The Week in Numbers
Miles ridden: 419
Mountain passes climbed on bike: 5
Miles run: 30
Bananas consumed: 20
Times I couldn’t find my tent coming back from porto-john/shower truck/you name it: too many
Here is a poem, inspired by the hardest climb I have ever done. It was listed as an optional route, and was described as a 16% grade, for experts only. Just beyond the entrance gate to Black Canyon of the Gunnison Park, (which you had to climb 5 miles to access), was this intimidating road. I couldn’t believe it was for “experts only.” What did that mean? I did not and still don’t fancy myself an expert climber, but I wondered how hard it could possibly be. I had to see what all the fuss was about, so I attempted it and in so doing had one of the most excruciating and exhilarating experiences of my athletic life.
Ode to East Portal Road
I heard you were for experts only, your grade 16 per cent
That you stretched on for 8 miles and would not relent.
I admit I was skeptical of all the hype; could anything possibly be that grueling
But I’ll tell you what, I found out they weren’t fooling.
I wouldn’t have tried it except my friend was doing it for sure, without a doubt
And I couldn’t live knowing I might have missed out.
We descended sharply from the rim of the canyon’s peak
And the farther we went the more I began to freak.
My arms were killing me from braking so hard
And none of the faces of the climbers I’d seen looked encouraging so far.
One guy actually said “I’d turn around now if I were you.”
And those walking their bikes numbered more than a few.
Whether I was brave or just stupid I’m not sure
With every passing hairpin turn I wondered what I was doing this for.
My riding buddy said it was listed #49 in his book of a 100 hardest climbs in the US
I’d knew I’d have bragging rights, which was motivating, I confess.
Finally we got to the bottom, down to the river.
Anxiety creeped through my whole being, even my liver.
I started the ascent, one pedal stroke at a time
Just trying to move forward on this beast of a climb.
East Portal you’re massive, hard, and steep
With switchback after switchback you make grown men weep.
Mt. Mitchell, Flagstaff, Lefthand, and Beech
This road makes you all look like a peach.
Slumgullion, Snake, Pilot, the Pico, Lizard’s Head’s Pass
Compared to this, you’re a minor pain in the ass.
For you, East Portal, you made me WALK
An idea that would previously have made me balk.
But that was before I knew how sick a climb can be
When that 16 % still won’t let up, even after mile 3
The angle of the road looked to be about 45 degrees
All I could see looking ahead was a road going up, up, up, into the trees.
I tried all the mental tricks I had
But nothing worked, because you’re so bad.
I tried “Don’t quit” “You can do it,” and every mantra of which I could conceive
But going 2.8 miles per hour wore me down like you wouldn’t believe.
If only I’d not been too lazy to swap the 25 for the 27, why did I think I was such a stud?
I admit I needed those easy gears, I lost my pride, basically I felt like crud.
I couldn’t take my hand off the bar to take a drink of water
I feared my bike would fall over, as I’d teeter and totter.
I had at least 4 offers from kind strangers in cars to get a ride,
But I had to finish what I started even if my mind and legs were fried.
I finally got to the summit, the view was insane
And knew it was worth it despite, or actually because of the pain.