Rob DeBruyn & I have completed our month long tour of the Colorado Rockies. We have pitted ourselves against some of the finest rock routes on the Continental Divide and have experienced the camaraderie of wild cyclists and climbers. We spent every sunset, dark night, and sunrise in beautiful and vivid landscapes. We spent our days under the hot morning sun and the shade of pinyon pines. Our touring bikes were heavier than ever; our bags were filled taught with metal bits and nylon rope. In my handlebar bag, home to my most needed possessions, were my camera, glacier glasses, compass, and waterproof journal for thoughts and examinations. Specifically, we were recording ecological data for the Adventurers & Scientists for Conservation (ASC) Organization based in Bozeman, Montana.
Rob & I participated in four ecological projects that paired with our trip. We were instructed by the crew at the ASC to start observing wildlife, tracks, roadkill, and American Pika. This was our first time practicing civilian science and it was fulfilling! I am currently enrolled as an undergraduate studying biology & environmental science at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Organized by a department professor, I participated in a geologic field study in Iceland and ever since, I have been eager to return to the field for data collection. What inspires me as an adventurer and scientists is the same – a fervor and curiosity for embedding myself within nature.
Our traditional ascent of Mt. Evans was crowded, not by other climbers but by marmots, mountain goats, and pika. Rob & I started scrambling to the base of the wall early in the morning. By noon we were near the false summit. Rob & I were surrounded by the cries of rodents below and the amiable glances of white goats on perches too shabby for a rock climber. We rested on a ledge, hundreds of feet above jumbled broken blocks. I snacked while Rob powered on his smartphone to input our observations for the ASC. I regretted my lightweight decision to not pack a zoom lens for my camera. Like a camouflaged Where’s Waldo, my distant photographs of rodents were comical and would hardly pass for scientific evidence (a few images had the rodents illustrated in widths of a dozen pixels).
We had fun searching for American Pika. The rodents were skittish, small, and loud. They were most easily found by accidentally wandering into one’s territory and listening for a loud halting squeek. Rob & I pulled ourselves to the discernable top where a single Pika stood watching. The false summit of Mt. Evans, a formidable obstruction which we were inextricably stuck to, gave way to an expanse of peaks and valleys. The glare of the sun smeared and faded the horizon from rich detail to an intoxicating immense of blue. I looked down again, the Pika must have ran off – I thought about the cracked and weathered rock visible for miles, this Pika was long gone.
Rob & I drove to Estes Park, Colorado for a final climb in Rocky Mountain National Park. Weather patterns had changed and our 2am alpine start up Hallett Peak was in vain. We reached the base of the cliff amid alpenglow and impending storms. Our last day of adventure was spent pleasantly hiking among touring families on the well worn trails of Rocky Mountain National Park until weather fouled.
Our journey to Colorado, Rob & I have decided, has done nothing to stifle our desire to explore and to experience iconic climbs that have marked the history of modern rock climbing. Our time spent in Colorado was short and our to-do list of rock routes is longer than when we started.
Rob & I were supported by sponsors, friends, and family. We chose to tour uninhibited, on the back of a bicycle, with our equipment in tow. We met a community of adventure enthusiasts that have connected us to the sport we love. Our involvement with the Adventurers & Scientists for Conservation was an important link between the sport we love and the environment that needs protecting and analysis for research. For one month Rob & I forewent thoughts of school and employment; for one month we cycled, climbed, and collected data and now… as I am sitting at my desk in my Residence Hall I digress about the exposed and winding alpine routes I will climb in the future.