Saturday, November 2, 2013

Pikes Peak
September 7th, 2013


The second time turned out to be the charm for Pikes.  With good weather predicted for the weekend I decided on Thursday to down to Colorado Springs and giving biking up Pikes a second try.  Once again all the regulars were busy, so it would be a solo trip again.

I left home at 4 a.m. for the two and a half hours drive to.  As I pulled out of the driveway the skies
still held the night’s stars, but not a cloud in sight. My spirits were high, and my doubts were nonexistent as I headed south. Looking at the Pike Peaks Highway website before the trip it looked like there was one section of road that still was not paved. I was not sure if it was still that way, but it was a good enough reason to bring the mountain bike instead of the road bike. It sounded like a good enough reason, though the real reason was due to the lower gearing on the mountain bike.

Once down to the start of the highway I had to wait at the gate for an hour for the road to open.  By the time it did open at 7:30 a.m., there was a long line of cars and motorcycles.  It looked like it was going to be a busy day on the road.  There were two extra events going on, on the road today: a downhill skateboard race and filming for the movie Fast and Furious 7.  Because of these events I was not sure where I would be able to park my car before beginning my ride. My hope was able to be able to make it up to the old ski area parking at 10,600’.  I figured that this would give me about an 8 mile ride with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain. I was able to work my way up to the ski area parking and found a parking spot between a bunch of cranes they were using for filming. After getting geared up the movie site organizer helped me shuttle my car a little lower down the road to the Halfway Picnic Area, then back up to my bike so that my vehicle would be out of their way for the day.  I figured I would not mind the extra mile and a half on the way down, but I really did not want to add it to the start of my day, so I was grateful for the ride back to the ski area parking area.

As I planned this trip, I was worried if I would feel like I cheated by biking up rather than hiking, however, this was soon put to rest. The first two miles of the ride felt the steepest of the day. I am not sure if it actually is, or if it was just due to not being warmed up yet. Either way by the end of the first mile I was starting to doubt if I was going to be able to make the summit.  My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest, quickly followed by both lungs. I guess when attempting to ride to the summit of a 14er, one should get on a bike at least once or twice in the months prior to the attempt.  Eventually my body settled down, and I began to steadily move upwards, one peddle stroke at a time. 

About 2 miles from the summit, my legs were begging for a break and I ended up walking my bike  for 100 yards or so before I sat down for a 10 minute break. This section of road was not especially steep; it was just that my legs were beat.  I did manage to get about a ½ to ¾ mile downhill section which gave my legs a reprieve before the final push up to the summit.

Despite the traffic at the gate this morning, very few cars passed me as I worked my towards the summit. I did not see any other cyclist until about ½ mile from the summit, when I was passed by 3 others bikers in two groups. Coming around the final turn into the summit parking lot was a surreal experience. Suddenly the alpine environment gives way, and you find yourself in the middle of a zoo, in the form of a large, filled parking lot.

I worked my way over to the summit sign for a picture, which is actually below the true summit, but only 10 yards for the gift shop. Gift shop? That is right! It’s the only 14er summit with a gift shop.  I just had to go in. Turns out the sell the same crap here at 14,000’ as they do down at 7.000’.  Guess I did not need to take the long ride after all.  Who knew?

I worked my way up and over to the true summit for my actual summit picture.  The hardest part of this was scrambling over the rocks in my cycling shoes.  After a short lunch break, I decided it was time to head down, so that I could avoid the thunderstorms that were starting to build.  My hope was that the ride down was going to be pure joy.  Only one small uphill, and 10 miles of downhill before #28 was in the bag.  Three hours of hard uphill work, and now 30 or so minutes of easy downhill. 

The reality of downhill biking quickly set in as I left the summit.  I worried about the disc pads glazing up on my disc brakes as I had to continually check my speed to stay in control.  I ended up switching between my front and back breaks, with the hope of keeping either of them from overheating to the point of failure. Every time I started to pick up some good speed I had to break to avoid flying off a hairpin turn.

Just past the ski area parking lot, where I began the day, I stopped on a bend in the road to watch the downhill skateboard race for 45 minutes or so. Those guys are nuts! They were coming down the same steep slope as me, without any breaks. The only way to check their speed was to skid out the backend of their boards.  I flinched every time one of them approached the hay bales that I was standing behind on the curve. A few of the riders did not make the corner and were thankful for the bales to stop them from sliding down the drop off on the sign of the road.

Another quick15 minutes of downhill had me back down to the Xterra.  Number 28 into the book and most likely my last 14er of the season.  2013 will go down as the year of the solos.  This was not my intent when I planned my year, as I enjoy the company of others on these outings, but it was the way things worked out.  Going solo did help build my confidence in myself.  This is something that I will need next summer as I attempt to solo the John Muir Trail and summit Mt Whitney.  Because of this trip I do not know how many, if any, 14ers I will be able to get in next summer.  Maybe with a light snowfall this winter I will be able to get in a couple as training for the JMT.  At least the altitude on the JMT should not be a major issue after tackling the 14ers the last couple of summers. 

Until next season…. HIKE ON!
Complete Trip Photos Here