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Day 30: The Highest Road in the USA (Mt. Evans)

Updated: Aug 30, 2022


At 5:00 AM I was woken up by my alarm and I quickly ate some yogurt, bread, and brie for breakfast. Just after 6:00 AM, I was ready to go. The forecast called for some rain in the afternoon and the advice I got from Stan was that I should be off of any 14,000 foot peaks by 1:00 PM because the weather can change so rapidly in the afternoon at that elevation. It was a little nippy in the morning, but I warmed up quickly since from the moment I rolled out the motel, I would be riding uphill for the next 30 miles and 7,000 vertical feet.


Luckily for me, Idaho Springs is right next to the start of the Mt. Evans climb. The grades of roads in Colorado are never particularly steep. I think the average grade of the 30 mile climb is around 6% and doesn't ever go above 10%. Some people claim that the Appalachians are harder than the Rockies because the grades tend to be far steeper. The climbs themselves are far shorter because of this. I find the climbing in the Rockies is obnoxious for the reverse reason. The climbs are far longer and take forever. My GPS said that I would be descending around 100 feet in total over the course of the 7,000 foot climb.


Mt. Evans is the highest paved road in the USA. The road goes to around 14,130 feet. However, the mountain itself goes a little higher so I would be reaching over 14,200 feet today. I habitually underestimate altitude, but as I climbed higher up on the mountain I didn't seem to be having too much of an issue. However, my drone warned me with a whole lot of text that I did not read, that it was not meant to be flown at altitudes this high. I was not even halfway up the climb... I think having been in Colorado for a bit and doing the Colorado Trail had allowed me to acclimate well at this point.

My climb was pretty slow, not because I was feeling the altitude, but because there are a million switchbacks and at every single one I would stop and film a little sequence of me going up. Near one of these switchbacks I would meet Simone! She is a photographer who had driven up to Mt. Evans for some photos, but also offered to take some photos of my ascent! This issue with doing solo travel is I almost never get action shots of me riding. I can get video, but you won't be able to see that video on this blog, so whenever someone offers to take photos of me, I am eager to accept. She knew I wouldn't be getting many good photos of myself and took a bunch of awesome photos despite being on the way down when I met her because even in a car she was feeling the altitude and it was making her lightheaded.

As I shot the videos of me on all the switchbacks, I would look down the mountain and I could see another cyclist slowly gaining on me. I decided that even with my videos on every switchback, I would not let that rider catch me. I rode faster up the rest of the mountain. To me it felt like that scene in the Princess Bride where the giant is climbing up the cliffs and they keep looking back only to see the man in black constantly gaining on them. I did manage to make it to the top just a minute or two before the other rider, Bruce! Bruce ultimately turned out to be an awesome guy, much like the man in black! We chatted on the top for a little bit as I took some photos of the local wildlife. He's a local to the Colorado area and he would follow me across the rest of my adventure! I'll be sure to stay in touch with him going forward.

I really had a fantastic time on the climb up to Mt. Evans, and I think it would be really fun to do the annual race to the top when I'm not focused on videography and photography! I was still feeling pretty good at this point, so after talking with Bruce and some others, I climbed up from the end of the road to the top of the mountain.


Here's the road:

And here's the top of the mountain with a borrowed sign:

But, as you can see in the photo above compared to the first photo in today's blog, the clouds were coming in fast. Less than an hour passed between those photos and the weather really can come out of nowhere. At the start of the ride, the sky was entirely devoid of any clouds at all and now I was starting to get rained on a little bit. It was time to get down off the mountain. After all, I still had over 75 miles of riding to do that day and another 4,000 feet of climbing to reach Winter Park, my destination.


Returning down the exact way I came, I ran into Bruce one more time before I got back to my motel well after normal checkout time. Sure enough, Christie had no issue with my late arrival as we chatted for a bit while I finished getting the rest of my gear on my bike. With more rain in the forecast, I left before too long, but I would highly recommend Bearadise Motel to anyone going through Idaho Springs. One of the best aspects of Colorado (besides the awesome mountains and forests) were the people. I didn't meet so many great people in any other state! The best example of which I would be meeting the next day! But for now, I would be riding over the Continental Divide, again.

Berthoud Pass was another prime example of Colorado's fascination with really long and low grade climbs, but after a little showering of rain I was up and over and heading down towards Winter Park. I would be racing in the mountain biking nationals held in Winter Park, so long as I could find a bike. The races were set to start in a few days, but wanting to be able to rest my legs, I reached out to a Warmshowers host, Bill. Not far from Winter Park, and being understanding of my desire to rest my legs, Bill was allowing me to stay for nearly a week at his house for free! Usually, with Warmshowers, you stay only one day and maybe two if you really need a rest or are experiencing some kind of mechanical issue. I really could not appreciate Bill more for being open to hosting me for so long as I would end up spending twice as long as intended in Winter Park and meet some of the most awesome people of my trip there! Bill had everything ready for me upon my arrival at his house, despite him being at work at the time. I would also have my own bed for my stay there. It was perfect, and after climbing over 11,000 feet and riding for more than 100 miles I was exhausted and ready to use it. Before too long I was out...


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Just now catching up on your posts, Peter. They are FANTASTIC as always...

How can anyone ride 100 miles and climb 11,000 feet in one day?!?!

You are super human!!!


XO

Cindy

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