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This is my account of summiting Mt. Princeton with my bike.
While entirely legal to ride on a mountain bike, it should be noted that this is NOT a recommended ride!!
This write-up corresponds to an interview on the MTB Project Blog.
Need to Know
This route involves gaining and losing thousands of vertical feet on unrideable terrain. Again, this route is NOT recommended, but it's possible!
Princeton stands out as one of the more challenging peaks I've done, as it tested my limits taught me some pivotal lessons. To start, I was solo. Not by choice, but my work schedule necessitates mid-week adventuring and it's not easy to find friends with the ability to and desire to tag along. I started the day before sunrise and pedaled 4 miles up a dirt road to the start of the trail. The singletrack stopped as fast as it started and it quickly became a slow slog, shouldering the bike almost the whole way through scree and talus fields.
My spirit suffered with every step I took, knowing that literally none of what I was climbing was rideable on the way down. Both of the 14ers I had ridden prior involved summiting with my bike, so it was never an option in my head to summit without the bike. My stubborn determination pushed me to the summit after a slow 7-hour slog with my 34-pound stallion of a bike. I celebrated with some warm coffee, some pizza, a juicy palisade peach. I knew the descent was going to be slower and more challenging than the ascent but I had no idea what I was in for.
It was pure treachery, slowly picking my way down the endless fields of unrideable rock. I became so deflated as the clock ticked and I looked down at how far I had to go. Having the bike in tow was unwieldy as I maneuvered through the rocky terrain, and to top it off, I had developed a pressure sore on my ankle during the climb and I was now limping with every step. Sunset was fast approaching and I knew I would be finishing in the dark. I was able to get texts out to friends, got headlamps prepped and layered up for the dropping temps and wind.
Before long I was scrambling in complete darkness. Fear set in and I entered survival mode. I was alone, thirsty, hungry and scared. One misstep could send me or my bike tumbling down the mountain and all I had was a headlamp to guide me from one cairn to the next, and they can be harder to spot in complete darkness then you would expect. I remember coming around a corner and seeing the rocky trail fade into singletrack and I was overcome with relief, the cessation of suffering was near.
It wasn't long until the trail met the rutted 4WD road and I made my way down to where my friend Joey was staged with relief goodies. After a few minutes in a warm truck, electrolytes, snacks and a better headlamp, I chundered down the road to complete the ride. My adventure comprised of 18 hours, 15 miles, 5783 ft of vertical, 2 bruised toe nails, 1 bum ankle, and 1 happy Jess, overwhelmed with gratitude for persevering and surviving an epic solo adventure.