The rest of the trip was a blur of trying to get some sleep, transferring buses in Denver and then gazing at the scenery was we wound our way towards Frisco where the guys would be waiting. As we rolled into the parking lot around 9:30, I scanned for the truck. Indeed the guys were ready and waiting to ferry me back to the condo for our adventure to begin.
By noon we were off and rolling after I had hauled my junk up 3 flights of stairs and scarfed down some real food. Our first foray for the day was to take the Peaks Trail from Breckenridge to Frisco. I'd been forewarned of the altitude issues I'd face of being short on air, energy, and general ability. As we turned up the paved hill to the trail, I found a groove, but noted it was roughly two-thirds of what I thought I should be functioning at. There's no way around altitude! The Peaks trail was a nice beginning with some rocky and rooty sections separated by rough bridges and smooth pine forest tracks. As we descended into Frisco the first and only real jerk of the trip showed his colors by attempting to rip past us on a fast downhill. I heard callouts of left, right, and a bunch of jumbles only to start to turn right to avoid a large puddle as a biker came barreling down on me. I quick dab of the foot into a deep puddle (soaking my whole foot), a few words exchanged, and we were back on our way. The rest of the downhill was a blast and punctuated at the end with some steep step downs that were fun to ride.
The rest of the day is a bit hazy, but definitely gave me a trial by fire. We road the paved trail from Frisco to Copper Mountain. We made a pit stop along the way to fuel up for what we knew was going to be a challenging climb ahead.
Start of Wheeler Trail:
The first sections of trail were pretty ridable and not overly steep. As we started to gain more elevation, we'd hit spots of trail that were too steep or too rock strewn to ride. Eventually, this gave way to more rocks and more steepness. Eventually, we would all hike-a-bike over 50% of the trail. at just over 2.5 miles in length, the average gradient ended up being over 16.5% with most of the last mile or so being over 20% grade. In case you're wondering, that's damn steep! Most of the time I was walking on my toes and the balls of my feet to create enough leverage to push my bike up the slopes. Finally, we made it above tree line only to discover a chilling wind and the threat of rain to be upon us.
Nearing the top, looking back at Chuck (the fluorescent blob):
Kyle and the other Rick were the first to the summit with me dragging up a good 5-10 minutes back. They had found a place to wait out the minutes for the remaining 3 chasers. It took me several minutes to snap a picture of my bike against the sign as the wind was so strong, it continually blew it down.
Final destination- 12,400':
Finally, it was time to descend. I'm not sure why, but I never snapped a picture of the singletrack descent. Either my mind was toast due to lack of oxygen and over exertion or I was too damn scared to think about taking a picture of what I was about to take on. I started the descent gingerly and made it to the fist nasty drop/switchback. At this point in time, I decided, I walk down to a slightly less intimidating portion only to realize my left foot was now stuck to my bike due to losing a screw from my cleats on the hike to the summit. Luckily I was basically stopped and could fall against the mountain side (only a foot or so away). I worked a good 10 minutes or so getting my shoe unlodged from the pedals and now was faced with the fact I couldn't clip back in without fear of being stuck on the bike when I might need to make a hasty exit. Considering the steepness of the trail and my apprehension about riding it in a fully functional mode, it made the decision to walk that chunk a no-brainer. Actually, I think almost all of us walked that portion and a good chunk of the remaining alpine sidehill we had to traverse.
Finally we came to the jeep trail/fire road section of the descent. Still unable to clip/unclip as needed, I mounted up and rode my brakes down the loose rocky section of jeep trail with my left foot resting on the pedal not clipped in and my legs taking the brunt of the force required to keep my foot from slipping off. Indeed, I was cramping up just staying on the bike on the downhill! As we finally came to a more groomed gravel portion of the road, we regrouped. Kyle suggested fixing my cleat with a bottle cage screw and it actually worked. Now I could clip in, however I had to be a bit careful of the now too long screw poking me in the bottom of the foot. I gained speed on this descent, but the rest of the guys flew away in excess of 30 mph on the downhill as we slalomed our way back to Breck.
We were grinning from ear to ear as we hit the edge of town and pedalled off in search of a bike shop to help with some woes including a broken spoke, destroyed shoes, and my cleat issue. On top of that, as we started to crank the pedals, Kurt's crank arm literally detached from the bottom bracket leaving him with quite a befuddled look as it was still clipped to his shoe. Luck must have been smiling as that would have meant almost sure disaster on the downhill we'd done literally minutes before. Luckily it was nothing more than a screw coming loose and we fixed it before heading on our way.
With sushi and a big beer in my belly for dinner, it wasn't long before I was sawing logs and dreaming of what day 2 might hold.