Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bierstadt...the hard way

Finally biking in the daylight

I lead a "Mountain Challenge" for my co-workers at Tendril every year. This year, I scheduled an "easy" 14er. Bierstadt, and a harder one, Capitol. Tom, who never joins in for these things as even the hard mountains are trivial for him, was interested in Bierstadt, but only if we biked up there. Having friends like Tom can be a bitch...

We started from our respective houses at 1 a.m. and met in Golden at 2:10 a.m. We rode over Lookout Mountain and onto I-70 for a couple of exits before getting on highway 40 and climb up over Floyd Hill and then down into Idaho Springs. Five miles outside of Georgetown we met my buddy Eric Coppock and he turned around to finish the ride with us.
2 a.m. in Golden

We were meeting my co-worker Octavian at the trailhead atop Guanella Pass. He was bringing our hiking gear so that we didn't have to carry it. I told him to get there around 6:30 a.m. though we'd likely not arrive until 7 a.m. We stashed our lights in Georgetown and began the 3200-foot climb to the Bierstadt parking. When the Guanella Pass road was paved it immediately became the best climb in Colorado. I love this climb, as it is so varied, has beautiful views, and is on perfect pavement - a rarity in Colorado, especially at over 11,600 feet.

I rolled into the parking lot at 6:58 a.m. We were hiking by 7:10 and by the time I got to 13,000 feet my bonk was fully realized. I knew it was coming, as my stomach had shut down on me and I hadn't eaten anything since Georgetown, almost 5000 feet below me. I was moving very slowly, but still passing other hikers, as he never paused on the entire ascent. My companions had the good manners to stay right on my heels instead of blowing on by and leaving me behind.

At the summit I was completely drained. I'd climbed about 12,000 vertical feet to get here over the last eight hours and my energy stores were completely depleted. Eric turned and immediately started jogging down as he had hoped to be back home by noon. Octavian, Tom, and I just hiked down, though at a fast clip. I felt a lot better going down and vowed to eat when I got back to my bike. Alas, I forgot and didn't remember until I tried to climb a small riser while descending the pass. Oh, yeah, I thought. I have no calories in me.

I had a quick bite in Georgetown and then followed Tom's draft to Idaho Springs and a desperately needed French Dip sandwich. The salt, fat, and protein was just what my stomach demanded and after a leisurely hour-long lunch, Tom and I cranked out the two tough climbs back to Lookout Mountain. In Golden we parted ways once again and made our way home on the tiring rollers, fighting a headwind the entire way, though just beating the rain.

Octavian descending from the summit of Mt. Bierstadt
The total stats for the day were 137.5 miles and 14,400 vertical feet. I got home around 3:30, so it was 14.5 hours for the round trip. Doing it this way sure makes Bierstadt a tougher challenge.

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