Climbing to the Hill Climb

It's been such a busy summer that Nick hasn't had a chance to go bike packing yet. He's been dropping hints, setting up his bike, going on test rides and such. I've wanted to try it again - last trip was a bit much a few years ago - but with all the racing... It hasn't worked into the schedule at all. Then last week, at the PV Cycle Derby, when a few of his monument friends said something about riding up to watch the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. I didn't really pay attention, knowing I wouldn't want to ride up Barr Trail and such in one day. Especially a week before Sage. I should have.

Friday night, Nick gets fed up watching the hoop twirling and commercials on the Olympics. "I know! Let's ride up to Barr Camp tomorrow, camp and then ride the rest of the way to the toll road Sunday. We can watch some cars, then ride home." Okay... I'm hesitant but game - its not exactly what Coach Adam has on my training plan. Bit it sounds like fun - and I've never watched the Hill Climb. Time for some last minute packing! The kittens were more then happy to help with the tent. More then happy...

Saturday, right after they finished the women's mtb race, we hit the trails. Nick had his bike loaded with all the camping gear. I had all my clothed and my food and water. Not as much as Nick, but still a lot of weight. Took the easy way to Manitou - there was plenty of climbing to come. Dodged cars and vibram clad hikers up Ruxton Ave - plenty of sideways glances and double takes - Especially when Nick roiled by. I was amazed by the number of hikers I saw. It's been a while since I trained on the mountain, but I don't remember that many people! And the number of white dots on the incline revealed even more. Past the Cog parking lot and we kept going up the double track road that paralleled the Cog. I was in my easiest gear, trying to keep a good cadence and smooth pedaling style. We passed a few more hikers, then made the right turn onto Barr Trail.
Nick's bike all packed up - he was carrying most of the stuff

On Barr Trail - I did my fair share of pushing!
I remembered how steep the ascent up Mount Manitou was from my days racing the Ascent. I was prepared for some solid climbing. It was a little harder then I remembered, but having a weighted down bike didn't help at all. Nick warned me about some of the rock gardens - most of which I made, but a few I walked. No shame. Even in front of the hikers. Most of the hikers seemed to be in awe - people riding their bikes up this trail? Nuts! Yeah, kinda - but in a good way. Most of them understood how hard it was and were more then happy to let us ride by. Finally, we reached the Experimental Forest and No Name Creek. Most of the really hard climbing was over. Rolling with plenty of rock gardens all the way to Barr Camp. I did a little more waking, wondering why Barr trail hadn't been included in my Breck 100 training. I do have to wonder if the altitude messes with people's minds. In the middle of Barr Trail, riding up. Where do you think we came from besides Manitou Springs?
Nick getting the steri-pen ready to treat some water
After a "warm" welcome at Barr Camp (yes we rode up, yes we have real money, yes we want to buy some sodas.) we treated a few bottles and set out on Elk Park trail. Really fun, carved right along the mountain among aspens and pines. At the big creek crossing, we treated lots of water - enough for cooking and the ride to the campsite. More climbing, but with some awesome views of the mountain that you don't get on Barr. We were traversing just below the bottomless pit, hugging the mountain side. I could look up and see the Ridgeline where the endless switchback starts on Barr. Really cool. Then then trail opened up into a wide, flat meadow. Home for the night. We made camp, explored for a little, then cooked up some yummy dehydrated meals. Hey, when you're hungry, chicken and rice tastes awesome! I'm not the best tent sleeper, so it took a bit to fall asleep - and it was darned cold at 11000 feet!

Home for the night - looks cozy, huh?

View from camp of Pikes Peak - not even the summit!

But the sound of helicopters and motorcycles soon woke us. The sun was already warm, but the tent was in the shade. Time to get moving. Nick packed up while I made breakfast - oatmeal for me, dehydrated eggs for him. Two riders sped by on the ribbon of single track with a wave. Then Nick's buddies - Greg first, then John - also passed. We were on the right trail! One more rider passed just as we were finishing - we met Jon again at the stream everyone got water from. We treated all our bottles and bladders, then set out for the last push to the road. Mostly a fun trail with about 20 minutes of straight up pushing just below the road. Then we broke out of the trees and could see the line of single track stretching all the way to the road. It took us 1:16 to go that 4 miles from the campsite to the road, but we were treated to some spectacular views along the way.

Just below the road and we could here the sounds of the race - cars roaring, people cheering. And sirens. Apparently there were a few accidents. We had to wait a while before some cars actually started running again. And while we had a great spot for viewing, I'm not sure it was the smartest spot to stand. I can see why people like race cars - the noise, the feeling, the rush as they speed by. We could also see action on the corner below us - and hear the people shouting when someone spun out. A few drivers corrected, two got pushes from the crowd.
Me on the mountain - it was pretty cold up there!

Race car on the switchback below us - where a number of cars spun out

Getting close - going fast1

Old cars = really loud noise! And it echoed well at 12,000ft!
Nick getting some video for his dad.

We decided to bail before the weather turned. And it did according to what I read later - but we were already off the road. Back down the way we came, across the north east face of the mountain, traversing below the road and the Bottomless pit. I could still hear some cars, but it did get quiet for a while. (Greg would later forward us the link to the YouTube video of someone crashing hard, off the road, above where we were standing.) The bike packing gear on my seat post made it a little harder to get my weight back and I did end up walking one stretch of Elk Park trail. The same stretch we'd hiked up to get to the road. Back through the boulder fields, along the cliff side, and through the trees and we popped out right near Barr Camp. A few astounded looks from the hikers gathered on the deck of the cabin as the four of us set off down the trail. That was a pretty fun section to ride down - and there weren't that many people that high on the trail so it was also really quiet.
The trail back to Barr - streching off into the distance. There are two riders way ahead of us.

Nick coming down, back into the trees

Instead of taking Barr trail all the way down to Manitou, we took a back trail down to the Ring the Peak route. One big controlled skid for several miles, thanks to the recent rains in that area. We got a really good look at the Waldo Canyon Burn Scar - gonna be a few years before some of those trails are open, I think. There was some soil sampling involved and some dust clouds, but everyone made it off the road successfully. A rolling traverse back around the base of Pikes Peak to the Incline and we were done with single track. I was starting to get tired, feeling the effects of climbing up the mountain the day before. But we were almost home - just had to get through Manitou Springs safely and onto the bike path to home. Getting through Manitou was the hardest and scariest part of the whole ride - both days! Lots of people out and about and not all of them paying attention or expecting bikes. Once we got on the bike path, it was an easy, flat spin to home. Good thing for me - I didn't want to see another climb for a while!

But it was a fun weekend - did some things I haven't done before. Rode my bike up Barr Trail, did another bike packing trip with Nick and got to watch some really fast cars driving like maniacs on Pikes Peak. Much better then staying home and watching the ribbon twirling!


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