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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is a story of my flatlander ignorance and foolishness, and how the help and advice of fellow cyclists averted disaster.

I had a business trip from St. Louis to Boulder Tuesday through Saturday last week. I got in early on Tuesday, rented a bike from University Cycles (who provided great service). They set up the bike just right with my saddle and pedlas and recommended a ride to Jamestown—not too challenging. It was great. I was euphoric when I returned the bike.

Saturday came around it was about 50 degrees with a 30% chance of rain. It was cool and pleasant, so I picked up my rental bike and headed to Ward. I was dressed in a base layer of wool, a wool jersey, heavy bib tights, and fingerless gloves.

There were a lot of cyclists out, most of them passed me, a few in matching kits and Powertaps passed me like I was rolling backwards.

The peaceful sound of the babbling creek, the beauty of the scenery, and my friend Granny Gear made the ride very pleasant.

I noticed it was getting cooler. Wow! I had climbed far enough to experience the effect of adiabatic cooling. There was a heavy mist in the air. Soon I could begin to see my breath and noticed snow on the ground. The mist turned to a gentle rain. I was working pretty hard, and was plenty warm. I expected that it would be a pretty chilly on the descent.

The road got quite steep at about mile marker 14. I have climbed steeper roads in Missouri, but they only go on for a few hundred yards. I was sucking wind and was happy to stop take some pictures of the junk cars scarring the scenery as I approached Ward. I had to stop twice more to suck wind. A cyclist passed me and gave me kind words of encouragement. I made a final push, past the stop sign and to the General Store in Ward.

When I entered the store I was greeted by a shivering woman. She and her friend had started the descent in sweat-soaked clothes. She began shivering uncontrollably, turned around, and returned to the store for shelter. The women must have though I was nuts, dressed in a couple of layers of light wool, no jacket, and fingerless gloves. They offered me a ride back down with their friend who ws coming to pick them up.

“I’ll be fine.”

They subtly and graciously convinced me that I was not prepared for the cold. I bought some gloves and stuck a magazine between wool layers on my chest. As I was walking out the door one of the ladies offered me a shower cap. I put it on and we all got a chuckle of how ridiculous I looked.

I stepped outside as was greeted by sleet. I started the descent, reaching into my jersey pocket for my riding glasses. I had lost them. I picked up speed. It felt like my face was being bead blasted. Within 2 miles of the 16 mile descent, my hands were numb. At 3 miles my chest was covered with sleet. I had to find a way to preserve heat.

I squeezed and released the brakes. I got into a tuck to keep the wind off me. I started pedaling against the brake and flexed my muscles, just to generate some heat.

By about 5 miles down the sleet had turned to rain. I could feel wet on my back and my shoes were filled with water. I started to track on the highest part of the lane to minimize the amount of water being sprayed onto me by the wheels.

At about 8 miles down a car with two bikes on a roof rack pulled up beside me. It was the cyclists from the General Store. “Are you OK?”

“I’ll be fine, but I’m not going to forget this anytime soon.”

She smiled and told me “you’re almost down.”

It got noticeably warmer. The beauty of the landscape distracted me from my discomfort. When I reached Highway 36 and turned toward Boulder I was feeling pretty good.

I got back to my rental car parked off Broadway. I climbed into the car, cranked up the heat, and wrung the water out of my socks. Then I waited for my shivering to stop so that I could drive. As I type this 24 hours later, there is still a trace of numbness in my fingertips.

I have no doubt that without the help and advice from these two ladies, I would have descended into severe hypothermia. I’d probably be in the hospital today instead of being back home in St. Louis, sitting in my living room.

Wool is good stuff.

Cell phone photos of Left Hand Canyon are below. Sorry, no pics from the descent.
 

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Yo no fui.
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I live ten miles from the base of Lefthand Canyon. Riding up into the hills before it's too warm is a common mistake, even by the locals whose visions of summer and rememberances of last month's 80 degree temperatures blind them to the day's weather forecast. The sirens' call is even worse as you stay warm on the ride up, as you pointed out.

I actually ducked out on a ride up to Estes Park on Saturday with some friends who were sure the weather would be nicer than the reports. I've even more glad I rode elsewhere now.

Of course, I've engaged in the same fooloshnness in the past, and I'll probably do it again some time in the future.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Pablo said:
I live ten miles from the base of Lefthand Canyon. .
I'm filled with envy. A colleague recommended the ride to Estes Park, but I don't think I could do it, at leat not without agony.. I think that my previous biggest climb might be about 400 feet elevation over a mile distance.
 

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Reynolds531 said:
I'm filled with envy. A colleague recommended the ride to Estes Park, but I don't think I could do it, at leat not without agony.. I think that my previous biggest climb might be about 400 feet elevation over a mile distance.
Oh, I bet you could do it, maybe slowly, but you could do it. It's an amazing 100 miles round trip from Boulder.

Next time your in Boulder, you should post on the Rocky Mountain forum for some other suggested local climbs.
 

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My dad used to live in Longmont and I've done that ride dozens of times but never caught out in the weather. I spent a few summers at Stapps Lake up above Ward. I had lots of Ward-rat friends.
 

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I rode from Helen, GA, to the top of Brasstown Bald (highest point in GA) over Thanksgiving weekend some years ago with some other RBR guys. The weather was sunny and mild when we left about 10 am, with temps probably in the upper 40s or low 50s. The final climb up Brasstown is brutal and I was sweat-soaked when we reached the top. However, it was extremely windy on top with the temperature was at least 20 colder and my jersey actually started freezing in the few minutes we were up there. I started shivering on the way down and my hands were so numb I could hardly squeeze the brake levers. I was seriously afraid that I was going to hurdle off a hairpin curve because it was so hard to brake. Like your experience, that was an eye-opener.
 

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Pablo said:
Oh, I bet you could do it, maybe slowly, but you could do it. It's an amazing 100 miles round trip from Boulder.

Next time your in Boulder, you should post on the Rocky Mountain forum for some other suggested local climbs.
He did. :)

I offered, but unfortunately my schedule did not sync with his.

Glad you were able to get out and ride.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
spudbiker said:
What is with all the dead cars?
Maybe the Boulder locals can explain. It was a beautiful ride but approaching Ward there were a lot of unkempt properties. The town was pretty dumpy. I got the feeling that there was a population of "stinky hippies." Peace and love in a creaky old house with a yard full of junk.
 

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Reynolds531 said:
Maybe the Boulder locals can explain. It was a beautiful ride but approaching Ward there were a lot of unkempt properties. The town was pretty dumpy. I got the feeling that there was a population of "stinky hippies." Peace and love in a creaky old house with a yard full of junk.
My experiences from 1980-1982, they were hippies. I had a friend named Sequoia and another named Star. I was once driving a chevy dually pulling a front loader on a trailer from Longmont to Stapps Lake through Ward. The truck was overheating and there was no way it would make the final climb to Highway 6. A "dirty hippie" showed up with an old International Harvester pickup and towed my rig up the hill. There was never a finer dirty hippie IMHO.
 

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Reynolds531 said:
Maybe the Boulder locals can explain. It was a beautiful ride but approaching Ward there were a lot of unkempt properties. The town was pretty dumpy. I got the feeling that there was a population of "stinky hippies." Peace and love in a creaky old house with a yard full of junk.
A long time ago, Ward was a booming mining town. If I remember correctly, Boulder was originally little more than a stopping place along the road to take supplies from the north-south wagon trails along the Front Range between Laramie-Cheyenne and modern day Denver, including Denver City and the mining camps along Cherry Creek, up to mining towns west of Boulder like Gold Hill, Ward and Jamestown. It's been a long and slow decline ever since. With the number of abandoned and failed town in Colorado, it's really impressive that Ward has remained a town. Ward, in particular, is relatively remote and just far enough away from the modern attractions like ski resorts (to the south near Nederland) and national parks (to the north near Estes Park) to generate much of an ecomony and most of the mining has petered out. There's also no agriculture up there due to the climate (other than some alleged illegal agriculture, if you know what I'm saying). Ward's long since been a home for hippies and vagabond types who want to live off the grid, sort of, while being close enough to Boulder to pop into town. I believe in Ward's town charter, it states that the laws of the United States do not apply, but I'd have to check that.
 
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