OK! Wow. What a few days it’s been. The trip has changed a lot in the last few days I feel. I’m riding with someone else, I’m spending about a third of the money/day that I have been spending and I’ve gone completely off route – trusting someone else to lead me to San Francisco. I’m not sure where I left off last, but let me start from yesterday morning.
We had pitched our tents by the side of the highway, behind some trees, and thus, that is where we woke up. I went to eat a couple of pre-cooked eggs I had bought – but some rodent had chewed the package open and had a few nibbles! A night-nibbler it must have been. I ate them anyway with great success.
After inhaling a great big breakfast consisting of said eggs, some oatmeal and fruit and a few peanut butter fajitas we were off. I knew this was going to be a big day – Daniel had been obsessing over how hard Independence Pass was going to be since I had met him two days earlier.
At first we started riding north towards the big mountains…
We’ve been riding along the Arkansas river for the last few days so I thought I’d get it on film.
Along the road we found a sign that explained that the animals I’d seen by the side of the road the day before were actually Bighorn sheep – not mountain lions.
After about two hours the we hit our exit going west. The exit towards Aspen – a famous ski resort on the other side of the pass we had to get over. In the background is Mt Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado at a little under 15000 feet.
Daniel was pumped!!
Once we got past Twin Lakes the climb started (that’s where I did the blog post yesterday). 19 miles all uphill the locals had told us. Steep too, they added. That’s one thing I’ve found on this trip – locals ALWAYS try to scare you. They always think the climb right outside their door – and preferably ahead of you – is the steepest and toughest you’re going to find anywhere. This rarely turns out to be the case.
Up there is where we’re going – I thought. It turned out that was just one plateau about 1000 feet down from the peak.
Psyched on the terrain I’m going through!
As I said in the previous blog post, the first mile of climbing wasn’t bad. It turned out it didn’t get bad until the last five miles of the 19. That’s when the road started doing switchbacks and got a little bit steeper. At this point Daniel was way behind me – he was walking the last bit – so I was on my own. I could feel the temperature dropping sharply and the winds picking up. Thunder kept going off down the valley somewhere and it echoed eerily up the mountainside. At this point it started to rain a little bit and I was getting pretty chilly.
Eventually, after a few hours of just sitting down and stroking along, I got to the top.
I got almost an hour to just hang out by myself at the summit, and it was awesome up there. Very, very cold and windy and rainy, but I still enjoyed it. I wish I could have written down my feelings right then and there but it was so cold that my fingers were absolutely frozen. I think the temperature at the peak was like 38 degrees fahrenheit (4 celsius).
In a lot of ways, it was very emotional for me at the peak of that big mountain. For one, it was so jaw-droppingly beautiful that I had chills running down my spine for 20 minutes – no kidding. Standing at the top of one of those big giants, looking out over an ocean of other huge peaks, was special for me. I can’t describe exactly why but it was just so awe-inspiring. It was also emotional because it really made me feel like everything was falling into place. Cycling through some of the eastern states – many of which I found pretty boring landscape-wise – suddenly felt so worth it now that I was atop this amazing peak.