Abandoned Attempt at Quandary Peak, Elevation 14,265′

“I’m getting concerned about the visibility issue.”, my much more careful, much more level-headed hiking partner stated clearly and with enough gusto to make it through the wind and snow.

“Yes. I think we’re pretty close. The peak is at that rock.”, I point, “ten more minutes and we’ll re-evaluate the situation. How does that sound?”

“I don’t see a rock.”

And she had a point. The rock was now, gone. Ten minutes became ten steps. We reached a slow-going snowy slope and called it quits.

White out conditions
A last look up (unedited photo)

Now, to get back to the trail head, while snow is blowing at a 90 degree angle with little visibility, with no trail or track to follow from 14,000’+. In a cloud. Even at such elevation and conditions, we keep fairly positive. Snapping a shot to show our happy discomfort, we begin the trip down.

Stopping Point

The day started out with blue skies and an encouraging weather report: a slight breeze, with clouds moving in, in the late afternoon. Snow, possible – likely even, but only half an inch and not until 5:00pm. We received the weather report right before our 8:30 am start at the trail head.

Starting out
Just excited to be here

8 1/2 hours seemed a pretty doable time to cover a little less than 7 miles, even in the snow, before a little snow flurry.

A dog greeted us at the trail head and followed us for a time. We took it as a good sign. No tags and, ahem, endowed – good at avoiding all attempts at photographing, it was probably a very hearty stray. Hoping it would follow us to the top, I mentally rationed some peanut butter in trade for its company. A black squirrel soon monopolized his attention and we were left alone, again.

Quandary Peak is one of the easiest 14ers in Colorado to summit in the summertime. A Class 1 all the way, with little in terms of surprises in the trail itself. My hiking partner and I have climbed it ourselves in the summer.

Incidentally, before our summer hike, a park ranger met us before hiking the trail at its head to warn us that this was, in fact, one of the most accident-inducing 14ers, due to its proximity to the major ski town of Breckenridge and the vacation-mindset of its attemptees:

The trail head itself is over 10,000 feet and close by Breckenridge is a resort town, attracting people from everywhere, in every shape possible, with every experience level. A well-to-do family from Texas going on a little hike up Quandary getting stuck in a thunderstorm leads to the threat of untimely deaths. Quandary does lack any sort of natural protection, no large rocks, caves etc to hide from even the rain.

Starting out on the hard-pack trail, even in the snow, it was easy to follow. We were being the quintessential “friends, recreationally snow shoeing” photo that you would see in any brochure for any Colorado Mountain town. I thought of this and even apologized to my hiking partner that I make her do such crazy things – that I’m sure, “snowshoeing” for her was like, walking around a lake, or something.

“Are you CRAZY! After all the things we’ve done together, that’s what you think I want to do?!”

She again, has a good point. I have followed her up at least seven 14er summits and quite a few smaller summits in the less than a year we’ve started out together. We both just try to do much with the very menial equipment that’s at our disposal. No one told us we can’t snowshoe up Quandary and snowshoes are all we have!.

Well, I brought along some crampons, rented, as well. We both improvised and maybe that frolicking snowshoe photo op is not so picture-perfect, what with our collected attire of thrift store finds. My own gloves don’t match, my snow pants are on increasingly prolonged loan from my Brother, the goggles found for $3 have a crack in them, the thrifted Columbia ski jacket is as amazing in its role as protection as it is incredible in its unstylishness.

The day went well. Peeling layers off as we went up, treeline was made in good time. The trail was now lost in the snow, but we just followed the ridge line. Clouds had formed on the range to the East of us, but the wind was coming from the South. The area of South Park was easily enough to see from the mountain, bare of any real snow. We felt confident at a summit bid – it would be both our first winter 14er.

Reaching a Point of a Little More Significance in Steepness, we decided to ditch our snowshoes for crampons. Having not worn crampons since New Zealand, it took a little time to get them on, properly. The Equipment Guy asked me if I knew how to work them and I waved him off with a, “yeah, yeah”, very domineeringly male-like. My plastic mountaineering boots were made for crampons, so the task soon was surmounted even if these crampons aren’t made for boots that are made for crampons (if that makes sense), but my climbing partner’s hiking boots took a little more time to get right.

I then gave my partner one of my telescoping climbing sticks and gave her instructions to make it much smaller – the size of an ice-axe, which it was about to stand in for. A little info on how to use it – keep it between you and the mountain – place it, and take some steps, place it again, take some steps – and how to fall, basically with a death-like grip on the ice-axe in an attempt to arrest your fall.

All this I’m basically lifting from the experiences of watching Cliffhanger the night before. I’ve never used one, myself. Mountaineering is something I’d like to pursue, but I have not the time money and a huge bike race in front of me. In the future, something to look forward to .

As an aside and to be blunt, never, ever use a telescoping pole as a stand-in for an ice-axe, except for dire emergencies – the pole is not even close to as stout as an ice axe. But, I wanted to practice some mountaineering techniques, if I ever get to a mountain climb that would require them and I’m a use-whatcha-got kind of guy. Even if that means it destroys my yuppie walking stick.

We ditched our snowshoes at one of the very view cairns and headed up the ridge. Nice going – an easy little hike.

Clouds starting moving in and my spirits somewhat fell. What’s a summit without a view, eh? And then it started to snow. A little bit, almost imperceptibly, and then, well, we were in the cloud of snow. Things became somewhat miserable. The wind carrying the snow right into our faces. There wasn’t much reprieve. Then the white-out conditions. And then, then we were probably over what one would assume is our comfort zone. Time to go down. Maybe 200 feet from the summit – my guess, anyways. Something like:

Abandon point

If I was alone, I would have tried harder to reach the top. It might also have been a bad move. My hiking partner is slower than me and I forget I’m training to reach my physiological peak conditioning in three months and she’s transitioning from being bedridden with the flu.

Getting down proved slow, but easy enough until we reached the Point of a Little More Significance in Steepness again and collected the snowshoes. The definite ridge line soon disappears. I found myself waiting for my partner a lot. I don’t mind being the fastest, but when you don’t move, you start freezing and this was a bummer.

And then, the hallucinations.

“See that?!”, I said to my climbing partner, “I think that’s a ridge, of the peaks West of here. Looks like the weather is lifting!”.

“Are you sure? it looks… it’s another climber! They’re coming towards us! They’re with an animal! It’s sick! They’re with a sick dog!”

“I still think it’s a part of a mountain! NO! It’s BEAR! There’s a BEAR up here!” I start to think of ways of defending ourselves from a bear, at 13,000 feet.

“Whatever it is. It’s MOVING. It’s MOVING TOWARDS US!”

We stared at this damn thing for a good five minutes in the cold, wind and snow, trying to figure out which way this man/bear/animal/thing was moving. Wondering if we should start waving at it.

 

 

 

“I think it’s a pile of rocks. I don’t want to walk to it, that’s where the big drop off is.”

“A pile of rocks, like a cairn? To mark, you know, the trail?”

Finally, we walk towards this thing. It turned out to be several basketball-sized rocks, all in a row. Thirty feet away. That’s the best way I can describe how bad the white-out conditions were and what happens to creative minds in times of stress.

Spoofed by rocks.

We make our way slowly down, taking turns leading. Until my hiking partner states the first time she’s a little concerned: “I’m unsure that we know where we are and where we’re going.”

This is not the situation you want up so high. In any other mountain, we would be in Big Trouble and it’s common in alpinism deaths to find oneself in white-out conditions, become disoriented and well, fall off the face of a cliff. End game.

If my partner plays the Common Sense role, I play the Inexhaustible Optimist. I’m also really loud and I yell much of this out: “You’re not sure?! Haw haw! I’m 100% sure where we are! To the North of us is a big dropoff, to the South… another big drop off. To the West is the Summit, so we just have to go East. East until we hit the treeline and then…” and then I sort of puzzle myself, since I have no idea how to find the trail through the forest. Sounds like No Big Problem, but snowdrifts in the forest could become head-high. Enough to immobilize travel enough that it would take, literally, hours to go a mile. Snowshoes won’t help.

I then realize the only thing I’m using to take my bearings is the slope of the mountain, or lack of slope (and even this is sketchy) and the direction of the wind, which I’ve assumed is coming from a Southerly direction.

My sailing history soon kicks in and I realize that the wind changes direction. Constantly. If it has changed direction, we may be walking right off this mountain.

I am still playing Inexhaustible Optimist, so I don’t tell her any of this. Instead I take off my pack and whip out my compass and bark a, “See?!”. Show the needle pointing North, away from the wind and then point my frigid finger to the general direction we need to go. East. Guffaw again and bound down the mountain.

This actually does work and the treeline comes into site. We reach it at a small rise in elevation – nothing we remember going down with two choices. One to the right, one to the left. I ask my partner for her opinion.

“The right.”

“That’s what I was thinking too. Wait.” I pull out my compass again. East is the left hand choice. East is where we need to go. We think right, compass says left. If we take the wrong turn, we’re post holing a rise of 200 feet. We agree to go left, to continue East. Besides, right was Right Into the Wind and my poor face had had enough of that. I was wearing a beard of ice at this point.

The snow starts to, well, stop falling from the god-damn sky and the trees start to offer some protection from the wind. Visibility is markedly improving. We take a collective sigh of relief. The only thing now to do is to find the trail. If it proves impossible to find, our contingency plan is to just get down, anywhere and hike up or down the main road, to the trail head. It’s not a bad one.

Ice Beard at treeline.
Assessing self at treeline

We move slowly through the drifts to a small ridge and look around. To avoid post holing, I crawl over the deepest snow drifts and have my partner follow me in the now-packed snow. We haven’t yet transitioned to snowshoes. It doesn’t seem worth it, yet. We’ve really, really started to like going down in crampons, instead of shoes, with their long heels that seem to impede downward mobility.

An obvious route reveals itself – enough to attempt to get down. I then spot small aberrations in the snow – near a tree, coming from the left side stopping just a little past the tree itself. Could have been tricks of the wind, or snow falling from the needles of the tree, but they look too regular. I tell my partner that I think I see tracks.

We investigate. The tracks continue some distance South, up a hill. I do recon. to see what I can find. Slow going with so much snow. More crawling technique. Can’t believe that was working! The tracks aren’t from today – we actually hadn’t seen anyone – save a dog on the trail all  day. For a mountain that has a conga line in the summertime, it’s strange to have an it entirely  to ourselves. It was luck they hadn’t been washed completely away in the drifts. Up the hill, the trail continues and meets up with a more well-defined trail. It could have been the one we took out. I call for my partner to follow me up. Tell her it’s some trail and some trail is better than none. Slipping a little from my Optimistic Attitude, I then tell her it could also be trails of people just like us and we’re about to go in circles, but I end that one with a laugh, to cover it up.

The defined trail soon, sadly, peters out in a clearing of the trees. Decide finally to put on our snowshoes, if what I did was lead us regrettably into a dead-end. But,  It still doesn’t make sense that a trail would stop without a beginning, so we feel our way with our poles for packed in snow and follow the invisible-to-the-eye trail, underneath the drifts. Soon, many trails from many people come into view. Trails of skis. Snowshoes and boots. All very faint, but they’re there and we follow the general direction.

We turn onto the main trail and breath a sigh of relief. It becomes another scene in the Recreational Snowshoeing Guide to Colorado catalog. Insane. The weather completely dissolves, save for an overcast sky and we merely skip down the well-marked trail to the trailhead, reaching it at 6:00pm, almost expecting the dog to again, appear to escort us out.

A Good Sign
A Good Sign


Sunday’s Ride: Plains to Mountains

Sunday’s ride started at 5:50 in the morning, the goal being to get up – and over Squaw Pass, a gamble to do in winter, as it peaks at over 11,000 feet.Then, down into Colorado Springs and take the bicycle route that follows I-70, using frontage roads, old HW-40 and the Scott Lancaster bike path.

Getting to HW 103, where Squaw Pass is located was to be done in a very round about way. The mountains, obviously are West of Denver, I started my trek going South East on the Cherry Creek Bike Path, the West on the E-470 trail, until getting up into Deer Creek Canyon and taking a little road called, “High Grade” (so aptly named), before descending slightly into the town of Evergreen, and ascending again onto the turnoff for HW 103. A map may help, we’re going clockwise:

ride_3_5_11

And an insane elevation profile:

elevation

Why one would travel so far East to eventually back track West is as ridiculous as a Zen Koan and to start such a hard ride up a pass by first tackling High Grade Road is sheer lunacy, but the goal is to be prepared for a cross country race and I’m quite serious about getting in good enough shape to at least – at the very least, survive.

Squaw Pass proved to be passable, albeit very windy, very cold and somewhat lonely. Few sports of minimal snow, but mostly clear as it is in summertime. Kept myself entertained with silly self-portraits,

Squaw Pass

Getting down from the col itself proved to be a little trying. Even though I was wearing three sets of gloves, my fingers still froze to a state of barely moving. Both the sign labeling the pass itself and the sign telling of a major ascent were missing, so the descent actually snuck up on me.

Luck was on my side, as a curious couple saw me, alone, on top of the pass, next to the turnoff to the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway (the road that can take almost anyone to the top of the 14,000+ foot Mt. Evans in the comfort of their automobile), snapping photos like this one,

The last 13 Miles of the Mount Evans Scenic Byway

And offered first to drive me to Idaho Springs (which I kindly didn’t take) and then offered to simply allow me to hang out in their car with their dog for a few minutes, which I gladly took up.

Saved me, as in a few minutes, my hands had warmed up enough to go the few thousand feet down into Idaho Springs. Being a North facing road, I was expected a lot more snow drifting on the road and a little bit more difficult conditions in getting down.

But, getting down I did, taking very little time. Warmed myself up with a fancy coffee drink and tried (and failed, in oh so many ways) to make a little video update, which you may laugh at, here:

The people I met in the car also gave me their number to call, in case something happened on my way down, so I called them to let them know all was well. The call was cut short, as they were racing to an animal hospital. The dog that was with them on their own cross country ski trip had tragically fallen ill. They called me later that night to tell me that it had, sadly, passed away. It had a good last day, romping in the mountains. I guess a tumor was to blame.

Chased around town for a sweatshirt, as I had foolishly forgot to pack on, only wearing two polypro long underwear tops and a waterproof shell! Found one across the street for $10 and grabbed some chemical warmers for my hands and feet at the Safeway and made it back East. Floyd’s hill, as always proved to be a very hard little hill to crest after being so worn down from 14+ hours in the saddle, but nevertheless, made it through and back home at around 8:50pm.

Total Miles: 146 miles
Elevation Gained: 9,300 feet. 
Ride time: 16 hours total. Stopped for lunch, coffee and snacks.


Week of Feb 27 – March 5th “Training” Log

  • Sunday: 70-something something mile mixed road/mountain bike trek here and there – 11hours
  • Monday: 35 miles around Cherry Creek and back – 3 hours, started as a
    recovery ride, ended with me going as fast as I could, felt around 66% from the day before.
  • Tuesday: 2 hours on the trainer
  • Wednesday: 8 mile, leisurely hike up Mt. Crosier, 7 hours
  • Thursday: Rest!
  • Friday: Rest!
  • Saturday: 146 miles Super Ride – 16 hours

Total mileage: 250 something… something miles
Total hours training: 39 hours


Update: Mileage Goal Met! Fundraiser to benefit U.S.E.D. and My Personal Challenge of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

UPDATE 4/1/11 – Hey, I did it! Between 3/5/11 and 3/31/11 I was able to log around 1331 miles. YEAH!

The below fundraiser is going to go on until April 7th, 2011 – now you have an even better reason to donate, as I’ve held to my end of the bargain to ride so much! Around that time, I will also announce the winners of the print giveaway, which you can enter, just by donating and also unveil the t-shirt design – plus some other surprises.

If you can – please donate! Remember: half the money I take in is going to be handed over to U.S.E.D (Denver’s Underground Needle Exchange), because everyone needs a little loving to get through some tough spots in their lives. Do it!

















So here it is! I’m starting to raise funds in March to help offset some of the costs of doing the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and, while I’m at it, I’m personally going to help an organization that I actually believe in.

As a bonus, I’ve given myself a goal of completing a fairly sizable amount of miles this March.

If you have any questions, let me know – either comment on this thread or email me at: donations@longranger.justinsimoni.com


Week of Feb 20-27 “Training” Log

Total mileage: 100 something… something
Total hours training: 23


This New Thing: “Mountain” Biking

It’s sincerely not against my character to take on major goals completely out of order,  so when I admit to you that I signed myself up for a 2750 mile mountain bike race, without having ridden a mountain bike any appreciable distance since many years before I lost my delicate virginity, you will not find this too startling.

I write this entry about 100 days before the race is set to begin and about 100 days since I’ve
put my proverbial hat in the ring to do it. Even I thought it perhaps time to, you know, ride one one of these contraptions and make sure it’s for me.

Details, details.

One elevating problem that I will need to solve pretty soon is one of funding. I don’t, as it stands have the funds to afford a bike to do this race. So for now, I’m scrimping and saving and borrowing what I can, when I can. For this weekend’s ride, I took out a bike owned by my roommate – some sort dual suspension job of questionable vintage and dubious origin. It looks a little like this:

The Borrowed Ride
Taking a moment’s rest on the Highline Canal

Found at a pawn shop for less than 200 bones, it’s almost surely stolen, or owned by a very clueless or desperate person. Roommate looked and posted about  finding the bike and looking for the owner. No response. He himself had a very fancy full-carbon fiber job of a bike stolen himself, thus his visitation to the pawn shop initially.

The bike is a little too large for him, so he rarely uses it. The bike is freakin’ huge for me, so I have never used it, until I got the itch, which was this weekend. Did my best to make the too-large problem go away, by, uh, moving the saddle thing a little closer to the handle bars. Questionable worth. I woke up the next day with arms that ache more than my legs protested.

The following will be my report on riding a mountain bike for, basically the first time as an adult. For those who’ve ridden these types of machines for years and years (and given the nature of the material on this site, it’s a good chance you have), you will find it very, very quaint indeed, reading of routes so ho-hum and over-explored and over-used. But, for a pure beginner, throwing oneself into these things was as if the world I knew had renewed and expanded itself.

Sunday, started the ride down the Cherry Creek Bike Path South, watching the weekend warriors battle it out with the crazies such as myself. The Cherry Creek Bike Path crosses the venerable High Line Canal which I took, as its black-topped path turns into dirt and what better way to introduce oneself to off-road riding than this bunny slope of a dirt path.

Perfectly manicured, the High Line Canal noodles its way through the suburban homes of the South Denver environs. If one was to de-focus their eyes just a touch, one could imagine  being in a more civilized country, such as the Netherlands, zooming through tidy little villages. It always astounds me how little visual buffer zone is needed from making one think they’re in a completely different place and time.

But, no. Still in Cow Town. The canal path does give you a little taste – a little wink up the dress of some of Denver’s more well to-do. In short: the houses that line up near the canal path and it’s little ponds and little fields and little patches of trees are immense. The, “NO TRESPASSING” signs are as well. It’s just all surreal.

The pavement-to-dirt transition is easy enough. The condition of the gravel is easy enough to conquer on the most tricked-out road bike. The canal path also has almost no agenda to actually get anywhere, noodling North West to South East as it slowly makes its way approximately South West. My destination was Green “Mountain” (really, just a big pile of dirt, in Rocky Mountain standards) and this path has easily added 10 miles to my riding.

The High Line canal eventually meets the E-470 path, one of the more curious bike paths in Denver. It crosses many busy streets, but requires you to cross most of them, without any convenient underpasses. It’s also somewhat forgettable, as the rumbling from the nearby E-470 doesn’t make much a taste for us with well-trained palettes.  Going this way has actually added another 10 miles to my ride – there’s much faster ways to get to Green Mountain, I guess I just wanted some excuse to do a big ride.

I turned off the trail onto Alameda (State HW 26 at this point) and entered the Green Mountain Park at Forsberg Trailhead, having absolutely no idea where to go from there. I took the right most trail (which turned out to be the one I wanted) and got a taste of some real mountain biking!

Mountain seemed steep. At one point, a man with a frisky puppy was about to overtake me on the trail. On the road, anything over a 5% grade may give someone pause, or exclaim, “Whoa, a little steep here, eh?”. Famous routes in France will actually label the grade, to give you warning and something to talk about, later.

The first thing I relearned about mountain biking is:

#1 Steepness on routes is normal

and,

#2: You go slow a lot.

Well learned! I made my way around Green Mountain’s South and Eastern perimeter, up to the antennae “summit” and down, ever so dangerously (Lesson #3: If you think your brakes are really good, you’re wrong.) West face at around 500 mph, I’m reckoning.

My plan now was to ride South on the path to Alameda again, but this time go West and up to the top of Dinosaur ridge, find the Hogback trail, make a loop of it and sort of, go home, but –

I exit Green Mountain and go over the Highway and what do I see? Surprise New Bike Trail (to me). Called, “Zorrow” Oooh.

So, up again I go, relearning lesson #1 and #2, as I attempt not to succumb to exhaustion as I  well out of shape gentleman bites at my heals.

To my delight, it takes me to the top of the Dakota Hogback and intersects the trail I wanted anyways. Perfect. At that intersection a very conditioned cyclist asks me about the conditions of Green Mountain. I have no idea what to tell him. The truth?: “HI! THIS IS MY FIRST TIME! I LOVE ALL TERRAIN BIKES! WILL YOU BE MY NEW BICYCLE FRIEND?! THE GOING UP IS HARD!” I lie. I tell them its perfect and like, “Shred hard”, or something. I think I actually said that.

Going South, I meet some terrain that’s over and above my limits. The High Line Canal trail was obviously just getting my feet wet, the Green Mountain Trail was a nice leveling-up from there, the Dakota Hogback, at this section is described in the book, Mountain Biking Colorado’s Front Range by author, Stephen Hlawaty as so:

The southern end of the Dakota Ridge Trail delivers some of the trickiest rocky sections found along the entire route. At mile 2.1 there’s a rock face imbedded in the ground. The line to the left requires deft technical skill, particularly as it cuts sharply to the right along the edge of a big drop-off. The center line is attractive but delivers a strong blow to your front tire, not to mention your ego.

I know this beforehand, as I’ve researched the route before I blithely attempted it, green as an apple, with a too-large bike.
 

The Dakota Hogback
On the Dakota Hogback. Mt. Morrison is in the background.

My attempts at riding the trail without perishing were commendable, but at the end a failure. Failure in the funnest sense, as anyone near me must have thought I was on Nitrous Gas. Having something that seems so familiar and common, the bicycle, in a new form and environment, create so many problems for me to simply go forward led to a childlike exaltation of delight. To be so bad at something felt so good. I was no longer training for an ultra endurance event. I was playing in the sandbox with my die cast model diggers.

A fleeting thought came to me that this must be pretty hard for most everyone. That thought was whisked away as I saw other riders tackle the terrain almost absent-minded. I shook my clenched fist at them. In jest, in jest.

Lesson #4 of mountain biking for me is that I will never, ever compete in a regular cross country event, because I will not be successful. I will fall. I will hurt someone else. I will have to come back to the Hogback and practice a bit more.

Leaving the Dakota Hogback, I traveled North on the Red Rocks trail to the trailhead at Matthews Winter Park, managing to get the bike completely filthy, enough to ruin the shifting capabilities. Lesson #5 is that mountain bikes are fragile and I am not capable of treating fragile things with respect. This being not bike, I made a mental note to do something about the mud that has now encompassed the machine.

Took a left onto HW-40 and the gas station for a little rest and reprieve. Sat outside drinking fluids, contemplating the F-350 parked alongside the place. Its grill was covered with chains, there was some sort of small animal pelt embedded in hood and a rear view mirror with a garter belt snuggly hugging it.

HW-40 seemed altogether now inviting, perhaps I’ll meet similar people at its top? I decide to climb the hill till South Lookout Mountain road in the failing sun and reach it as darkness enveloped the front range.

These means a dark descent down Lookout Mountain Road, which I was anxiously looking to do.

Getting into Golden without incident, it was time to eat again, so I found a sandwich shop that advertised the quickness they can make their sandwiches, rather than the quality of the finished product. I was sold and – I was indeed surprised at how fast they completed the task.

Getting late, out of daylight, lights failing, joints starting to ache and other details to make what I’m about to write seem more masculine, I decide to take a new route home. Rather than simply take 32nd back as I’ve done dozens of times, I decide to try and find the Clear Creek path. A recon mission, as I think it may be a good route to get to Golden in less than perfect conditions (snow!), so that I can train climbing Lookout Mountain over and over.

Couldn’t find the trail until miles east of where it was supposed to start, but found it, eventually. There’s a point where three bike paths converge, in a most confusing way. If it wasn’t for graffiti’d labels someone added, I would still be on the path system. Lucky for me, I found the one that led back to Pecos and 64th and from there, it was just couple of miles to –

A self-serve car wash! I brought a dollar bill with me, which was just enough to power-wash this poor All Terrain bicycle to its former cleanliness. Lesson #6 – always bring back borrowed items in the same or better condition in which you originally borrowed it.

The, “Trial By Fire” Ride

Total Miles: It must be around 75 miles – I really don’t have a clue
Elevation Gained: 2,000-something – who knows?
Ride time: 11 hard-earned hours.

Route-2-27-11
A completely inaccurate path of my meanderings


Mini Slam in Boulder

Woke up today with little sleep, perhaps two hours. Unplanned sleep deprivation training. 5:00 am. Snooze for fifteen minutes then up and about. Planning on biking/hiking trip. Let’s go to Boulder, I thought and then hike around. Wonder if you can get from the small, Southern Peak, to the Small, Northern Peak? There must be a trail that allows me not to backtrack. I guess we’ll find out.

What to bring, what to bring. Too many things needed, guess I’ll bring an actual pack. My back already wincing with the idea of riding with that thing. They make bags that go onto bikes for a reason! It protests. Bringing along some hiking shoes, hiking sticks, camera, food… that’s… it, it seems. Somehow a hiking pack was still needed. Probably because of the camera. I’ll have to get one of those little ones that still takes great big pictures.

Ah, and clothing! 6:00am, when I’m leaving Denver, it’s freezing! And I’m expecting it to get above 50 degrees F. by mid day in Boulder. Cripes, that’s a lot of layers. Still, have to make sure to account for the various unpredictable weather of the Front Range. Be ready for both rain and snow. And well, perfect weather too, I guess.

Getting away shortly after 6:15 am, I get a half a mile away before remembering I forgot my helmet. And gaiters, but the hell with those. Turn back for the helmet, though. Every bike crash you get into, they always ask if you have that pesky thing on. Back at the house, trying to figure out where I left that thing.

Took the bike towards Boulder from Denver. Strolled around Stanely Lake to get a bit of, ahem, “Dirt Time” on the bike, even though the “trail” is nothing but a service road for the, “lake” – really a large reservoir with a dammed up North side.

Made it to the coffee shop right on the Table Mesa shopping center without incident at around 9:30 am. Three hours to get here? Slow bike and heavy pack, I tell myself. That and I should be saving my energy for the rest of this day. How long is it going to be? Don’t know! Even though I spent a few years living in Boulder, I never found it necessary to explore the myriad of trails nestled so close to town very closely. You can literally just walk up any of the major thoroughfares West and hit a trail head. A tragedy. In fact, I probably only ever climbed up Bear Peak a few times, before calling it good.

Bear Peak from the Parking Lot
Bear Peak from the café

I’m drinking my espresso and looking at that peak, right in front of me. Yup, I’ll climb that, and right before South Boulder Peak. That’s easy enough. Then, try to find a way to get to Green Mountain, a little to the North. With that done, I’ll just ride home, hopefully, before the sun sets. When’s that again?  Details, details.

IMG_5185

A little coffee before we got out on a long hike.

A brisk ride up the hill towards NCAR, which conveniently has a place to lock my bike and a trail head outside the building. I redress for hiking and use the other convenience: the restroom and start the hike. Luckily for me, the trail head has a intensely detailed map of every single trail available. Unlucky for me, I can’t remember crap, being this tired. I try to make a plan on where to go and what to do. I even make a little video of the map and what to do when and where.

Useless. Within an hour, I’ve made a wrong turn and have to backtrack 15 minutes to my turnoff. The trails are well-signed, there’s just so many of them. Why, I wonder?

I take the Shadow Canyon trail up South Boulder Peak. I’ve only gone down this trail, but going up proves difficult. Steep little buddy of a trail. Slippery, too. The trail deserves it’s name and snow has found refuge on the trail. Luckily, I’ve brought what looks like a beefy rubber band concoction with springs attached to it. This attaches to my boots and is supposed to keep me from slipping. They’re akin to a baby brother of micro spikes, which themselves are a pathetic version of honest-to-goodness crampons. Mine look as if they’re marketed more to the Minnesotan house wife, to wear to and from their large sports utility vehicle, during the harsh winter months. Hope they do the job. I bought them initially to work on the Franz Joseph Glacier of New Zealand. We all had a tiny little laugh about that, in private.

Climbing up, I feel like an defeated old man and have to stop continuously to catch my breath. I tell myself, I should be in much better condition than this. I’m exhausted, but not fatigued. It’s the lack of sleep and I can feel myself fighting that off, as I go farther up. So strange to almost fall asleep, while exerted so much physical effort.

Reaching the top (these are quite tiny mountains), I eat a bagel w/cream cheese. By this time, I’ve stripped everything, except a pair of long underwear (top) and hiking shorts (bottom) – no underwear. I find a sloping rock, wrap my shell around my legs.and take a half hour nap, hoping that does the trick. I also hope that no one else comes up here and spoils my solace of sleep on top of the mountain. Good chance there won’t be. Pretty quiet on the trails, today. People probably working, or something.

Beak Peak and Green Mountain from South Boulder Peak
On South Boulder Peak, with Bear Peak and Green Mountain in the distance

Longs Peak in the Distance
Longs Peak looming in the distance. Wish I was on the summit of Longs in this perfect day.

At 2:30pm (I have no idea how it took four hours to get up here), I make it out to Bear Peak. Close enough, it only takes a half hour to summit. I dawdle for just a bit, take some stupid photos (and one or two good ones) and descend on the west side of the mountain for what I was looking for, Bear Peak West Ridge, which should deliver me to Green Mountain, with a small trail crossing, which I’ve already proved well enough I can, hopefully, figure out.

Auto Portrail on Bear Peak
Autoportrait on top of Bear Peak

I take the time into small consideration. Being ~3:00pm, even if I descend now to the trail head, I’d get back to the bike before sunset, but still would have to ride home. These trails are sincerely urban, though. The trail head itself is maybe two miles to the bus stop that has service all the way to Denver. I guess that’s a plus for sticking so close to population. Feel a pain to take the bus, having a well-tuned and perfectly good bike at my disposal. We’ll see how the engine is fairing in a little while.

A few hours later – bang! Green Mountain summited, now to get back to the trail head. But I guess, how? One way would just go back the way I came, until the Fern Canyon trail, but that would mean backtracking and that’s the no-no of this hike, so I guess I’ll take the route the goes *around* all of the Flatirons. That’s… the only other option, really.

Bear Peak and South Boulder Peak, amist the trees of Green Mountain
Bear Peak and South Boulder from Green Mountain, amidst some trees.

That also puts me at another squeeze, since that route goes West, then North, until it exits the area, I need to go South back to my bike at the trail head. OK, the sun is now definitely starting to set. Let’s do it.

The trail down is surprisingly snowy. Not just patches of snow: snow everywhere. North facing. I slip continuously. Much fun, so long as the trail isn’t too precipitous. Meet up and pass a few rich teenagers who aren’t having half the trouble I’m having with far less gear. I’m not 30 yet. Damn them.

Get to the trailhead… some sort of trail head as the sun sets. Off of Flagstaff Road. That means, I’m not home yet. Find a lot of silly little trails that take me to the main, Mesa trail, which leads back to the NCAR trailhead. Flick on the head torch to find my way back to the bike. Somewhere on the trail, a flash! of light takes me off guard, as if someone just took my picture. I think I tripped a motion sensor camera, used for tracking activity of wildlife. Just my ugly mug, gentle scientists, sorry about that. 

I am now exhausted, but decide to ride back home. Besides, that was the plan, as always. The clock in the office of the pretty girl next to the bike rack says it’s 7:00 pm. Seriously, I’ve been out here for almost 9 hours? Well, I wouldn’t have guessed it was going to take this long to traverse three tiny little mountains. Must be a slow hiker, today.

Night riding back to Denver is mostly uneventful, except for getting lost after passing by Stanely Lake again. Found myself on a major road: Churchranch Blvd. directly in the throes of the awful suburban sprawl that is Westminster, a terribly ugly town without much to offer, except strip malls and fast food joints.

Took a right onto Sheridan, which is usually a road of DEATH for the noble cyclist, but it’s the only landmark I know well enough, and by 76th street (only 4 miles away!), I know the route well enough again. At around this point, I completely run out of gas. My legs do not move the pedals like I would like them to do, except if I am in the lowest gear of the bike.

This is not good.

My best strategy in this scenario is to simply, “pretend” I can pedal much fast than I can and trick my body in doing what I want it to. After a pit stop at the local Wendy’s (shutter),  It seems to work.

I land at my front door at 9:30 pm with an aplomb. I bask on the living room floor for a while, until I realize it would be much better to bask in a hot bath instead.

Good work, Justin, you’ve readily exhausted yourself.

The Denver to Boulder to Denver Three Mountain Traverse Mini Slam
Miles Ridden: ~60? –  7 hours total (heavy pack!)
Miles Hiked: (10 – 15?) No firm idea – 9 bloody hours of it, though!


Week of February 5th – February 12th “Training” Log

This week I did nothing that really fits into a report. Basically, I
took the week off – I felt achy and tired and I’ve been killing it. Time
for a break. I’m extremely excited at how well the first “month” of
“training” went – I feel in good form and happy that there’s 5 months
more to go to get into better form.

Not to say I hadn’t been
riding – Monday found me in 6+inches of newly fallen snow, attempting to
make the best of it in adverse riding conditions. But, like most of the
week, it was only errands, even if the errands added up to >30
miles/day.

The rest of the week was similar, culminating in
today’s little ride out to Arvada w/trailer to find supplies for my next
performance piece, which will be in a week.

Next week, I MAY
take a huge ride on Tues. to Boulder, try to summit three (small) peaks
and then head home, but I don’t know if I’ll really have time for such
things – the thing for Sat. will probably have me busy attempting to
figure out all the art stuff.

Saturday already has me
double-booked, as I have the art performance for hours, with my only
break being marching band duties. My cymbals on Thur. gig were around
5lbs each, no joke.


Red Rocks in the Snow!

Sunday: Rode to Red Rocks and back. Looked like this:

Red Rocks Feb 6th, 2011

It has snowed the last couple of days, so my route consisted of bike paths that were:

* well shoveled,
* barely shoveled
* not shoveled *at all*, where forward motion was very slow

or,
roads that were somewhat sketch and filled with snow, dirt and slush.
This combination has a tendency to freeze to a bike frame and wheels,
making your bike weigh much more than usual.

Upon getting to Red
Rocks Park proper, it began to snow and making it up the steep road to
the amphitheater was proving tricky. Luckily, I also brought my hiking
shoes, micro-spikey-things and suited up for mountaineering and was able
to get up, no problem.

Left at around 9:30 am, got home around 4:00 pm

Today, I am very, very sore from the effort.


“Training” Thoughts

I’ve been “training” for the Tour Divide Race for about a month now. I
wasn’t really slouching in my physical condition, but the year started
out slow with my knee injury, ending in very successful physical therapy
and a wonderful summer spent in Colorado riding bikes and discovering
the fun of doing all the walk up hikes up 14ers. I would say some of
those trips, like:

  • Riding Denver to  Leadville, hiking Mt. Massive and then
    riding back (3 days),
  • Riding to Longs Peak, *attempting* to summit on
    October, riding back (3 days)
  • Doing the same for Pike’s Peak (26
    miles of hiking, 200 miles of riding – much on country roads)
  • Plus the
    week of peak bagging and going up and down 13,000 foot Argentine Pass
    with a touring bike

is a little more than poking around Denver environs.
I feel mostly like I’m in the condition I was, before I did the Pacific
Coast or France, which is great – since I know have 5 months to hone
in on just getting distance done.

From my knowledge of doing
those longish tours, the condition I’m in afterward is mixed: you get
the feeling that you can, literally, ride a bike, all day (and you can),
but I’m also in the throes of some sort of cold that doesn’t shake for a
month (at least), feel weak and generally don’t do much, until my body
recovers.

That leads me to believe that I’m really and truly on
the right path to getting ready doing 100-150 miles a day for 3-4 weeks,
but mileage should be added slowly, or I’ll hit my actual peak much too
soon and will feel less than up to it, come June. If I really crank out
mileage in the next month or two, I’ll be at peak in March and that’s
too soon.