Tuesday, January 31

Clean Coal

First off, let me say, I don't believe there is such thing as clean coal. The title is a reference to my adventure on Saturday. My impromptu hiatus has as much to do with having blown my mind with my little adventure, wrecking my body and my new homesteading fantasy obsession. But more on that later.

My day started off with a short ride to Olde Town and La Dolche Vida for breakfast and coffee. I took my time, reading some of Yvon Chouinard's Let My People Go Surfing, as I finished off a nice mug of coffee.

I meandered home and put things together and then just before 11am I headed out on The One, going minimal as all good mountaineers should, toward the mouth of Coal Creek Canyon.

I blazed west through Arvada and as I approached the climb up onto Rocky Flats a gale force wind hit me full in the face. What had been a solid Leadville-esque pace turned into a wobbly crawl. By the time I was within sight of Plainview Road I was growling and muttering wordless curses into the deafening wind.

I dove under the bridge, locked up the bike, sucked down some calories and fluids and turned my full attention to the Southeast Ridge of Coal Creek Peak.

I tried to scope out the best approach and line of attack without over-thinking the image of a steep, rocky and wooded ridge above me. I have a lot of experience doing just that, so I plodded on, crossing the steep prairie flanks up into the trees below the beginnings of the exposed rock bands.

The craggy SE ridge offers great scrambling potential. I avoided the majority of it, to speed myself up the spine of the ridge as I raced daylight, and to avoid chancing an injury on my solo jaunt. But you could occupy yourself for a full day up there just scrambling around on some very, very cool rock.

At first I decided I'd turn back at 2:30, but then at 2:24 I looked up and despite not being able to see the summit I believed I was close. So I amended my plan. Turn back no later than 3pm. That would put me at two hours on the mountain and a long, arduous descent with less than two hours to get down. I wasn't worried about my return bike ride home, as I had brought the Laser, both for visibility and for vaporizing rabid bears.

The higher I got, the more antsy I got, as I couldn't tell how far I had to go for the trees and continuous rock bands blocking the view ahead. But finally it felt as if the angle was easing off significantly and I knew I must be getting close. I didn't slow to check the time. Summit fever had settled into my bones, and I was finally moving in a state of FLOW, rock to rock, gliding over fallen trees, the weariness draining from my limbs...and then...there was nowhere else to go. I stood on a small, exposed and windblown summit. The view down on the southeast face of Crescent Mountain was stunning, the view north over Eldorado Mountain and the Boulder Group was even more stunning, and I felt fantastic!

I lingered only a few moments, and then I was racing daylight back to the plains.

Down, down, down, down I went. I tried to keep my speed slow, to save my 38 year old knees, but also to keep a steady and brisk pace. Down, down, down, down, over vertical steps, traversing exposed ledges, hopping over fallen trees, stepping carefully on loose talus...down, down, down, down...

At 4:25 I was unlocking The One from it's hiding place. By 4:30 I was refueled and slowly pedaling onto CO 72. And then gravity had me, and the ghost of the tailwind I would have had earlier in the day. The One screamed down from the mouth of Coal Creek Canyon, into NW Arvada and then I was pedaling at a more modest, but steady pace all the way home. It took an hour and fifty minutes to wrassle my way up to Coal Creek Canyon and right at an hour to return home. Solid!

The effort left me ragged. The next day my shoulders were sore, I was tired, and my thighs threatened to lock up from time to time. By Monday I was mostly recovered, but fighting a cold. Though I felt at my limit of mental endurance a couple of times on the climb (and before on the ride) I know this was only a small effort compared to those I have planned as I train for Leadville. And to be honest, I'm considering this little jaunt as my first real training effort towards Leadville.

I love it when a plan comes together!

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