Day 5: Over the giant pass

Turns out that sleeping at altitude wasn’t so bad, especially since I found a vacant hotel room (the historic Delaware Hotel) and packed up the tent for the night. But, strangely, I missed the campsite after all. Sigh.

Today was the climb over Independence Pass, which means about 12,100 feet. It was frightening to contemplate, for a flatlander, but by now, I’m so tired that I couldn’t muster too much apprehension. I just pedaled.

The climb itself started around Twin Lakes, after aid station 2. We could look up from there and see the big peaks we were going to ride between, and that was pretty intimidating. But I felt that if I could just concentrate on pedaling a mile at a time, I’d be OK.

As it turned out, the 17-mile climb was really pretty tame until the last 4 miles. It was a pretty gradual climb, with a few downhills and flat parts to take a break. I DID drop into my granny gear for the first time all week. My legs just didn’t want to turn over higher gears anymore.

Just when I started to think this “challenge” would be a breeze, I passed a woman who told me to look up at the pretty waterfall. The waterfall was definitely pretty. But the road next to it scared the crap out of me. It was WAY up there, and not too far ahead. “Are we going up there?” “Yes.”

Yikes.

But it wasn’t so impossible after all. I’m a mountain goat now!

The campsite at Lake County High School, Leadville.

The campsite at Lake County High School, Leadville.

At the top, after a couple of switchbacks and some AWESOME views (now I know what a “mountain meadow” is), we popped over the top. There was snow everywhere!

I didn’t stick around long. My REAL challenge on this day was the descent. I wasn’t going to sit around at the top and chicken out again.

The downhill into Aspen was incredible. I hit almost 40 mph, and barely pedaled for 20 miles. It’s hard to imagine if you’ve never done it. Technically, we rode uphill for almost 20 miles and then went down about the same. What a great experience.

Aspen is incredible. I know it’s too expensive for regular people to live there, but I could definitely call it home.

We’re done now. Just 40 miles back down into Glenwood Springs tomorrow. Tonight, there will be some drinking.

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