Peak(s):  Mt. Evans  -  14,268 feet
Date Posted:  08/23/2020
Date Climbed:   08/23/2020
Author:  bwinners
 Solo Cycle to 14,264'   

For many years, I've thought about taking a bike up Mt. Evans from the Summit Lake parking lot. This year, due to a really rare incident (yes, I'm referring to a global pandemic), there was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to do so without any vehicle traffic. For someone like myself, who is terrified at the thought of getting hit by a car (I feel like this is a reasonable fear) I knew I had no choice but to make an attempt!

As you have probably already murmured to yourself while reading this, yes, the summit from Summit is not possible this summer. And yes, if you are a cyclist, you know that most would consider the "true" route to start in Idaho Springs. I consider myself a bike enthusiast and less a cyclist, so starting from the closed gates as Echo Lake was good enough for a pat on the back.

Anyways.

My alarm pounded at 4:15. I snuck upstairs so that I wouldn't wake up the dog, which to be honest, nothing really wakes her up too quickly these days. I made myself a cup of coffee, enjoyed a bagel, and set off for the quick 50 minute drive to the parking lot.

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LET'S GO! This sign both excited me and terrified me all at the same time.

I was the fourth car in the lot and it was still pretty dark when I arrived. I took my grand ole time getting ready, waiting for the sun to rise enough for a reasonable amount of light. At 6:40, I finally set off. The night prior, I made an awesome early 2000s pop playlist for this ride, and I was amped to listen to it.

I settled in for what I knew was going to be hell for the first 20 minutes or so as I impatiently waited for my heart rate to rise accordingly with my pedaling. You know. The pain, misery, and your mind screaming at you to turn around and maybe never do this ever again. I gave myself a break at 2 miles, feeling good about the warmup, feeling petrified knowing I still had another 12 left to go before the summit. TYPE 2 FUN.

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Views popping out of Treeline

No amount of pain and misery could stop the clock from moving though, or my will to keep pedaling. Before I knew it, I was popping out of treeline. The sun was really beginning to rise now, with its red glow amidst a good layer of smoke. It cast some beautiful red colors across my vantage point, and I tried to concentrate on that, and not the lack of breath. So far, I was the only person on the road for what I could see ahead and behind me. I was all alone, with my NSYNC. I stuck to the middle of the road, trying to picture what it'd be like to have to hug the side, stress about potholes, and feel cars whizzing past.

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Just a little Mile 6 selfie!

I took my next break at mile 6. Figured I'd do that, and then push 3 more miles to Summit Lake. This wound up being a much longer break than planned. The views were just absolutely gorgeous and I was STILL alone for all that I could see, so I just sat in the middle of the road and ate some bacon. Bacon at altitude is always recommended.

20598_04
I always set my next destination to be the next switchback. Little goals. Little goals kept me sane.

My music switched to All American Rejects and I knew it was time to move along, move along (get it? get it?). 3. More. Miles. Until. Summit. Lake. I had told my boyfriend the night before that just making it to Summit Lake alone would feel like an accomplishment, and if I felt tired, I'd be okay turning around there.

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Obligatory bike at lake photo

Summit Lake actually arrived way quicker than I expected. Possibly due to the slight elevation loss that you make getting into the lake (I don't think it's too much, it didn't feel too bad coming back up at all). I actually didn't really feel ready for a break, but it was beautiful and I love being there, so I forced myself to eat more bacon.

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Another Summit Lake photo
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Another Summit Lake photo. You can see that the road starts to deteriorate from here on out.

I ate the bacon, looked around, and...you guessed it...NOBODY was around at all. I was still totally alone. It was almost eerie, because it wasn't even that early....8AM, to be exact. Where are all my early birders at?!

And so...I pushed on. My heart was RACING and not because of the elevation, but because I knew I only had 5 miles left and I was feeling good. I should actually probably admit that I squealed and smiled really wide at the confidence I felt knowing that I was going to MAKE IT.

The first three miles from Summit Lake weren't too terribly difficult, nothing more than what was previously done. I simply concentrated on my breathing, enjoyed my playlist, and tried to enjoy the views whenever I felt confident I wouldn't hit a pothole. As many reports will state, the road is considerably worse above the lake. The weather also felt considerably cooler, so I put my gloves on, but didn't feel the need for the windbreaker. It was truly the most pleasant morning to bike. Except for, you know, the smoke. As seen in the next photo:

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The smoke didn't affect me too much, not until I got home to Denver (I've been drowning myself in water since I got home earlier). So, there's that. I did have a neck gaiter that I planned to use as some kind of protectant against the smoke, but didn't find it too necessary. Everybody is different though.

Ok so here I am, at 12 miles in. I take a much needed break and get some electrolytes in me. I'm listening to Kid Cudi, feeling STRONG, feeling EXCITED, only two miles left! That's right Kid Cudi, I AM on the pursuit of happiness! I clip back in, take one pedal...........and my legs just feel like lead. They ache, they're screaming at me, they're sore, and my lungs. I have no lung capacity. I don't know what happened, I don't know why it suddenly clicked, but suddenly my body was aware of how high up I was and sort of rebelled against me.

Those last 2 miles were admittedly the hardest 2 miles of cycling I've ever done in my life. It was a bit defeating, after having had such a pleasant first 12, only to be completely miserable the last 2. I kept my head down and couldn't look up. I counted every switchback. Two men passed me at this point, the first time I'd seen anyone all morning. Watching them make their way up gave me a bit of a pep in my step, though not much.

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SO MANY SWITCHBACKS.

I turned the corner for yet another switchback, when thus I see....

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A TOTALLY EMPTY parking lot WHOA

THE PARKING LOT! I sort of laughed at that, I knew it was close, yet so far, for so long, that it seemed almost unreal that it was in front of me!

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Mom I made it!

I didn't stay up for too long. I also didn't true summit, either. I actually packed chacos just in case I had the desire to, but honestly, I just wanted to get onto the descent already and this was my third time up Mt. Evans in the last two years. I linked up with the two men ahead of me and we took pictures for each other, since there was nobody else there.

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The actual summit is still bit of ways up.

I had stressed about the descent all week. I packed two extra tubes just in case, but took the potholes very conservatively, deciding I'd rather take my time down the mountain than blow my tires out with a fun pinch flat. It was quite the stark difference on the descent too in terms of crowds - there were so many cyclists making their way up as I made my way down. I didn't feel like I got THAT early of a start, but hey, early bird gets the worm, and in this case - absolute solitude.

I was also completely taken aback to see cars parked at Summit Lake. But then... I saw the dreaded helicopter, and I saw the sirens making their way up the road. My heart breaks for whatever situation was happening simultaneously on the mountain, and I commend the folks who drop everything they do to answer these missions. As I write this, I don't know much about what happened, so I won't dwell on the topic. But..... REMINDER TO BUY YOUR CORSAR CARD IT'S ONLY $12 EVERY 5 YEARS.

I ran (quite literally, ran) into a runner on the way down who flagged me down. He asked me if I had seen anything up top with the rescue, and we chatted a bit. He was impressed at my cycling, I was equally impressed at his running. Running....is something I'm never going to do. Ever. As he ran away he told me I HAD to get blueberry pie at the lodge so...

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Mystery runner, if you are reading this, I got myself some pie!

I bought myself some celebratory pie!

For those of you reading this Trip Report wondering if you should try this, the answer is, absolutely yes. Do the bike ride. Do the blueberry pie. It's all so worth it, the best kind of Type 2 fun, and a huge feeling of accomplishment. I commend all that do this from Idaho Springs; I wish I could be as strong as you!





Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
WishIWasInTheMts
User
Congrats!
08/23/2020 19:29
Nice work!! I rode up Evans two weeks ago and can confirm the switchbacks at the end are absolute torture and never seem to end. However, I completely screwed up, as I didn€„˘t know about the blueberry pie! Thanks for a great read!


ltlFish99
Beautiful report
08/24/2020 01:39
Congratulations.
That is a really nice way to get up Mt. Evans
I love that little lodge, and always have to stop in for some kind of treat.



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