The trip’s itinerary was to hit up most all the 14ers in the path between Denver, CO and Alma, CO, taking the I-70 corridor to Breckenridge, and then HW 9 to Alma. Ambitious, as the routes picked weren’t the easiest, or shortest: Bierdtstat from the East Ridge, then over the Sawtooth to Evans, Torreys via Kelso Ridge – and then to Grays, Quandary via the West Ridge – and then a final push to do Democrat, Lincoln, and Bross. All in five days – all ridden to on a bicycle.
I’m not saying I’m always on the verge of feeling sick, but today – Monday, I’m there.
And I’m not ready, anyways. This surprisingly happens quite a bit: underestimating the time it takes to get gear together to make a trip happen. Even with my style of cobbling things together that, if you would talk to someone with bike know-how would raise an eyebrow, and let out an audible, “eeeehh…?”, I think I got things straight:
Waking up at 2:00am on the Sunday of the weekend St. Patrick’s Day festivities in a drinkin’ city seemed a strange way to begin a trip. I needed to go from the North side of Denver, through the South side, without incident. And then far beyond.
Plan: ride the bicycle from the back door to the Barr Trailhead ~90 miles away in Manitou Springs, CO and immediately begin the 13 miles hike up to the summit of Pikes Peak, for a winter ascent of a Colorado 14er, before it ain’t winter no more (mere days away). And of course carry all the gear that’s probably going to be needed. Which is really unrealistic, so just take what’s absolutely necessary. Which probably means, a different pair of shoes.
Then, take a few winks and ride back home, in perhaps a bit more scenic (read: more difficult, mountainous, less boring) route.
The road that travels up to the summit of Colorado Springs’ resident 14er, Pikes Peak (neé heey-otoyoo) @ 14,115 feet would be open to bicycle travel for the first time for an extended period: the entire month of September on an exploratory basis. In the recent past, the road has only been open for one day, for a bicycle race up to the top.
This road needed to be ridden to, from Denver and summited, before the end of September came; before the road was again closed to such noble of transportation options.
This weeks plan was to ride to the Summer Trailhead of Grays/Torreys, hike up both, and ride back, all in one fell swoop. I mean, why not? It’s ~55 miles and 9,000 feet of elevation to the Winter Trailhead, 3 miles of hike-a-biking on the dirt road to the Summer Trailhead and 8 1/4 miles of hiking to both peaks and back – and then that 55 miles back home.
OK, fairly ambitious, I admit – I brought along my sleep kit, just in case.
Wednesday, I got myself up relatively early, with the goal of riding up Squaw Mountain Pass, to Echo Lake. The ride is a big batch of gentle uphill roads, starting in Golden as you go up HW 40, cross over into Evergreen and take Squaw Pass Road to Echo Lake. This line is comprised of almost 25 miles of uphill road, taking you from ~5,200 feet to 10,600 feet and at the door of the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway – a road that goes all the way up 14,254 foot Mt. Evans.
This road isn’t scheduled to open until May 25th – a full month away, but snowfall this year has been inadequate, and I wanted to check out the conditions and hell, maybe spin up for a few switchbacks, before heading home.
At around 1:00 am the previous night, I settled on the idea to try the, “Ring the Peak” route around Pike’s Peak. You can learn about the route here and here. I just thought, “Yeah, whatever” and took a few hours snooze and headed out the door from Denver, towards Pikes Peak, via the Rampart Range Road, a nice 50 mile track of fairly well maintained dirt road, with a nice elevation gain (up to 9,400 feet or so) and relatively little traffic. Time to try out some gear and get another over-nighter in.