Saturday, August 14, 2010

mount evans

My plan was to grab something quick when breakfast was served at 6:00am. But I really wanted to get an early start and give myself every chance of making it to the top of Mt Evans and down before weather moved in. So, I was up before my 4:45 am alarm, dressed and packed and on my bike by about a quarter to six. I had a rear blinking light so drivers could see me, and there was sufficient light to see the road. It was a clear, cool  morning as I rode the first 5 or 6 relatively easy miles from Idaho Springs, elevation 7540 feet. 
Seven miles into the ride it became an official climb. In the early dawn I was glad to have several layers and long-fingered gloves. I knew it would only be colder as I continued toward the top.
The switchbacks on the climb toward Echo Lake were through thick forest, but occasionally you could get a peek at the road below you.
The road kept climbing and climbing, going around bend after bend. They don't seem so much like switchbacks when you can't look up and see where they go. Turn to the right, turn to the left, go around one more corner and there you are at.....
Echo Lake! What a beautiful and welcome sight. Halfway to the top!
We had an aid station, the first and third of the day, waiting for us in the parking lot by Echo Lake Campground. The second aid station would be at the summit parking lot. Still some work to do before I could enjoy that one. I hadn't eaten, so I took advantage of the Hub Grub wagon operating near our aid station and had a breakfast taco and coffee. One of the volunteers was keeping a count of all riders who were heading up Evans so CRMBT could pay the $3.00 fee to use Mt Evans Road. I filled my water bottles, showed my wrist band and bike number to the ranger at the fee station, and headed up.
It took about 2 hours to get from Idaho Springs to Echo Lake. I knew it would take longer to get to the top. Thinner air, steeper grades, and fantastic photo opportunities would give me plenty of chances to stop on the way up.
After a few miles and 1000 feet you've earned a spectacular view of Echo Lake. In the middle shot you can make out the red CRMBT tents at the aid station. They and the Hub Grub would be waiting for us on the way down.
Soon you are above the treeline, past even the 1600 year old bristlecone pines. As the riding gets more difficult, the views get more spectacular.
A couple more miles and you're at 12,500 feet and Lincoln Lake is off to the left 1,000 feet below.
You can literally see for miles up here, including the thin line cut into the mountain, which is the road you'll be traveling if you can keep going. As you approach Summit Lake, besides a nice downhill stretch, you find the road getting pretty rough. It's understandable that at this altitude and the temperatures that come with it, there's bound to be some buckling.
These shots are of Summit Lake, with Mt Evans in the background. Every picture I've ever seen from here's doesn't do justice to the scale of the mountain. It looks like a big pile of rocks on the other side of the lake, right? Trust me, it's a REALLY big pile of rocks. In some of the shots you can see cyclists on the road and a person on the shore. From here you're about 5 miles, 15 switchbacks, and 1200 feet of climbing from the top.
At several points along the way you can look up and see the switchbacks cut into the mountain above you. You may even catch a glimpse of the old observatory at the top. It's so close, yet so far away. The grade never really gets that bad, but you're above 13,000 feet! The last couple miles were brutal!
About five hours, twenty-eight miles and 6,590 feet of elevation gain later, and I can say that I've ridden my bike up Mt Evans. I took a picture of the remains of Crest House Restaurant. Construction was completed in 1941, and in 1979 a propane explosion destroyed the restaurant.Learn more about all things Evans here.
I had a picture of myself taken with my bike, and another with the t-shirt I found in Idaho Springs. "Oxygen Is Overrated".
I stopped a couple times near the top as I started down to get some shots of the switchbacks. In and out of the switchbacks the bikes could go faster than the cars. Other than the rough road, you could really get some speed going. I spent a lot of the 14 miles to Echo Lake pumping my brakes to keep the speed manageable.
After the 3rd aid station at Echo Lake, there was a 4 mile climb up toward Squaw and Juniper Passes, with some great views of the forested area around the Denver metro area. Then it was a a descent that seemed to go on forever.That was a good thing because after all the climbing I had done today by the end of my 76 miles, I found it challenging to climb an overpass. The end of the route took us along the Evergreen Parkway, back onto the I-70 shoulder briefly, and over Lookout Mountain, with hang-gliders and para-sailors floating in the breeze beside us. Then a final descent all the way into Golden.
I was so tired and so sore, and so satisfied. Even though Mt Evans is up and back, and not a "pass", it's a ride I've always wanted to do since learning of it. I'm grateful for everyone at CRMBT for helping me to do it. And to all the strong riders who passed by on the climb, or as they were descending, who shouted encouragement to the rest of us, thanks to you too. I did it!


  1. Wow ... I can hardly even imagine 5 hours of climbing. Way to go! Someday, I have to do something like this.

  2. We also rode this tour, and your photos and commentary are very good. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I read a blog post recently about climbing the well-known Mont Ventoux....great views and a challenge, but this one blows it away! Really breathtaking.

  4. Absolutely wonderful story!

    The pictures are beautiful!

    I have no idea how long you have linked to me in your sidebar, but this is the first I knew of it, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    This post reminds me of some of the posts that I am proudest of producing in 7 1/2 years of Bike Blogging