In the Saddle: Survival climbing |

In the Saddle: Survival climbing

Bob Ward

I rode the hill to Maroon Lake twice over Memorial Day weekend, but the two trips were so different as to seem like separate places entirely.

During the first ride, a Saturday excursion with a buddy, the trip up Maroon Creek was the last significant climb in an 82-mile trek that started in Basalt and included an ascent to Ashcroft. Though I was pumped full of energy-inducing food and drink, I was tired in the legs and sore in the back by the time we passed T-Lazy Seven, and I spent much of the time beyond the East Maroon trailhead in my granny gear.

It was, for the most part, a survival climb. I grunted my way to the top for training purposes, not for fun. (I’m taking a week-long bicycle tour through the San Juan Mountains at the end of June, and if I expect to enjoy all that climbing then I’d better prepare, right?)

Fortunately, the descent that warm day was fast and sweet, with no stops and hardly any braking. A screamer, and a nice payoff after the climb.

But what a difference a couple of days make. On Monday, being up in Aspen for work, I decided to take a lunchtime ride up to the Bells, a simple out-and-back for the beauty and exercise.

Much of Monday’s ride was spent in my middle chainring, just spinning up that amazing gorge, breathing rhythmically and enjoying the scenery. It was about 20 degrees cooler, so it actually felt better to push harder and keep the rpms high. For the same reason, I didn’t linger at the parking lot; I just turned around and tucked for the descent.

Problem was, for reasons beyond my understanding, Monday’s traffic was much thicker. After about three miles at blazing speed, I ended up squeezing my brakes behind a line of four SUVs, inching down the road and gawking at the scenery. And thanks to blind curves and incoming cars, I couldn’t pass them.

Saturday: Hard slog up, big payoff down.

Monday: Fun spin up, descentus interruptus.

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