- LA MAISON
- LA VIE
Mount Blue Sky
Mount Blue Sky, formerly Mount Evans, sits at an elevation of 14,265 feet (4,348m) above sea level. A paved road traces the contours of a nearby ridge, ultimately bringing visitors up to the proud summit from its southeastern flank. The road happens to be the highest paved road in North America and, while I’m not an advocate for more pavement on high peaks, the road’s existence presents a pretty compelling opportunity to cyclists. A tarmac track up to 14k’ begs to be ridden.
While many choose to start the route from Idaho Springs—which, with its 7,000’ (2,130m) climb in just 28 miles (48km) is itself a formidable ride, and also the course for an iconic Colorado road race, the Mount Evans Hill Climb—my partner, Anton, and I opted to pedal from our doorstep, in Boulder.
In part motivated by the shared appeal of a long day out together, and in part because summer is short and it's these full-day adventures that carry you through winter, we left home at 5:30am with 72mi (116km) and 14,000’ (4,267m) of elevation gain between us and the summit. Of course, afterwards, there would also be the matter of getting home.
Our route up combined scenic dirt and iconic Colorado pavement. With hardly any warm-up we tackled the precipitous, paved switchbacks of Magnolia Road (with the steepest pitch clocking in at 18%) to gain its gravel rollers and a few fast miles on the Peak to Peak Highway backed by sweeping views of the Indian Peaks.
From there it was onto some shady dirt with a sustained climb up and over Gamble Gulch, a buzz through Central City to surf unsealed surfaces on the (appropriately and aspirationally named) Oh My God Road before a well-earned drop into the old mining outpost-turned tourist trap, Idaho Springs. It was here that we both felt like we were finally getting into the meat of the ride.
Getting into cycling has resulted in me spending more time lounging outside of gas stations, encircled with junk food and cold drinks, than I would have ever predicted, say, ten years ago. At an Idaho Springs gas station (that has become a comfortingly familiar outpost on long rides), we lounged on the curb, finding our second wind for the second half of the climb in the form of canned coffee and commercial pastries. While the stop was rejuvenating, we were also both eager to get on with the business of climbing Blue Sky itself.
The last 28 miles were punctuated by a quick ice cream stop halfway up, after adding the 3100’ (950m) climb up Chicago Creek to our legs, at the Echo Lake Lodge. The remaining 14 miles of pavement quickly brought us above treeline and to traverse the northeast aspect of the ridge before threading a low point in the horizon to continue winding along the mountain’s southern aspect.
As is typical this time of year, there was a stiff breeze out of the west, which acted as a steady headwind until we crossed the ridge to gain the shelter of the southern side. We rode alongside snowbanks, alternately gazing down at tundra slopes and alpine lakes below and taking in the splendor of the Black Wall, an alpine rock climbing destination that falls from the ridge like a dark curtain in the near distance.
Mountain goats studded the talus hillsides alongside the road as we continued to tick off the miles. A series of switchbacks guards the last four miles to the summit; with each turn the wind changed its favor, alternating between a demoralizing headwind and a spirit-lifting tailwind pushing us up the climb.
We reached the top just before 4:30pm, in thin air, swirling wind, and abundant sun. The trade-off for the relative ease of riding access that pavement allows is the circus of automobile visitors all eager to share the summit. The views from the top of Mount Blue Sky are wild, in the sense of the scale that a 14,000-foot perspective affords, but there should be no delusion that the summit itself is any longer part of its surrounding wilderness. The double-edged nature of the road up is that, with accessibility, comes an inherent unwilding.
But, given that Colorado is home to nearly 60 14ers (peaks above 4,267m), granting the masses easy access to two peaks (Blue Sky, and Pikes Peak with its auto road and cog train) seems like a small concession.
After waiting in the queue to have our photo snapped in front of the sign, we started the long—and long-awaited—downhill home. To close the loop, we opted for the picturesque ridgeline along Mestaa’ėhehe Pass Road—surely one of Colorado’s all-time paved descents. The wind, which had continued playing its game of friend or foe for much of the descent, fortunately landed on being our friend for the short climb to gain the ridge below Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain. From there, it truly was a flying 55-mile descent home.
I enjoy the adventure of cycling, especially bike packing, the multi-day trips. For me though, it’s just being in the outdoors, seeing beautiful landscapes and using your body.
Farwell to Winter
It is said that the ride should be about the journey, not the destination. However, for Anton Krupicka and Hailey Moore, a recent trip in the Colorado mountains proved it’s about both.
Coins Cachés: Boulder, Colorado
Nestled on the eastern aspect of the foothills of the Colorado Rockies, the city of Boulder (population ~100,000) is a unique and idyllic hub for outdoor recreation—including cycling.
A Traverse Across the Pyrenees
Each summer, I set off on an adventurous trip with good friends who are up for a challenge. Last year, we bikepacked through the Alps and this year we tackled the Pyrenees.