I really don’t like pain, and I truly hate being out of breath. Still, I keep finding myself in situations where my legs are hurting like a finger squeezed in a car door and my lungs are on the verge of exploding. I guess that is yet another proof that I’m not the smartest kid on the block… It may of course also be an indication that I deep down inside yearn to be someone that DO like and dare things that the real me doesn’t. In any case, I’m always walking on sunshine everytime I’ve managed to push myself to the limit and done things I didn’t think I could. Most of the times I’ve done things like that is when I just didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. And everytime I had someone who dragged me along. Mount Elbert was definitely such a case. I’m really glad that I don’t have a better imagination, and that I’m travelling with a mountain hobbit without the slightest fear of horribly tiring adventures.
Of course it was Martin who talked me into it, but to be honest I was unusually easy to convince this time. I must have felt kind of unbeatable to not hesitate to climb the highest mountain in Colorado, and to think that I could ride my bike down it. I’ve been out of breath at 2500 meters above sea level in Laramie. Mount Elbert’s north summit is at 4 401 meters asl…
Anywhoo,.. In order to minimize the risk of getting struck by lightning, we got up at 5 am and drove down from Glennwood Springs. Living in the desert for a week had made us oblivious of the night temperatures at higher altitude. When we reached the Black cloud trail head at 7 am (after a painfully beautiful drive over Independence Pass), the temperature had dropped to 2 C. A bit chilly indeed, but our climb soon got us warm enough.
The first part of the climb was, just like the temperature, kind of chill, or at least so chill that we got kind of cocky, thinking we could climb to the top in less than four hours. Wrong. The first like 1/20 part of the climb was chill, and possible to pedal up. Then we started to push, and then we started to carry, and carry, and carry. As the air got thinner, my legs got heavier, and my neck got sorer. At one point, my shoulders where hurting so badly I had to try pushing the bike instead. I think it took me 15 minutes to get my boney ass 100 m foward..
The view (the little I saw of it from underneith my bike) was, however, extraordinary.
Almost 6 hours after we started our ascent, we reached the southern summit of Mount Elbert, 4135 m asl. To reach the northern summit, we would have to go down and traverse a ridge with a whole lot of snow on it. Since the best of the ride was behind us, and since we didn’t want to be stuck on that top during the thunder hours, we decided that we’d accomplished enough and got ourselves ready to do what we had come there to do.
Going down. Going down. Going down. Wohoo! and YIKES! The Black cloud trail is not super technical in the sense that it is super exposed or super rocky (except on the very top), but it is so continuously steep and loose, and it contains a sufficiently large amount of rocks and steep switchbacks, that it at least challenged me to push my limits. Hell YEAH! My breaks where steaming and my head was not fully attached to my shoulders when we got down. By then, I had fallen off the trail 4 times, and laught numerous more.
Down at the trail head, we met a guy (Joe) from Saint Louis that we had met on our way up. He offered us beer and coffee. Americans! Sitting in the sun sipping on a micro brewed beer from Saint Louis must be the absolute best way to end an epic ride.
Martin, your view of what a bike trail look like is not like anyone else I know. Thanks for thinking like that, and thanks a zillion for dragging me along. Even with imploded lungs, it is really nice hanging out on the top of the world, not to mention the feeling swooshing down from there.