23 August 2011

Mount Evans

mountain goat break
This is my first (successful) 14er since 22 Sept 2008 and my first successful climb of Mount Evans since 23 Jun 2007.

Left home about 10 a.m. yesterday and started up the Mount Evans road on the mountain bike about an hour later. Mountain bike instead of road bike for two reasons: I am terrified the freeze cracks and sinkholes might trash my road bike, and possibly me, plus, I'm trying to get ready for Pikes Peak this weekend. I thought by riding the mountain bike up Mount Evans, Pikes Peak, which is a little steeper but much smoother, except for the unpaved portion, wouldn't seem as difficult.

Mt. Evans bighornI worried I might not make it to the summit on the mountain bike because I wasn't able to last year when I tried this same thing. Last year, I couldn't get past Summit Lake on the mountain bike. Granted, storms were the major culprit, but I was dead tired, too. I couldn't go any further.

Not this year. I made it to the top, and it didn't seem as hard as last year. Riding the mountain bike up a paved road didn't seem as difficult as it has in the past. I assume that's because we've been training on rough roads such as Pearl Pass, Schofield Pass, Cinnamon Pass and Engineer Pass.

The descent of Mount Evans on the mountain bike comparatively was a breeze. I have sworn for years I would never ride my road bike up Mount Evans again unless someone could take both my bike and me back down to Echo Lake, and yet, I tried again twice earlier this summer. On both attempts, I gave up because the pavement buckles are so treacherous. I didn't know until now if I could make it to the top.

When I learned I would have an hour less on Pikes Peak this year, I calculated how fast I'd need to go to make it to the top. I'd have to average 4.5 mph and keep my rest stops brief, under a minute.

Goliath fireweed gardenTwo weeks ago, I learned in Deer Creek Canyon that if I focus too much on my speed, trying to stay above 4.5 mph the entire climb, all I got was an increase in rest stops to breathe. Counterproductive. So on Mount Evans, I decided to just ride my pace and not let anything but mountain goats and wildflowers distract me. At the summit, I would check my average, and I'd know whether I could make it up Pikes Peak.

About a mile above Summit Lake, I became discouraged. I was tired, and I'd dropped to 3.8 mph several times. I thought the cause was lost; I thought the quest was hopeless. I wanted to turn back.

So I pulled over, leaned my bike against a rock, sat on another rock and ate a chocolate hazelnut butter with sugar-free raspberry jam sandwich on multigrain whole wheat bread. It worked like magic! I got back on my bike about three minutes later (all my other breaks, except for the mountain goat break, were less than a minute), and I made it to the top stopping only five more times, no depression, no despair, no worrying.

At the top, I took a picture of my bike at the elevation sign and checked the altimeter, shocked to find out it was nearly right on target. 14,135! My road bike altimeter claims I was at 18,000 feet atop 10,857-foot Wolf Creek Pass last summer.

14,130Then I checked the average. I couldn't believe my eyes. I'd climbed Mount Evans on a mountain bike at 4.7 mph! Tears began spurting from my eyes because I knew I could make the summit of Pikes Peak now! Unless the wind stops me.

This truly was a fun ride, perhaps the most fun I've ever had on Mount Evans. The school's-in-session, weekday traffic wasn't as out of control as weekends during summer when school is out. The tourists were ultra friendly. The weather was perfect. Wildflowers are almost all gone, but I found three garden-like patches of fireweed, stonecrop and paintbrush.

On the switchbacks below the summit, non-Colorado cars would pull over, and drivers would call out through the window, "What you're doing is so inspiring!" Or, "You're almost there!" Or, "Are you part of that tour that's going on right now?" (The USA Pro Cycling Challenge is ascending Monarch Pass as I type.)

On the summit of Mount Evans, a man from a 600-foot elevation town told me he couldn't imagine riding a fat tire bike up this mountain because he was having difficulty just walking in the parking lot. Another man, who said he's at six feet of elevation when he sleeps in his own bed at home, asked if he could take a picture with my bike.

I've vowed all year I would not be swept again this year. There are lots of variables, and it is possible I might not make it. Whatever happens, I've given it my best.

In theory, I should be able to make it to the summit of Pikes Peak in six hours and six minutes, six minutes after the medal cutoff, but 24 minutes before the broom wagon. This year, The Lizard is riding, too, and he will be powerful motivation because he'll race to the top, then descend to me and go up a second time at my pace, encouraging me the entire way, making me feel like a pro by cheering, "Up, up, up!" and "Allez! Allez!"

Just seeing his smiling face coming back down the mountain may be enough to get me to the top. But I am packing a couple of chocolate hazelnut butter with sugar-free raspberry jam sandwiches on multigrain whole wheat bread. Just in case.

4.7 mph, on fat tires!


  1. I wish you could have heard me whistling | cheering | stomping my feet and clapping my hands all at once, reading this!

    Your training has certainly paid off and you are creating your own recipe for success as you go.

    So fiercely happy for you, and so incredibly proud of your determination and effort.

    Broom wagon? Perish the thought.

  2. I'll be cheering you on from California!

  3. Clap, clap....clapping and cheering very, extremely loud!...Love the photos too!

  4. Chocolate and carbs to the rescue!

    Seriously, a mountain bike? How much extra weight is that, not to mention the fat tire issue? You go, girl! (And how very brave of you to descend that mountain.)

    I was SO excited to read your final stats. Woo hoo! All that training has paid off.

    Counting down until Sunday ... and don't forget those sandwiches.

  5. I hope that your confidence is soaring after climbing up Mt. Evans on a fat-tired heavy bike at a good pace! Way to go. How often in life do we think that the cause is lost, the quest is hopeless... but then if we keep pushing toward our goal, we discover that we were wrong? I'm glad that you were wrong.

    As always, beautiful photos.

  6. I have read this a few times. Just this story is so inspiring. It helpes me even though I don't do what you do. Oh heavens. LOL I just had to let you kow I keep reading this and I am so happy for you.It is funny what or mind can do to us. :-) Thinking of YOU.


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