| Antero via Mountain Bike
Just a few notes on my MTB "ride" up Mt. Antero today. First a bit of
background to put my comments into perspective. I ride a lot on my roadbike and
I'm pretty fast. I ride hills a lot and above 10K' pretty regularly so I wasn't
really too concerned about the 5K' or so of climbing on this ride. Generally
I'm pretty good when it comes to aerobic capacity and I usually hike 14ers quite
fast. I don't ride my MTB very much and I think my technical skills are pretty
limited, but they are probably better than average for a non-serious MTBer like
myself. I've never tried to do a 14er by MTB before, but I have ridden Mt Evan
on my road bike. I'm not very experienced with "long" MTB rides like this. I
don't own a full suspension bike so I used my hard tail with front suspension
that I imagine is pretty poor. This bike is 10+ years old and cost ~$500 new,
so its nothing special. I used regular hiking shoes with toe clips rather than
clipless peddles because I expected to walk a lot. I think this worked fine but
I noticed it was harder to get into my peddles than usual, which was annoying
since I probably had to get into them 20 or more times, and it was almost always
desperate. Unfortunately I had no watch or odometer so this description will be somewhat vague.
I parked at the 2WD Parking Lot and did the round trip in 4 hours flat. I think
this is substantionally faster than I could have hiked it, so I feel like the
MTB experiment was successful. My motivation was to avoid the endless leg
pounding that comes from 14er descents. On that account it was also successful
I think, though I will be curious to see how my legs feel tomorrow!
Essentially, going up was no fun at all. There was a lot of walking, but I
probably rode at least half of it. At least it feels like I rode more than I
walked, but I walked many stretches and some were rather long. The "ride"
starts with one of the most difficult stretches. The road is very steep by
biking standards and its covered in loose rock. The photos here don't really do
it justice. If the road surface were solid it would be much easier but almost
all of the rocks are loose and I was constantly spinning out my back wheel. If
you have good control there are generally paths on either side of the road that
are solid, but the road was so steep for the first 1-2 miles or so that I didn't
have the lung capacity to keep the bike moving fast enough to keep it upright.
For most of this stretch I would ride a 100yds or so, then walk 50yds, then try
to ride some more.
Somewhere in there the road starts to level out more and the riding becomes much more enjoyable and substantially faster than walking. If you can get a ride to this point, do it. (Of course if you can get a ride to this point you might as well drive to the top since the rest of the climb really isn't that enjoyable ) This section follows Baldwin Creek and is relatively fun, at least as fun as it will ever get going up. The first creek crossing was easy with the bike on my shoulder, but then things got much tougher. The road gets really loose again, and there are some really steep sections as you continue to treeline, but there are also some level sections where you can make good time.
Immediately as you leave treeline you hit the most heinous stretch, a ridiculously steep section of loose river rock. It had to be 30% at least. It was pretty challenging even pushing the bike up this since the surface was so loose and the rocks were so big (bigger than softball-size). Not long after this things improve dramatically.
The section of switchbacks up the SW flank was probably the most continuosuly ride-able section on the entire ascent. I'm sure a fit rider with better technical skills could ride this entire section. I rode the vast majority of it, but every now and then I chose a bad line or had to rest. The other problem was that the road is very 'slanted' in spots and my rear tire would slide out and I'd have to step out quickly. Fortunately this stretch isn't very steep. I made really good time on this section, even holding off an ATV that was following a few hundred yds back for most of the switchbacks.
At the saddles there is a brief and relieving stretch of fun downhill wrapping around to the SE flank. The next set of switchbacks starts out ok but then gets very rough and loose. The pictures here make this look rideable but it was really tough, and I stashed my bike just before the first switchback. There were lots of big rocks and the solid-looking dirt was actually loos sand. If I had pushed through here it looked like it would have eased a bit higher, but I don't think it was really worth it. At this point the bike is more of a liability.
I hiked the rest of the way and I was really surprised by how slow I was moving. I think the strenuous riding really took a lot out of me, and I felt like I was "bonking". I had trouble choking down a power bar, so I reckon I was rather dehydrated. I was sweating a lot at the start of the ride but not much at this point. Its hard to drink enough while doing technical riding and I definitely hosed that up. Anyway, as soon as I started to head down I felt much better.
I was anxious to see how the descent would go. I was concerned it would be miserable but it turned out be actually quite fun. I think a full-suspension bike would be much better, but my hardtail did fine (I deflated my tires somewhat to help with the jarring). I don;t have disk brakes and they would have been really nice, but I didn;t have any major over-heating issues with my caliper brakes. The first section to the saddles was really fun, with some good jumps and little exposure. The next stretch donw the switchbacks was also quite fun, with some short uphill sections that help keep the speed in check.
Generally the big issue on the descent was keeping the speed under control. I suspect a more skilled rider could go much faster than I did but I have a low risk tolerance when it comes to such things, so I wanted to stay in control as much as possible. I rode the entire descent except for the "30% grade" described above. I think by the time I had finished I had become more comfortable riding through big loose rocks, so perhaps I could have ridden that too, but it didn't seem worth the risk. I found it very hard to break through the loose stuff.
The section from treeline to the creek crossing wasn't too bad, alternating between really fun and really loose. Perhaps the best section was the stretch after the first creek crossing, where the grade is such that you don;t have to brake constantly. Some good jumps in that section too. The last loose, steep bit back to the road was not nearly as bad as I thought, as I had gained quite a bit more confidence in my ability to maneuver all the loose rocks.
My hands were quite tired from braking when I got to the end, but I was stoked I didn't ever crash. I think there is potential for serious injury on this if you let your speed get out of hand. If you have body armor it would be wise to bring if you're interested in pushing the envelope.
Overall I wouldn't do this ride again since this peak is so forgettable, but if I have another opportunity to take my MTB up a 14er I will. The up isn't that much worse and the down is much better.