Building a road to the top of a 14,000 plus foot mountain is, to me, a quintessential American endeavor. Where else would someone expend hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of labor to build a road up a mountain, so that we can drive, instead of hike, to the top of a mountain?
The Bob Cook Memorial Mt. Evans Hillclimb takes advantage of the road that winds to the top of Mt. Evans. Beginning in Idaho Springs, CO, the road, classified as a scenic byway, winds 27.5 miles to the top, gaining 6580 ft. in elevation from the beginning of the race to the finish line. The race is divided into categories, and features a group start that sticks together for about 6 miles until the elevation gain starts to separate everyone. I’ve found that the key to the race is to stick with the pack for as long as possible, and then hook into a pace line for the remainder. The beginning of the race, all the way up to Echo Lake is fairly gradual. Once you get above treeline the wind kicks in, making a pace line essential. The steepest part of the course is about the last three miles, where a series of switchbacks kick in.
Mt. Evans is one of my favorite races, although I am conflicted about it. On one hand we are racing up a road that has cut a huge scar through some of the best scenery in Colorado. The race fees don’t go toward any sort of forest management or conservation programs. On the other, the road is there, so why not take advantage of it?