Pikes Peak looms over Colorado College, and I’ve fantasized for years about mountain biking up the East Face via the Barr Trail. I’ve heard mixed responses from people ranging from “It’s too hard” to “It’s illegal”, but the seed was planted in my mind freshman year and it was finally time to tackle the challenge. Biblical rains soaked Colorado and provided excellent kayaking, but now it was October. Rivers had dried up and temperatures were falling. I figured I’d have one chance to bike up before winter snows covered the mountain, and with that thought I set out to collect some meager food for the weekend. Snickers. Lara Bars. More Snickers.
I came back to Colorado College with the goal of biking Pikes by the end of the season, and had the intention of training, but weekends of kayaking dashed those plans. So there I was, not having ridden more than 30 miles in the last month, staring up from the bottom of the Incline. My legs slowly fell into rhythm, matching the steps of the 60 year-old pacer ahead of me. I stabilized my bike with my right arm, and trudged my way up the endless trail of railroad ties and rebar. Damn. This is why I should have trained.
Walk 20 steps. Break. Walk another 20. Break. Finally I lumbered over the last couple ties, and soaked in the view of the city beneath me and Pikes lurking behind ponderosa pine. I wasn’t particularly tired, but not in a hurry either. The aspens were golden, their leaves blanketing the trail, and a slight breeze cooled me off as I started riding towards Barr Camp. Soon the primary flaw of a singlespeed hit me. 12+ miles of trail, 8,000 feet of vertical, and no gears. Something didn’t sound quite right.
I slowly made my way up Barr trail. I rode the longer flat sections, and walked most of the uphills – it was just faster that way. Boy did the Barr trail make me appreciate the flat parts. My mind was fixated on one goal though: I will get to the top, and I’ll have my bike with me. I turned a corner and glimpsed my favorite view of Pikes, walked a little more and visited the new caretakers of Barr Camp, and finally checked into the A-frame shelter around 5pm. Sausages were on my mind, and I quickly pulled four out to roast on the pre-made fire.
There sat a man, cooking noodles in a bowl, slightly disheveled. I can’t recall his name, but he mentioned that he wasn’t from Colorado. “So how’d you end up out here?” I asked. “Well, don’t think I’m nuts or anything, but I was running from a jail sentence when I came to Glenwood.” he replied. I looked down, and stared at the large knife hanging off his belt. I’m still alive, so the night was a success, but I graciously left him the shelter and bivied out in a nearby meadow.
I neglected to bring layers as I was packing lightly, so I quickly bundled up in my sleeping bag after eating the sausages. The bag was my new home for the next 12 hours until the sun rose and I embarked on the final couple miles of trail to the summit. Surprisingly pushing my bike uphill at 12k feet seemed easier than the incline – then I got to the Golden Stairs. Navigating the short, steep switchbacks is hard enough just hiking up, and the bike certainly didn’t make the final stretch any easier. I was so close though. Staring at the land 8k feet below I finally began to realize what a sweet, uninterrupted downhill I was about to bomb down.
The summit came. Then mandatory summit shots. And then mandatory summit house donuts. I’m convinced I wouldn’t have been able to descend without the calories from those 6 greasy, overpriced donuts. Conveniently my camera died at the top. Here’s what I’ll say about the descent from the top:
- The Golden Stairs don’t go when you’re solo and on a hardtail.
- The loose rock above treeline is really loose.
- Barr Camp down was nothing but screaming downhill fun.
- My middle fingers have never been so sore from gripping the brake levers.
And to add on to that – I may need new brake pads.
Short video coming soon.
View photos from the trip: http://fluidglass.com/post/66631343110