After successfully climbing Capitol Peak, we returned to our bikes and headed 24 miles to our hotel room we had booked in Carbondale. In my last post, I mentioned that we waffled for awhile on whether or not to attempt Capitol. What I didn’t mention was that we weren’t just unsure about whether or not to do that peak, but whether or not we wanted to continue riding and summiting 14ers at all. Geographically, we were at point where we needed to make a decision. We could ride 180 miles back to Denver directly from Carbondale, or we could ride the same mileage south towards the San Juans and further away from our eventual destination. We were both feeling the strain of the past seven weeks, hundreds of miles of riding our bikes, and the constant elevation gain from climbing mountains. Our bodies really made the decision for us – we were ready to head back to Denver.
We took a couple days to rest in Carbondale before heading back the way we came. The I-70, and adjacent bike lane, was still closed due to the Grizzly Creek fire, so we didn’t have a choice but to head east up and over Independence Pass.
We left Carbondale in a smoky haze and took the Rio Grande bike path that connects the Roaring Fork Valley all the way to Aspen. The ride was pleasant and well graded. We had a steady cruise to town passing Capitol Peak in the distance as we rode. We stopped briefly in Aspen for lunch and a small resupply, then the challenging part of our day began. From town, we had 20 miles and 4000 ft of gain to grind out on the narrow highway to the top of Independence Pass. We sank into a slow and steady pace while cars buzzed around us. We took breaks often grateful for the overcast sky.
It took us over four hours to get to the top, and we arrived completely exhausted. From Carbondale, we had climbed over 6000 ft for the day. We recalled our perfect campsite just a few miles down the east side of the pass and headed down eager to make camp and sleep.
After such a huge day, we set our sites on Frisco for the evening about 60 miles away. Though we had plenty of elevation gain and loss, there was only one big pass which was considerably smaller than Independence.
First, we got to enjoy about 15 miles downhill passing La Plata trailhead and the tiny town of Twin Lakes. From there, we headed north and gently uphill on Highway 24 back towards Leadville spotting Mt Elbert and Mt Massive through the haze.
After Leadville, we took Highway 91 north with just one short pass to pump before a long downhill cruise to Frisco. The work was a little tedious, but nothing compared to the previous day’s slog. As we were climbing, a tiny cloud system rolled in a sputtered a few rain drops as we climbed 1300 ft up Fremont Pass. We were stoked to make it to the top knowing that we’d travel 2400 ft downhill over the remaining 18 miles.
We flew down the other side of Fremont Pass. Thankfully, the highway had a wide shoulder, and we were able to send it. We both clocked ourselves over 40 mph. Once we made it to Copper Mountain resort, the final few miles were back on a bike path to Frisco. We settled into a hotel room for the night and rested for our final day of riding.
We decided to undertake a big day knowing there was a bunch of downhill riding to Denver. But we still had a little work to do to get us there. We started our day from Frisco on a lovely bike path that wound around Dillon Reservoir and connected us to Keystone Resort.
From Keystone, we were back on the highway doing 4-5 miles per hour as we climbed Loveland Pass. I settled into an episode of Armchair Expert (with Bill Gates!) and let myself be distracted. We reached Loveland Pass by 11 stoked that the most challenging part of our long ride was done.
From the top, we started a long downhill descent first on the highway then joining a bike path in Loveland Resort. The bike path took us right by the Grays and Torreys trailhead where it turned into a frontage road by I-70. From there we cruised into Georgetown. After a quick lunch, we continued the mostly downhill ride to Idaho Springs.
From Idaho Springs, we had about 1200 ft of climbing to do mostly on a highway a county road. As we arrived to Bergen Park, our climbing was officially done, a moment of joy and relief. We joined the busy Highway 74 on the wide shoulder and cruised downhill passing the cute town of Evergreen and entering a gorgeous canyon. We had a blast effortlessly riding with incredible views. Eventually, we exited the canyon passing by Red Rocks Amphitheatre and wishing I was going to see Umphreys instead of just listening to them in my headphones. Soon, we were winding through Bear Creek Lake Park and Fox Hollow Golf Course. At this point, we were just a few miles through the neighborhoods to our friends house southwest of the city. At about 5:30, we pulled into the driveway officially ending our Summer of Summits – 1000+ miles of riding our bikes and climbing 33 14ers in 50 days.
In total – 50 Days
1038 Miles Biking / +101,600 ft elevation gain
255 Miles Hiking / +104,100 ft elevation gain
33 – 14,000+ ft Summits