| My first 14er - and on two wheels :)
This happened way back in 2006 when I was living in Englewood during a summer internship. On the day before I left to drive back home to Memphis I decided it was time to bike to the top of Mt.Evans. Two months previous to this a coworker, who was also an avid cyclist, informed me about a ride to Echo Lake from Bergen Park with possible Mt.Evans summit. At this point I assumed that as in Memphis during this time of the year there would be no reason for anything beyond arm warmers. Wrong. I made it to Echo lake while following a fast as all hell woman and trying to remain tough. It was clearly too cold and she made me feel a little better when she admitted that it didn't look like anyone would be making it to the top today no matter what clothes you were wearing. I'm sure one of the few hundred people that started must have made it up there though.
Anyway fast forward a few months a with the addition of some much needed gear I was ready for the second attempt. This time I had a real softshell riding jacket, some knickers, toe covers, warmer gloves, a headliner, a rain shell, and a camelbak to stuff it all in. But god was all this heavy. My 15lb road bike suddenly didnt matter compared to the incredible weight of all the water, food and clothing I had decided to carry. I made up my mind that very few things were going to keep me from getting to the top of this mountain so I was going to bring plenty of food and water just in case the gift shop at Echo lake was closed. It wasn't.
As a night owl I surprisingly was able start out fairly fresh with about 6 hours of sleep and riding by about 9am. I quickly remember how hard even my lowest gear is on my bike (39x25) and started cursing myself for not addressing this beforehand. Enter my self developed probably all mental way of dealing with this...weaving. Yes on an open road with no traffic and not a chance of anyone riding past you (it was a Monday after all) I reasoned to my lonesome self that when going up a grade you can minimize the grade by creating your very own mini switchback by quickly weaving back and forth. Yes it looks completely ridiculous and is hardly noticeably effective but I found it quite enjoyable. Don't judge me This was taken just before descending to the gift shop.
It was an absolutely beautiful day and after about miles into the climb I realized Ihad to much gear on so off some if it went, then being so sweaty already I became cold, ugh just deal with it and lets pedal! Before the 3 mile decent to Echo Lake and the wonderful gift shop there I took a sweet picture of the bike at rest.
Upon arriving at the gift shop I was amazed at the amount of fully covered cars driving around. It turns out they were prototype KIA models doing some high altitude testing. The guys didn't care if I took pictures of the outside but quickly tried to cover the dash when I was pointing the camera in that direction. There must have been 30 or so of these cars and cross over type vehicles. One of the park rangers said that its pretty common and that Mercedes visits. Interestingly several Porsche models were actually photographed by the Google Street View team with their camera shod Prius which was later published onto Google Maps. Apparently this was very uncool to Porsche and the images have been removed for now.
Now for the really fun part, after gladly paying my 3 dollar fee to get past the guard I began the hard climb to the top. After several miles of climbing I was really beginning to wear myself out and had to get off the bike for some much needed stretching and breath catching. The weather was changing quickly as it was around noon and it began to rain. Luckily I had what was decent for the time being clothing and keep pushing on. I continued to chew road for what seemed like eternity and finally a slight downhill came. It was nice to have in that I knew this was free mileage but I also knew I'd just have steeper grades ahead.
At the bottom of this slight depression in the road are where the switchbacks began. Holy mother of all things unholy did it become hard right about then. Serious doubts began, more stretching and catching of the breath, the road just never ended. I still remember the big bad scruffy Harley rider giving me a big smile and a thumbs up, it really was a much needed encouragement. Cramps in my legs were getting worse and that not so easy easiest gear wasn't helping anything. I began to walk, after over 30 miles of climbing I was cracking and bonking, bonking hard. I'd bike when I could until my legs would literally stop, and slowly walk 20, 30 feet at a time. It was frustrating because after every switchback I would expect to see some sign of the top but all that came was more road, endless effing steep ace of spades road. Until the second to last switchback I saw my destination, what I had come to see. I made it, it wasnt pretty by any means but hell yea I made it!
This feeling of elation was quickly followed by the harsh reality that it was drizzling and more then likely about to start raining hard. I was also super super cold. I snapped a few pictures with the help of a friendly ranger and decided to try and warm up in the bathroom. Didn't work. I asked the ranger if he knew what the weather would do and he didn't have the slightest of a clue. I now realize after living in CO for awhile how stupid of a question that really was. At this point with the roads slick, my invaluable digits normally used for holding and braking the bike were near frozen and certainly numb, I decided to start looking for a ride down. Thankfully some really cool older guy in an X5 drives up. He was prepping for his ride the coming weekend. God I was thankful for him being ok with me putting my wet, road grime covered bike in this ubber clean BMW. I think my look of I might die if you don't help me was what pushed him over. As we braked down the mountain, windshield wipers in warp speed mode, I was able to pay my way by providing every bit of information I had just learned to him. He took me all the way down to the gift shop. After thanking each other and wishing each other luck we parted ways, I'm not sure we ever even exchanged names. The gift shop actually has a pretty sweet little restaurant and I took full advantage of this. I gorged until I nearly hated myself then jumped back on the bike.
Immediately I began climbing those 3 miles I had descended earlier but man did I feel so much better after drying out and eating warm soup and sandwiches. Those three miles went by fairly quickly and finally I could enjoy some sweet downhill. I ride fairly often but consider myself a mountain biker by trade so super fast downhills on a road bike really excite the balls to the wall part of my brain. Braking late and getting the bike to lean hard into banked turns with the tires howling and brake pads protesting with bits of smoke was just awesome. At one point I came upon an Xterra and feeling dangerous I drafted for more speed. This worked up until the driver became either annoyed by a bike going his speed or just uncomfortable by my closeness but either way he finally dropped me on a longer, flatter straightway. He looked like a pretty competitive younger guy so I'm betting that he just wasnt having any human pedal power beat his internal combustion engine. I didn't have a computer on my bike at the time but having been over 57mph since having one mounted I know this was darn close to that. I made it back to the car in one piece, grinning from ear to ear and fairly proud of myself. Thus I immediately headed to the only bike shop in town that I had any relationship with to brag This of course was a pretty bad idea since they knew people who could do the climb in about 1/3 of the time it took me. Humbling for sure. Hopefully I'll do this ride again soon and drag someone along to share the adventure. It sometimes seems pointless to have a 14er with a road up it but it sure was cool to be able to ride atop the highest road in well, just about anywhere. I highly highly recommend doing it! Just be a little smarter about it then me when it comes checking weather, start time, clothing, gearing choice, etc, etc, etc...CHEERS!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):