I pedaled away from my doorstep at 4:37 am, ready to embark on a full day of moving my body in the mountains. I had that giddy excitement that comes with setting off on a big adventure in the mountains. My mind was wide awake, but my body was still processing coffee and a breakfast sandwich. Thirteen minutes after leaving my doorstep, I passed the ‘Used-to-be-Bus-stop’ and turned left onto Highway 36. My body would take a minute to warm-up (it was 27 F degrees outside), the air was frigid and cold on my face, but knew the 14 mile stretch from Boulder to Lyons would get the blood pumping. The full moon illuminated the highway, patches of ice on the shoulder glimmered and cut through the darkness.
The residents of Lyons were still asleep when I rolled through town. I turned left onto highway 7 and headed up the mouth of South St. Vrain Canyon. I had the road to myself, not a soul (or car) in sight. I could feel the temperature starting to drop as I headed up the canyon. I still had 25 miles to go and a bunch of climbing before I reached the Longs Peak Trailhead (LPTH). I had rigged my bike so that nothing was on my back, the ability to get out of the saddle without anything on your back is freeing and a lot more comfortable when compared to the cumbersome feeling of riding with something on your back. It was proper cold in the depths of the canyon. I could see my breath with each pedal stroke and my buff around my face was beginning to freeze. The sun started to rise while I was in the canyon, which meant I missed the magical alpenglow hour. I crested the top of SSV just past where highway 72 intersects highway 7 and was greeted with my first glimpse of the sun; glorious! I was happy to be up on the Peak-to-Peak highway, but still had some riding to go before reaching my next portion of the day. The climbs after Allenspark and up to the LPTH are real kickers, especially after 4k of climbing already in your legs. I was freezing by this point (appendages were going numb) but knew the warmth of the day would arrive soon. I arrived at the LPTH a bit before 8 am. It had taken me 3hrs 45mins to ride to the trailhead. I had anticipated a much shorter ride, but I guess it takes a minute to push a loaded bike 44 miles up the hill.
After an 8 minute transition, I stashed my bike behind the ranger station and started hiking up the hill. The conditions through tree-line were excellent; a perfectly packed trail was weaving its way through the trees. I felt a new sense of energy as began to get my first few glimpses of the East face of Longs Peak; the Diamond. I was planning to take a connection of preexisting trails, some boulder hopping, a short technical section, and some snow climbing. The route ascends the North Face of the peak (pictured above), and the short technical part of the route is known as the Cables route. My initial thoughts above tree-line were “WOW, there is a lot of snow up here.” The bomb cyclone had left a heavy mark in the high country.
As I cut up through Jims Grove, I followed a set of snowshoe tracks set by my friend Joe Grant the day prior. At first, this allowed for somewhat fast travel. I would step directly into his tracks and yard on my trekking poles to stay upright. As his tracks began to disappear, forward momentum began to decline. As I wrapped around the eastern slopes of Mount Lady Washington, I began to feel the days effort in my legs. I slowly made my way through the boulderfield, postholing with each step, inching closer to North Face (pictured below).
I was excited to reach steeper terrain on the North Face. The snow was much firmer and provided for quicker travel. The short crux section (picture above) known as the cables (a 5.4 slab in summer) was entirely packed with snow and allowed for easy passage. The rest of the hike to the summit was a romp! I hung out on the summit for ten minutes enjoying the sunshine and windless day. Such a treat!
The rest of the day went as followed:
Cruiser hike back down to the N. Face plus a super easy downclimb of the Cables
A soul destroying posthole back through the Boulderfield and Jims Grove
Finally being able to run back through trees to the bike…so fun.
Flat tire in SSV…. hitchhiked…. walked the bike for 3 miles…hitchhiked again and finally got a ride to Lyons from a nice man
Pumped the tire up at Redstone cycle shop
Felt heroic on the 15-mile punt back to Boulder
Flat tire again 1 mile from home
Walking it in with a smile
What an amazing day. I love days like this. Setting out from your doorstep on an adventure. Simple and beautiful.