Sunday, November 10, 2013

Stellar Mt. Lemmon, Stellar

Atop Mt. Lemmon is the Mt. Lemmon Observatory (which I have yet to visit, but hope to soon), so hence, one of the titular 'stellars'. 

Mt. Lemmon is also the venue for hundreds of local and visiting cyclists to challenge their climbing mettle. Some will just play on the mountain, parking at the legendary Le Buzz coffee shop 4.25 miles from mile 0 on the mountain, going up as far as their time or energy permit, and riding back down. Some will drive part way up the mountain, park, and then ride up some miles and back down to their car. Others will summit the mountain checking off another event on their bucket list. And still others will summit with some kind of regularity challenging themselves to higher levels of performance questing after a new PR (personal record).

Mt. Lemmon is awesome: Mile 0 is at about 2,300' elevation, Summerhaven is at about 8,700', the Ski Lifts are at about 8,900', and the Observatory is at about 9,100'. That makes the amount of climbing on our mountain comparable to that of the teeners in Colorado! Difference being, of course, is the base elevation and the summit elevation. But, one of the many cool things about Mt. Lemmon is that most riders don't need to acclimatize before summiting, like most of us would summiting a teener in CO.

From Mile 0 to Summerhaven is 25 miles, on up to the Ski Lifts is 27 miles. No services en route. That means bring your own crew, stash water on the hill, or carry your own. Expect temps to be somewhere between 20-30 degrees different between the top and bottom. Expect high winds up top; be prepared for storms up top that could include sleet and hail. Managing hyperthermia at the bottom and hypothermia at the top is part of the challenge. You can have a successful climb today, and a disastrous climb tomorrow, all the result of factors beyond your control.

I've lived in Arizona, 12 miles west of Le Buzz, for two years and have summited Mt. Lemmon 3 times. The first time was the end of June, 2012. It seemed as or late in the riding season as I could safely expect hyperthermia at the bottom to not 'get me'. I had never even driven up Mt. Lemmon so had no idea what to expect. A bent riding buddy, Mark Doumas, had summited Mt. Lemmon in the past, but never on his bent. He was up for the challenge. Wayne Cullop, President of GABA, also a bent rider, offered to crew for us, carrying water. We had a successful and joyful summit in 4'-40".
Mark Doumas at me at the Sawmill Cafe at Summerhaven
My second summit was in mid-November 2012 with my cycling buddies, Mark and Jeff from Wilmette. Mid November was likely the latest in the calendar year we could expect to summit before roads up-top might be closed because of snow. (Tucson get less than 12" of precipitation/year, Summerhaven 57", a mix of rain and snow). Kirk crewed for us. Good thing, too, because we had a major sleet and hail storm up top.

My second summit was in 4'-20"

1" of hail

Jeff, me, and Mark atop our condo back where it was 30+ degrees warmer than atop the mountain

My third summit was Monday, October 28th. I dubbed it "The Bent Assault On Mt. Lemmon. There were to have been 4 of us, all riding bents, all basically the same bike, 3 Bacchetta CA2's and one Bacchetta Ti Aero. Three of the riders would be traveling into Tucson, 2 from Phoenix, 1 from Prescott. As it turned out, pretty much at the last minute, the three travelers were unable to come, so I rode it alone, with Kirk being my trusty crew.

Having posted a 4-40 and a 4-20 before, I thought a 4-10 would be a reasonable projection.

I kid you not, I posted a 3:04 elapsed time, a 2:59 ride time. Where in the world did that come from??????

Best I can figure is:
  • weather was not an issue
  • new-to-me Zipp wheels (thank you Dan Fallon)
  • familiarity with the road
  • riding solo, meaning not feeling responsible to make certain others in my 'party' were enjoying the climb
  • no seizures or other body issues and no mechanicals
  • a seasoned crew member (thank you Kirk)
So, a stellar Mt. Lemmon climb, indeed!

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