Well, a bit belatedly, I’m excited to report that Mount Evans ended up being a wonderful ride! Here’s a quick recap and some photos:
We were up early and out the door before sunrise so we could get a reasonably early start to beat both the people and the afternoon showers. It’s about a 50min drive to Idaho Springs, the jumping off point for our ride. Around 6AM we pulled into a small parking lot and spent several minutes putting on socks, long sleeves, sunscreen, and the like.
Around 6:15AM we headed off. The sun was still low and it was a chilly start. I’d forgotten my long gloves, but thankfully the cold was just tolerable. Within about three miles we’d warmed up as the sun started to peak out over the trees. The road was quiet, smooth, and well graded. I knew it was never going to get too steep (not more than about 6%), but after weeks of steep climbing I still couldn’t believe there wouldn’t be a wall of road coming at me around any given turn.
After about 13mi of continuous climbing we reached Echo Lake at 10,500ft. This gorgeous spot marked our half way point:
Just above the lake the road makes a turn to the right, and happily it’s closed to cars above this point for the rest of 2020. It’s the highest paved road in the US (or, apparently, North America) which I think is pretty cool. (The road to Pike’s Peak is just a little shorter, though the climb is much steeper).
We took a quick bathroom break, refilled our water bottles (from the water in our packs), and had a snack. From there, it was on to the slightly bumpier, narrower road above.
About three miles up from Echo Lake we broke out from tree line to some sweeping mountain views. That’s also when the wind started, though at that point it was mostly just a moderate breeze.
The road gently climbs steadily up, quickly opening up with large drops off the edges (with no guardrails to stop a fail). The elevation was definitely noticeable, but not terrible. And the weather was cool and sunny, excellent for climbing.
At about 13,000ft we hit Summit Lake where we decided to take a second break. The road in that area is pretty terrible, and we wanted to have a snack before the final 1,200ft to the top.
From here, we faced a straightway up the mountain (thankfully with a tailwind!!) and then 11 switchbacks to the summit. However, the wind had picked up significantly this far above tree line. On any stretch in between switchbacks we were either getting blown up to the top (wheee!!) or battling into a cold, strong wind that quickly chilled us and slowed our pace quite a bit.
Even still, the top bit wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d feared, though it wasn’t exactly easy either. Slowing down into the wind instead of fighting it made a big difference for the last ~300ft. Happily, groups of mountain goats also provided incredible distractions. We even saw several babies!
The top was a welcome site. We rode through the parking lot and hopped off our bikes. From here, we hiked the remaining 150ft to the true summit (thank goodness for mountain biking bike shoes!). The wind was quite cold, but the day was clear and sunny. The views at the top were spectacular!
There were a couple other bikers up there, along with some hikers, who we exchanged some (socially distant) conversation with. One of them even offered to get a picture of us, which we accepted.
This was my very first 14er, and I was very pleased with how well it went. Despite the cold wind, I was thrilled to hang out for a bit and take it all in!
After all the obligatory summit photos, we hiked back down for more snacks and to duck into the remains of an old shelter (burned down in the 70s) to warm up. Finally satisfied with our time at the top, we decided to start the 27.5mi and almost 7,000ft descent back down the mountain.
Despite a bit of a cold start, the ride down was exhilarating. The wind was still present, but much easier to deal with on the downhill. The long drops off the side of the road proved a bit more daunting from the opposite side of the road, but the road condition itself was actually the most challenging piece. Much of the road is bumpy with frost heaves, and down by Summit Lake it was at its worst:
It undulated along as we slowed down to avoid getting a flat tire (or a headache). Thankfully we were down to Echo Lake quite quickly, and back on the well paved road down to Idaho Springs. The sun had fully risen at this point, and the temperature was quickly rising. I stripped down to shorts and t-shirt, Paul left on his long sleeve. Just before noon we cruised back into the parking lot, warm and ready for snacks!
I don’t think we could have asked for a much better day. Next up will be Pike’s Peak — a slightly shorter climb but significantly steeper. I think it’ll be a bit of a beast, but I look forward to the challenge 😉