Monday, August 03, 2009

Playing With Gravity

Mother Nature can be a dangerous bitch in Texas, but only once every few years when there is a tornado or a hurricane or if you forget to hide inside from her during the summer months.

In Colorado, her beauty and her danger are both in full flower--every day. In large part, this is because the ground forgets to stay "down." It tips up at dizzying angles as forces in the earth collide and bang the mountain plates together, thrusting them skyward.

Because ground is "up" instead of "down" sometimes, you can't see the thunderstorm, hiding behind the peaks. White fluffy clouds sneak over, barely scraping the tops of the mountains and looking for all the world like innocent cotton swabs. But in an instant the wind changes and the cotton swabs give way to cold blankets of coal-colored water, spewing rain and hail and even snow in July.

And you try to escape, but you can't. Although you had dressed for a cold ride, it is not enough. You are clammy with sweat and overheated after climbing 4 thousand feet from the valley floor at Dillon over Swan Mountain Road and thence to the Continental Divide at almost 12 thousand feet.

But at the top of the pass, there is no shelter from the wind, which is now blowing at 30 miles per hour, air temperature 40 degrees, cutting right through to the sweat congealing on your chest. You snap a couple of pictures and try to dive back to Keystone and the warmth of the Starbucks store.

But on the way down, your tires are getting wet and you dare not bank fully through the turns, lest your tires slide out from under you and gravity takes its toll. And the slower you go the longer you will be in the cold. But the faster you go, the colder you are. And your front tire is shaking at 35 miles per hour because you cannot stop shivering.

And you always do these climbs, because descending is not "real" if some bored teenager rents you a townie or mountain bike with a comfort seat and drives you to the top of a pass. And riding just isn't the same where the horizon and mother nature are predictable. It is the risk of not overcoming that gives the avoidance of failure some taste. And it tastes good. Not sweet. More complicated than that. But good.

You can see opportunity for more taste all around. Turn up the valley and head toward Breckenridge and you cannot help but see a rocky monolith towering over the peaks making op the ski area. That, pictured above, is Quandary Peak.

Quandary gives you over 14 thousand feet of gravity to play with. It is the tallest point in the Ten Mile Range in Summit County, Colorado. And without all that oxygen weighing you down, thoughts are clear. Not terribly lucid, but clear. At least at the time.

Tomorrow morning, at first light, three Ironman finishers will go out to play. Why do we do all that training and nonsense? Put this down as one of the reasons.


21stCenturyMom said...

That looks lovely and fun but were it me I'd be suffering a huge headache and puking at the top. I don't do well in the 02 free zone.

Say hi to the Taconites and Tribe from me.

Bigun said...

Play hard. You deserve it!

Fe-lady said...

"There is no way to reproduce the tremulous rapture and the diplegiac aura of triumph found at the summit of the mountain except to go back, approach again, attack again, and the the overarching pain, all that bliss sprouts from, returns." Wayne Sheldrake (on climbing Mt. Evans)- I have kept this article for almost five years now. Someday I will ride these mountains.
Have a great time!

Kim said...


cant wait to hear all about your playtime!