I summited the 14,264′ Mt. Evans a couple of summers ago via an easy route (over mt Spalding from Summit Lake). At that time we were with some inexperienced hikers, and I wanted to give them an easy day. I really enjoyed this mountain, and have been longing to return here and summit via my road bike.
Here is the Runkeeper Activity from this ride.
I am fortunate to have a schedule that allows me to have every other Friday off work. This Friday I was hoping that an early-season weekday start would make for little traffic on the road. Turns out I was in luck!
On my way to Idaho Springs, I stopped at Chick-fil-A for a chicken, egg and cheese bagel. This sandwich has become one of my favorite pre-hike breakfasts. The manager there asked if I was about to ride Deer Creek Canyon (a popular ride in the area). I told him I was heading for Evans. He is doing the Mount Evans Assent in a couple of weeks, so we chatted for a minute. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I spilled my cup of water all over my lap. I thought to myself “well this is going to make for a cold crotch at 14,000 ft”.
The weather forecast predicted storms late morning. At 7AM I could already see clouds building. Wanting the best chance at the summit without getting caught in a storm, I decided to drive past Echo Lake. I still wanted to get 3,000 feet of climbing (which is a gentleman’s agreement of the amount of elevation required to “count” a mountain). I parked my car in a pullout a couple miles past Echo Lake at around 11,000 feet. It only took me a couple of minutes to get ready and jump on the bike. I elected to ride my older Trek 7.6 FX hybrid bike, because I had equipped it with a cassette containing some low climbing gears. I brought a medium-size pack with some extra layers(shell, down jacket, base layer), 3 liters of water, a first aid kit, and some snacks.
I started riding around 7:30AM. The temperature was in the high 30’s when I left the truck. About 500 vertical feet later I decided to shed my base layer.
It didn’t take me too long, maybe 45 minutes, to get to Summit Lake. The road in this area is in really bad shape. Much care was necessary to avoid an accident. There was a lone car parked in the parking lot at Summit lake. This was the first sign of humans that I had seen so far. My company to this point on the ride consisted of several marmots and a couple of distant bighorn sheep. I stopped briefly to snap a couple of pictures and suck down a gel.
Feeling good I pedaled off at a brisk pace. My pace quickly slowed as the hill steepened leaving Summit Lake. The road above Summit Lake is pretty much just endless switchbacks to the summit but there are some awesome views to keep you entertained. At about 13,000 feet I was passed by my first car. The car was from Kansas and the occupants seemed scared to pass me. As it drove past they looked at me with a combination of wonder and fear.
At about 13,500 the summit observatory came into sight. It looks tantalizingly close. I begin to pedal faster feeling like I was almost at the summit. I checked my altimeter watch and noticed I was only at 13,500. Disappointed I slowed my pace. After this point I made my way up at least a dozen more switchbacks. I did see a couple more cars taking pictures from the pull offs on this high part of the mountain.
At about 9:30AM I rolled into the summit parking lot feeling good. There was only one other car in the parking lot. It’s owner was making his way down from the summit in running clothes. As I put on my shell he came over to me. He had apparently ridden his bike down from the summit early that morning, and then ran up from the Mount Galbraith nature center. He was also preparing for the Mount Evans assent in a few weeks. He was a nice fellow and we stayed chatting in the parking lot for little while. I climbed the remainder of the way to the summit. It was an interesting experience kicking steps in snow and scrambling up boulders while wearing cycling shoes.
I put on a few layers and enjoyed the summit to myself. So far I’ve found more solitude on a paved road route than I have experienced on most 14er standard routes in the summer.
My summit enjoyment was interrupted when I noticed some ominous thunderheads to the east of me moving west at a fast pace. Thinking to myself “ha ha that’s strange”, I picked up my gear and made my way down the summit block. The parking lot now had about 15 cars, and the tourists were milling about.
It was chilly and I knew the ride down was not going to be pleasant. I put on all the layers I brought, except for my puffy down. I pulled some windproof/waterproof mittens on over my cycling gloves. The ride down to Summit Lake was uneventful. The road was rough and required care. I kept my elbows flexed and crouched a lot of the way to absorb the shock. This first part of the descent was quite chilly. I was thankful for my mittens, and that I decided to wear wool hiking socks under my cycling shoes.
As I passed Summit Lake I heard a loud crack of thunder. That was good motivation to pedal hard on the only uphill section of the return trip. I passed several cyclists and runners heading out below 12,000 feet with an obvious thunderstorm behind them. It never ceases to amaze me how many people choose sleep over safety in the mountains. I kept my eye on the storm, and the quickness with which the mile marker updates came from my iphone gave me comfort.
I was back at the car by 10:45 for a total time of 3:15 including plenty of lolly gagging.
- Bring plenty of layers for the ride down.
- Wear heavy socks
- Get an early start (as in 7AM) to avoid cars and lighting.