Saturday, May 30, 2009

End of May 2009 on Mount Evans

Though it took me a while more than I had planned on, I managed to ride up to the top of Mount Evans today. The US Forest Service claims its the highest Auto road in North American at 14,130 ft in elevation. I'll tell you one thing for sure, weather can be radically different up there than on the Front Range at this time of year!

I rode the superslabs out of the Denver Metro area in order to make up some time since I had slept in this morning. By 10:45 AM I was at Idaho Springs and I-70, fueled up, and heading up on CO103 which is part of the Lariat Loop Scenic Byway towards Mount Evans Road or CO5.

The US Forest Service Ranger told me it was "hailing quite well" at the top as I queued up to pay the $3 charges to motorcyclists. I told her I'd stop if things got bad, while my mind was saying " oh, oh".

Still the initial five miles up Mount Evans Road were just fine. Roads were mostly dry, not much snow at all and not too cold.

Pretty tame looking conditions right?

Yeah, the road was wet, but not slippery at all

Things would get a little more iffy after the above set of pictures!

I went past the Mount Goliath overlook and went past Mile Marker #5. The way ahead was very foggy as this stretch of the Mount Evans Road was in the clouds. Not just any clouds of course, but thick dark ones with occasional bolts of lightning and sounds of thunder seemingly not too far off! Of course, it also started to lightly snow.

My Caberg helmet was having its usual hard time staying unfogged, and I rode all the way to just past Mile Marker 7 before stopping since I basically could not see very far ahead. It was a combination of fog, clouds, ice crystals on the visor and on my eyeglass lenses. It was around 11:45 when I stopped, and I just took the below pictures while trying to "wait the storm out" and continue riding.

Waiting out the light snow fall

As you can see, the snow was not "sticking" to the road

Around 12:05pm, three bicyclists slowly made their way down the mountain road. They stopped near me to adjust their gear and put on some rain gear. I talked to one of them and he said they'd turned back at Mile Marker 12 due to slushy snow accumulating on the road. Not good.

Soon after they left, the mountain top became even more thickly covered in clouds and fog. I figured then that even if I got up there, I would not be able to see much or take pictures. I headed up a bit, but turned back shortly before Mile Marker 8. I road back to the Mount Goliath Overlook at Mile Marker Five after a slow ride down the mountain in a medium snowfall. Lucky for me, the road was too warm and the snow melted immediately on contact with the road surface.

Self portrait, unfortunately taken AFTER I'd brushed off most of the snow

Lunch Site, the Mount Goliath Overlook's Parking Lot

I spent perhaps 45 minutes or so at this overlook, eating the lunch my loving wife had made for me. I wandered about the overlook, took the pictures above and just gazed at the scenery around me while the snow storm blew away. It was a balmy 35°F while I was there, much warmer than the low 30's I'd seen reported by Brigitta's thermometer just two miles up the road!

Finally, close to 1:00pm, I saw a break in the clouds overhead and glorious blue sky with sunshine peeking through! I got Brigitta turned around and started heading back up the road since it was no longer snowing and the road, while wet, remained ice-free. It would in fact, be ice free the whole time I was on the mountain.

So with just a few clumps of slushy ice in the center of the lane, which I easily avoided, I went back past Mile Marker 8 and road all the way to the top of Mount Evans. In fact, once you got high enough you just basically came out into less cloudy conditions, some sunshine and best of all, dry road! It was all cake once I got past Mile Marker 12.

This is just past mile marker 10 I think

Even though I "locked" the exposure setting, the pano shots didn't come out as well as usual

The buildings at the top, that's the observatory on the right. There used to be a small snack bar up here but it burned down I think.

Brigitta at the top

It's perhaps another 1/4 mile of hiking up the rocks to get to the very top of Mount Evans, seen here behind Brigitta. Both she and I passed on this hike.

After I took the above pictures, I slowly made my way back down the mountain. The clouds were rolling back in as I rode down which made for very few scenic shots. That and the fact that there's not too many "safe" spots to park one's motorcycle in order to take pictures!

Still plenty of snow around when you're above mile marker 12

Summit Lake on Mount Evans

One last look the Mount Evans Road as it hugs the mountainside

So I made it safely back down the mountain, things were in fact quite dry once past Mile Marker 5. I stopped by the entrance to Mount Evans Road and tried to phone home to check in, no signal. As I was getting ready to go, a trio of beemer riders rode up from CO103. One of them walked up to me and asked about conditions up on top. I told him what I'd seen, and said if they were going to try it, they had to hurry. I left them with that and proceeded eastwards on CO103 towards Squaw Pass.

The ride down CO103 with its many twists and turns, coupled with sometimes "interesting" changes in elevation, was completed with no problems and minimal use of the brakes. When going downhill on mountain roads, Mr Gravity is NOT your friend but engine braking is!

I got back down to where CO103 junctions with CO74. I took CO74 towards Evergreen, transited through this quaint mountain town, and rode on towards Bear Creek Canyon and the towns of Kittredge, Idledale and Morrison. One final stop just shy of Morrison to take off my warm layers now that I was back int he mid-60s in terms of temperatures.

The following shot is for Jack Riepe, who always says shots of snow and ice make him feel like eating his gun. So Jack, here's some greenery as you've requested before, this is the river which flows along CO74.

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. I transited through Morrison, past the herds of cruisers parked outside the town's bars, and continued on Morrison Blvd into the Denver Metro area. Using this blvd, then US285 or Hampden Road I made my way to the I-25/225 slabs which I took to my home neighborhoods using the Parker Road exit.

Though it was in the high 60s back home, the clouds were dark towards the south and east. I saw a couple of lightning bolts and got home before any rain. In fact, it's two hours later as I type this, and still no rain! Just ugly storm clouds to the south. Perhaps 6 hrs in the saddle today, 191 miles covered. I got rained on, hailed on, snowed on, rode through thick fog, heard thunder and saw far off lightning. Ya gotta love Colorado spring weather in the mountains!


cpa3485 (JIM) said...

It almost looks like another planet up there. Glad you made the trip safely. Very much enjoyed the pictures.

chessie said...

Quite a ride... amazing stuff...
I really like coming here to read your ride one else does it quite like you.

Charlie6 said...

cpa3485(Jim) and chessie, thanks for writing in and reading this stuff. Glad to hear I've a "niche" all to myself. : )