(Last Updated On: October 13, 2015)
Through the darkness I could still see shadows. As I gazed up toward the summit of Mount Elbert, there was an absence of light – shadows had engulfed the peak before my eyes. Those shadows were in the form of clouds.
“It was a starry night as I drove over Cottonwood Pass,” I explained to Jessica Martin and Joey Klein who had spent the previous night in Leadville to meet me at the Mount Elbert Trailhead. “I don’t know where these clouds came from.”
The week prior, Jessica had finished becoming the first woman to mountain bike all of Colorado’s legal 14ers. By legal, we mean those fourteeners that are not in Wilderness, where the Forest Service has trails that are not closed to bikers, and that are not on private property. After much research, Jessica has rounded it out to a nice number of 14 peaks. We’ll have an interview with Jessica about her project in the future, but for those wanting to know – yes, biking is nearly the same as skiing. The bike must go to the summit 🙂
Though Jessica had finished her quest on Pikes Peak, she wanted to go back and bike Mount Elbert. Though it was the first fourteener she had biked, that had been a few years before. Upon returning, Jessica could now say she had biked all of the legal 14ers in one bike-season.
In the wee hours of the night, we began ascending the Mount Elbert Trail.
To be honest, the weather did not look promising, and the forecast was questionable. But, we ascended anyway, in hopes that something would work out.
Spirits lifted as we rose above the clouds and into this magical scene.
The clouds had been the result of an inversion, and we were there to capture the blanket of clouds that guarded the valley below.
The summit of Mount Elbert lay ahead under crystal clear blue skies, still a couple of hours of climbing to go.
Jessica soaking in the moment.
Joey riding a short section of trail.
As we climbed, the clouds thinned.
Of course, I always have skiing on the brain. These lines look fun 🙂
Close to the summit now! Jessica likes to carry her bike on her shoulders when traveling through talus like this, rather than push it over the rocks.
And there it was, Jessica stood on the summit of Mount Elbert for the second time with her bike.
It was a stark classroom completely devoid of windows. A sweet scent of phosphate chemicals hung in the air while 20-some-odd adolescent brains were being stuffed with chemistry. It was my classroom at Standley Lake High School and Jessica Martin was one of my most eager-beaver students.
Jessica and I reconnected a few years later, through email, after I had made the move to Crested Butte. Through FaceBook, we stayed in and out of touch. But, I was quietly watching her on the sidelines becoming friends with more and more of my connections on the Front Range.
You see, Jessica never noticed the dozen or so mountain biking posters I had clinging to the walls of my otherwise boring classroom, mixed in with various inspirational quotes and chemistry-related jumbo. But, I’d like to think that these mountain biking posters sent her a subliminal message, and that’s why she decided to take up the sport, thrusting herself into it whole-heartedly. And every time I saw her post something on FaceBook, she was biking something rad.
I watched Jess start and finish her fourteener-biking project with her periodic updates on Instagram. Reminiscent of my own fourteener-skiing project, I knew we had a lot to share. It was time to really reconnect.
So, I shot her an email and found out her plans to return to bike on Mount Elbert. Well, Mount Elbert is old hat for me – for both biking and skiing. I first biked it back in 2006 with Frank, who has probably ridden it a dozen times now. So, returning to bike Elbert with Jess seemed only natural.
Jessica’s plan was to ascend the traditional East Ridge, descend the more technical Northeast Ridge and loop it back to the trailhead via the Colorado Trail.
While on top of Mount Elbert, we had to get our full gathering of summit pics.
Then Jess decided to celebrate. After revealing she had brought up cupcakes to celebrate my birthday earlier in the week, she then busted out her Paul Frank – rainbow tutu costume…. complete with champagne for extra celebration.
Selfie just before the ride.
The descent was loose and technical for the first third, then got a bit easier. The last half was about as fun as can be 🙂 Here’s a few miscellaneous pics.
Recovering from a “tripod” move. It totally counts 😉
It snowed for just a few minutes…
As soon as we hit treeline, the trail became flowy and fun!
The segment of the Colorado Trial we took south to meet up with our original trailhead was beautiful and easy riding.
We knew we were close to the end of our Mount Elbert bike descent when we reached the beaver ponds.
What can I say, I’m proud of my former chemistry student turned badass 🙂
Can’t wait for more adventures together!
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