Jul 05

Our biggest climb ever

by in Week 3

  • Worland to Buffalo, WY
  • 91.5 miles/1381 total
  • 7,090′ climbing
  • 7 hours, 52 minutes in the saddle
  • A 25 mile climb
  • Screaming downhills

Today we had our biggest challenge of the entire 9-week trip and of our 13 year tandem career… the climb over Powder River Pass 9,666′. It is such a daunting climb that the organizers planned for our day to start 30 minutes early with breakfast at Cow Camp. Mmmmm, mmmm. Given that we are in the heart of “eat beef” country, they actually were very nice. They blended our protein drinks in their milkshake maker and had soymilk for our oatmeal.

We had prepared for the ride by stripping all the excess weight off our bike. We left behind most of my heavy tool kit, any extra supplies we usually carry and dressed so we wouldn’t need either of our panniers. We looked sleek heading out into the sun at 6:30 AM. The day started at 65 degrees and quickly warmed up so we didn’t need tights and striped off our wind jackets within the first hour. We rolled over hilly grasslands for 10 miles, alternating short downhills with long, slow climbs. We arrived at Tensleep before 8 and started a slow climb.

At mile 30 we started a 25 mile long climb to the summit. Twenty five miles. That’s a LONG climb! Most of it was at least a 5% grade. The terrain was lovely, traveling up Tensleep Creek Canyon. The road switched back on itself several times which you may be able to tell in the panorama below, but that was nowhere near the top. Every time we’d turn a corner it was more up. We were truly blessed by the goddess. Instead of baking in a sweltering sun, we had high clouds protecting us most of the day. We didn’t even apply sunscreen until nearly noon.

We had to negotiate a 2.2 mile long stretch of construction where there was no pavement, but still plenty of climbing. Then we felt gratitude again when we were surprised by an early lunch stop. It was 3 miles early and coincided with the time our water bottles ran dry. We ran into the crazy young guys who had  previously done Teton Pass TWICE and today they decided to bypass lunch to the summit and return down for lunch…then ride up to the summit again! We just can’t quite fathom that! We didn’t linger long at lunch because thunderstorms were slated for the afternoon and it was already 12:30.

We slogged our way up to the pass. It was one of those very misleading passes with a high mountain valley. You’d go over a crest, start down, then find yourself looking at another climb. There was a gorgeous lake and beautiful purple flowers (lupine?) along the ridge. We topped out just before 2.

You’d think, after 25 miles of up, we’d have a huge long downhill run. Especially since the elevation difference between Worland and Buffalo is only 500 feet. But no. We had some big downs, but then we would hit a mile long, 9% climb. Or a 12% climb. It was much like riding a roller coaster. There was a long slow climb followed by a screaming downhill. We often broke 50 on the downs. It was great fun.

Eventually, we got to the last downhill. It was a full 10 miles long at top speed. What a lovely way to end the ride. We were shuttled into town for dinner. While sitting in the restaurant the skies split open with thunder, lightning and more rain than we’ve seen in weeks. We were so grateful to be dry, warm, and fed. Some of our fellow cyclists got caught and sure looked bedraggled when they came in.

We thought you might enjoy seeing the elevation profile (below) for this, our most arduous ride EVER!  Since some of the riders either got a lift to the 30 mile point to start or sagged in from the picnic lunch spot, we’re feeling quite proud to have completed this challenging epic ride under our own steam.

 

 

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13 Responses to “Our biggest climb ever”

  1. From linda ihde:

    So glad you have this day in your pockets! And in grand style. Congrats.

    Posted on Jul 5, 2012 at 7:56 pm #
  2. From Pramila:

    Hi Sheila, loved the narrative, congrats and good luck !

    Posted on Jul 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm #
  3. From Gail:

    What an accomplishment. You two are amazing together. I laugh and cheer each day as I read your emails. (loved the Mary Oliver quote, Sheila!) I wonder if you have gotten my other emails when I have hit “reply.” Gail

    Posted on Jul 5, 2012 at 9:11 pm #
    • From S2Cycle:

      Gail, it’s good to hear from you. This is the first comment of yours that we have seen. So the others must have gotten lost in the internet somehow. You are an “approved” poster now, so you should see your comments as soon as you post them. If you don’t, something else is wrong. As to our trip, we are having a blast. I (Spencer) just had my first massage and am feeling fine.

      Posted on Jul 6, 2012 at 4:27 pm #
  4. From dianne grob:

    blessed by the goddess of clouds, purple lupine….what more could you want after such a long climb.

    Posted on Jul 5, 2012 at 10:09 pm #
  5. From Dale Dell'Ario:

    Cool elevation profile. So with all that potential energy, didn’t you just coast up those climbs after the summit 🙂

    Posted on Jul 5, 2012 at 10:33 pm #
    • From S2Cycle:

      Dale, How we would have loved to coast up those grades. However, even starting at the bottom at 50 mph, when you get to an 11 or 12% grade, you slow down right now! One man from England said it felt like he’d broken the chain on his bike because he suddenly wasn’t going anywhere.

      Posted on Jul 6, 2012 at 4:25 pm #
  6. From Russ:

    Outstanding! What a huge accomplishment! Inspiring, really. Way to go!

    Posted on Jul 5, 2012 at 10:50 pm #
  7. From Wendy Townsend:

    Keep on keeping on!!! Kudos!

    Posted on Jul 6, 2012 at 5:17 am #
  8. From Gracie:

    Brilliant, just brilliant!
    xo

    Posted on Jul 7, 2012 at 11:31 am #
  9. From Grace:

    Im so impressed by your stamina and physical strength! Great job!!!

    Posted on Jul 8, 2012 at 12:52 am #
  10. From DeeDee Rixe:

    amazing guys – great recap and so proud of the pass accomplishment!!! that’s a big one 🙂

    Posted on Jul 26, 2012 at 8:14 pm #
  11. From linda jt:

    Wow. All I can say is wow. Congrats on making it thru to the down hill end of your hardest day! You’re already home now but I just learned about your blog so I’m inhaling it all in one sitting. I’m in awe!!

    Posted on Aug 24, 2012 at 11:45 pm #