Saturday, March 7, 2009

Crystal Lake Climb

Azusa California, Hwy 39, Elevation 753 feet

Temp is about 62 degrees; clouds look like they are burning off. I elect to go gloveless and take a wind jacket and arm warmers. You will read very soon here that I later pay dearly for this decision. Up Hwy 39 I go towards East Fork/Crystal Lake. I have never gone past Crystal Lake, and today I had time to burn and wanted to reach the Angeles Crest Highway (Hwy 2.) This would be a total of 28 miles. I know; this doesn’t sound like much, but it would be at an average gradient of about 8%, hitting a max of 15%. Mathematically, moving 183 lbs up this mountain took 2400 calories, and 2 hours 23 minutes at a heart rate of 170 bpm. The ride starts with some rolling 5-7% grades over the Morris and San Gabriel reservoirs, about 9 miles until the East Fork Rd/Crystal Lake split. The ride starts here, once past the first camp and OHV area the 8-10% climbs start.

Elevation 2000 Feet, 12 miles

The Snowy peaks can be seen in the distance, but the clouds that were supposed to burn off are actually getting heavier. This is now the part which is past the closed gate, which means I can ride up the middle of the road and know there are no cars on the road. There is a slight downhill and now the tough part begins. I am by no means a climber, and the 12% grades which I hit for the next couple of miles hurt me. I have to stay out of the saddle to stay at 170 bpm, which is exactly one beat under my Anaerobic Threshold. Why is that important? Simply because any higher of a heart rate and my body stops flushing the lactic acid out of my legs and the gas tank empties. If I want to last the whole climb it’s all about pacing myself.

Elevation 3000 Feet, 15 miles

Just after Coldwater Campground the grade eases for a couple of switchbacks and the climb starts again. The road is getting more and more desolate. The road continues to wind over the river which is flowing strongly from the melting snow. The switchbacks are coming thick and heavy, as you ride you can see the climb above you, and below you.

Elevation 4000 Feet, 19 miles
I stop to put my arm warmers on. It’s starting to get cold, but I am still comfortable. I stop at the Josh Webster water fountain, named of course after the person who motivates me to do this ride. Josh actually does REPEATS up and down this mountain which, unless you are elite athlete it is impossible to explain the effort he puts out.

The hefty sprinter hits the watering hole. Webster claims the Native American burial ground above feeds spirits into his bottle adding 20 watts per kilo. Currently unfounded claim, however, what harm could Chumash Indian ashes be? (20 minutes later I begin hallucinating and believe the Red-Tailed Hawks are my guides up the mountain.)

Elevation 5000 Feet, 21 miles

As evidenced by the photo, I am at 5000 feet, and freezing. My hands are becoming more and more numb as I go. There is NO sun, despite desperate pleads to Mother Nature for just a few precious warming rays. I pass the Crystal Lake exit and keep going. I figure I will just go as far as I can stand the cold, and turn back. I am above the snow line and inside the clouds around the peaks. At about 5500 feet I almost turn back. I have pulled my arm warmers over my bare hands like a kid with his sweatshirt. The grade is only about 4% here and I am cruising pretty fast. Surprisingly, it starts to get warmer and I break out of the clouds into the sun! Ahh, how nice! My spirit has lifted and I think I may make it to the crest.

Elevation 6000 Feet, 25 miles

The snow is getting very heavy now, I start passing through walls of cleared snow.

Now, the walls are getting really high. I slip over a couple of areas of black ice, and my front wheel almost makes me go down.

I figure I’ve got to be close so I keep going until…….

Well, that’s it. Now I can see why the snow tunnels were so big, this guy has been clearing this stuff all day. I can barely feel my hands and after suffering I get stopped a cruel 3/4 of a mile from the crest. **Sigh**
Ending elevation, 6311 Feet. I will save the rest of the story for you, but I can say it was the most miserable time I ever spent on a bike. I couldn’t stop shaking, and just kept watching my altimeter praying for 2000 feet to come as soon as possible. Finally I got down to the reservoirs and warmed up. I love my bike but sometimes I wonder what the hell I was thinking. I get back to my car and blast the heater on the way home. 52 miles, 3 hours, 37 minuites. The mountains are beautiful but they can conquer you if you are not prepared. I will be back again to battle with the crest again.


Chester Gillmore said...

Keep up the hard work man! Sounds like a killer ride. I dont think I would've made it as far as you. I am kind of a sally when the temperatures turn south.

Dave Jacobson said...

Trust me...There is no shame in that....I was going into shock on the way down.

15 more pounds and 40 more watts and Crit Monkey to Classics rider transformation will be complete.

Chester Gillmore said...

Hahaha... You'll get there man... just keep on climbing