Mt. Evans – 14,130 Ft.

Posted: August 25, 2010 in Colorado

I don’t remember the date but it was the morning of what would be our 28th day since we left Austin. I woke up early, knowing we still had to leave Idaho Springs that afternoon after I finished my solo adventure. Nikol had a hard time getting up as usual. She was planning using Brian’s computer to work on the website while I was out. We ate breakfast, had a little coffee and got our stuff packed up. Brian had to go down into town to open his hot dog stand, so Nikol decided to go with him and I would just head straight back down to Idaho Springs after climbing Evans. I left most of my gear with them and headed out carrying my tool pouch, water bladder, and jacket in my bag.

The road up Mt. Evans starts near Echo Lake at 10,600 feet. From there it is 15 miles and a 3,530 foot climb to the summit. From the entrance station the climb starts with steep switchbacks through an alpine forest. I started to worry I was in over my head as I started getting winded so early on. At about 3 miles you start to break out above the the tree line and see some of the road ahead.The road turns back north around a large mound and opens up a view of the peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park off in the distance.From here there is about another mile of steep grades before it starts to relax a little.Each of the first five miles average between 5% and 6% grade. By this point I had already climbed 1500 feet and I felt a real loss of breath. The next 4 miles smooth out a bit with the average grade ranging from as little as 1.2% up to 4.8%. As you approach Summit Lake there is even a slight dip in elevation. I stopped here to catch my breath (as best one can at just under 13,000 feet) before the final push to the top.I had less than 6 miles left to the end of the road. The first mile past the lake averages only 2.4% and I’m felt pretty good about finishing the climb. However, each mile after that gets steeper and steeper. I had been fighting the wind since I got out of the trees but now it really starts to pick up. My best estimate would be that they were holding steady above 20mph with frequent gusts of 30-35. With 2 more miles to go you come around the back side of the peak and an amazing view south opens up.From here you have to climb a series of steep switchbacks up the southern face. The winds, blowing from the West, are even stronger now. My muscles were getting sore and my lungs could not get enough oxygen for them to recover. Then I come around the first switchback and the headwind turned to a tailwind and practically swooped me right up to the next turn. And then more headwinds. At moments it felt as if I was pushing and not going anywhere. Back and forth like this several more times and I am almost at the top. A young roadie who passed me back when I was taking the previous picture is now on his descent. He screamed down the mountain and said, “Thats fucking incredible man,” as I feebly tried to finish the climb. With just a few hundred feet to the end of the road, I looked back down on all the hairpin turns I just came up and started thinking about the brakeless descent.One last push and I was finally in the parking lot at 14,130 feet above sea level (The actual peak is another 134 feet up on a trail.) I asked a stranger to take a picture of me.I was exhausted and it is freezing at the top of that mountain. I threw on my rain jacket to block the wind and warm myself up a bit. I was also hoping it would have somewhat of a parachute effect on the way back down. I flipped my wheel around from the 18t cog I use for climbing back to the 15t on the other side. I ate carrot I had packed for a snack. I wish I could have stayed up there longer but the wind was brutal and I couldn’t feel my hands or feet because it’s so cold. I looked over everything on my bike to make sure it was safe. It looked good so I thought to myself,  “Here goes nothing.” You can try to resist as you descend but your pedals will start to spin out so you have to do a lot of skidding to control your speed. As I’m bombing down the side of the peak I passed another roadie on his way up. He smiled cordially, then did a double-take, realizing I was riding fixed, and gives a real drawn out “God damn!” I was pretty scared after I got around a couple sharp turns. I knew I had the skill to handle this descent, but I was freaking out thinking, “What if my chain were to pop off or my shoe unclipped right before a big turn?” Then I got distracted by something up a head. A deer was stopped right in front of a car begging for food. It was the most mangy, pitiful deer I have ever seen and I was able to slow down enough to snap a photo as I rode by.Alas, I made It down off the mountain alive and with a lot less rubber on my tires. I met up with Nikol and Brian down in Idaho Springs and we got ready to head down the road a bit before the day was done.

  1. Laura in austin. says:

    Love this post! Beautiful pictures!
    So jealous of you guys!

  2. jon masher says:

    Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want do look more?

  3. DCKNTS says:

    No fucking way you climbed Evans. Also your bike is too small. And get a brake hipster.

    • jonjameskeller says:

      14,130 feet, 58c frame, 46x18t up, 46x15t down. What about my lycra-wearing, cross-country-riding ass leads you to believe I’m a hipster, sir?

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