It’s no secret that I love bicycles and instantly fell in love with the Colorado Mountains from the moment I saw them on my move to this rad state. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I thought carrying my mountain bike to the top of Colorado’s 9th highest peak was a decent idea. Gray’s Peak, at 14,270 feet is one of 50+ mountains rising above 14,000 feet from sea level, that are known by locals as 14ers. I’ve hiked and climbed up about half of these peaks and have been kicking around the idea of mountain bikes and 14ers for a while now.
The maiden voyage of this plan started with a shuttle to the top of Pikes Peak 14,110’ and a steep and thrilling ride on the hiking trail to the bottom with a couple of good friends. As amazing as that experience was, I figured I should “earn my turns” and try hiking my bike to the top. I used Mt. Antero 14,269’ to test the idea. Mountain biking on a 14er has already been done by multiple people and hiked by thousands of others, so I knew it could be done. The question was, could I do it? Antero has a jeep road that tops out at 13,800 feet. Awaking pre-dawn, I spent the next hour pondering reasons not to start this crazy trek. With no solid reason stopping me, I unzipped my sleeping bag and spent the next three and a half hours pushing, carrying, and riding my bike to the end of the road. I was back to the truck in under twenty minutes. But that’s downhill mountain biking for you. It was so much fun but also a whole lot of work.
It only took a few days for me to start thinking about the next 14er and after some research, Grey’s Peak was at the top of the list. I’ve hiked to the top a couple of times, and it has a trail all the way to the top. So, things looked promising. I messaged my friend Erik, knowing without a doubt he would be up for the adventure. Erik has not only hiked up Gray’s but also skied down it on a separate occasion. He thought it would be cool to ride a mountain bike down it too. We made a plan and soon found ourselves driving up the rocky road to the trailhead.
We started out riding our bikes, but it didn’t take long for the trail to get steep, so the bikes went straight on to our backs. I made the mistake of weighing my pack and bicycle before leaving so I had plenty of time to reflect on how I could have saved some weight. The trail was rocky with countless water bar steps. With heaps of loose rock and blind drops, it became apparent that we were going to have our hands full riding back down. The path went on further than my enthusiasm for the climb. It’s about this time that my mind started making attempts to convince me that turning around would be a respectable idea, but I didn’t have any solid reasons to stop, so I kept walking. At one point I even asked Erik if he wanted to turn around, but he was on a mission to the top. Dang it! Can’t use that as an easy way out. Guess we’ll keep going.
It was an absolutely beautiful day, so we had lots of time to get to the top even moving at a snail’s pace. The hike ended with a handful of long switchbacks. I’d long lost sight of Erik; he was probably on top by now. I started daydreaming about someone coming along and offering to carry my bike for me, but it never happens, and before I realize it, I was on top of Grays Peak at 14,270 feet. We take a much-needed rest, shoot summit photographs, nervously chatter about the surrounding peaks, munch on some food and eventually all we have left to do is get back down.
One of the funniest parts of the climb was the reactions and questions from the hikers. “What are you doing with a bike?” “How are you going to get down?” “How did you get up?” “Are you going to ride that down the trail?” Guess they don’t see many mountain bikers on these mountains. We started making our way down the trail, riding right off the top. It was a super cool feeling. The ride was challenging with endless piles of loose rock. I lost count of the number of times I almost crashed, and I watched Erik have a few close calls as well. However, we didn’t get down without paying the toll. We both flipped our brains out. Erik bruised his hand and acquired a slew of additional knocks and scrapes, while I managed to smack my ribs into a rock. It was a small price to pay for an adventure not many get to experience. It’s something I won’t forget for a long time. Sure, it was hard and sucked at times, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but for me, it combined a few of my favorite things in life. I’ve already started planning the next project, stay tuned.