Sunday, August 8, 2010

My first time up Mount Evans

Mount Evans is the closest fourteener* to Denver and boasts the highest paved road in the world.  So of course cyclists flock to the place to pit themselves against this monster of a climb.  A coworker recently planted the seed of the idea into my head, so this morning I got up and made my own assault on the mountain.

My goal was to ride from Idaho Springs to the top of the mountain in under three hours.  Having looked at the results for the annual race, this seemed like a reasonable expectation.

I headed out from a parking lot on the southern edge of town at about 7:50.  At 9:00 I passed Echo Lake and made a quick stop at the gift shop there for an extra bottle of Gatorade.  It is also at this point that you must stop and pay an entrance fee to ride up Highway 5, which leads to the summit.  The individual pass is $3, and for cars it is $10.

Many folks prefer starting at this point instead of down at Idaho Springs.  Doing so cuts the distance in half and removes a couple thousand feet of elevation gain.  I chose against this mostly to ensure that I gave myself the full Mount Evans experience.

By 10:00, I had reached the poorly-named Summit Lake (there is still a lot of climbing to do before reaching the summit).  And I arrived at the top well within my time goal.  The final riding time was 2:36, with a total wall-clock time of 2:46.

Feeling like King of the Mountain.
There were cyclists all over the place up there, and I chatted with a few of them before heading back down.  The camaraderie amongst cyclists always adds to the experience.  It was quite chilly, and I was glad that I brought a jacket and ear warmers for the descent.

It turns out that there is a reason for not paving roads at this kind of elevation very often.  Because of the severe freeze/thaw cycles, the asphalt quality was really quite poor, especially after Summit Lake.  It was less of a problem on the way up, but on my way down, the road and my saddle conspired to inflict some serious abuse upon my nether regions.  That, coupled with the automobile traffic, made the descent somewhat disappointing.

View Mount Evans in a larger map

I had entertained the thought of having my family come with me, letting them hang out in Idaho Springs and drive up to the top.  But it would have turned out to be more of a hassle than any of us needed, particularly when considering that I left the house around 6:40.  The mountains around here are notorious for having afternoon thunder storms, so I wanted to be out of there well ahead of any adverse weather.  Hopefully we'll be able to drive up there together some time soon.

* A fourteener is a mountain whose elevation exceeds 14,000 feet.

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