents among them.
On the other hand, she won’t be returning anytime soon to the West Quakie trail east of Tomichi Dome or Lamborn trail near Crawford.
Konsella said she never expected to finish the project in a single year — especially with three jobs and many of the trails’ distances from home.
“I feel like there are a number of people in the valley that also could have been first,” she said.
Not least of whom is her husband.
“The competition between Frank and I was pretty strong,” she said. “It was pretty constant in a little bit of friendly and not so friendly badgering all the time.”
Konsella celebrated achieving her goal with a few post-ride beers at the end of the trail Saturday.
“The miles didn’t come easy because it was hot,” she said of the final ride. “I think the real celebration will happen when Frank is done too.”
(Will Shoemaker can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)