Climbing Dunraven

March 13, 2011
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The smell of pine, the birds singing, the sea of green trees as far as the eye could see, and the click of the bike changing gears. Dunraven Pass in Yellowstone, Wyoming is 11.5 miles of uphill climb and has an altitude of almost 9,000 feet. We had only a couple hours left to get to the next camp site. I was on my high adventure during the summer of 2009 with the rest of my teacher’s quorum, and our goal was to bike the Grand Loop of Yellowstone in just 3 days. Day one: 54 miles. Day 2: 61 miles. Day 3: 50 miles. That’s a grand total of 165 miles.

Today is day 2; the day with the longest distance, but, more importantly, the day that we get to climb Dunraven Pass. Starting out is easy enough, it just takes a few minutes to get your blood pumping, and your bike moving in a steady rhythm. I’m a little bit sore from yesterday’s biking, but I know that today’s ride will only be a lot worse. I start out near the front of our line, as I usually do, but I’m feeling tired, so I start to let people pass. First comes Rick; a dedicated biker whose thighs must be immune to pain. I don’t have a problem with Rick passing me, because, well, I sort of expected it to happen anyway. We’ve gone about 5 or so miles, and we are finally arriving at the mouth of Dunraven Pass.

At this point, I’m really getting tired of the constant pedaling. It doesn’t really help that my bike is a bit of a modified mountain bike: it wasn’t exactly built for long distance riding, but instead was built for handling rugged downhill trips. We are all tired though, and there’s no way I’m going to give it up. That’s just never going to happen. I push on to the canyon and hope I can hold myself together for the ride.

As we continue on up the hill, I realize, thankfully, that it’s a steady slope, and isn’t too hard to handle. I’m getting a bit gloomy though, as I start to come to the understanding that it was a bad idea to stay up late with my buds around the fire. It’s a good thing Brother Christensen came out of his tent and sent us off to bed, or we wouldn’t have gotten any sleep at all. As we pound our legs on and on and on and on up the hill, I start to feel the burn. The familiar numbness that has come during our many training rides just isn’t coming this time. Only the constant pain and burning. I’ve started to slide to the back of the group. I’m now at the very end with Harry. He’s a friend of mine, but he hasn’t made a real effort in coming to the training trips we took, so he isn’t prepared.

We start talking a bit, in the short breaths that we can find, huffing and puffing, “How… how you holdin’ up?”
“…Huh?... Oh... good, I guess... you?”
I start to realize that it’s harder to bike up a 45 degree angle when you are talking to someone at the same time, “Good… Let’s just keep on goin’”

And so our journey continues, up and up. We arrive at some switchbacks and get that feeling of ‘it’s just up around that turn’ in our stomachs. We get to the top of the switchbacks, and that feeling drops like a rock. We were maybe halfway to our campsite. But at least the switchbacks are done and now it’s just following the mountain’s curve… that’s at least a tiny bit reassuring.

At this point, I have started to hear of some people giving up, and hopping into the van that’s been following us to pick up the stragglers. I’m up by some of the middle bikers now and we’re doing pretty well. But we all make the commitment to not give up. We will finish.

And we do. After having a bit of an exciting experience with seeing a grizzly bear, the small group of Jake (Rick’s little brother), John (our comedic relief), and Brother Johnson (another great leader), and I finally get to the peak. After all of the ups and downs, literally and emotionally, we’ve made it to the top. From here it’s a simple coast down to the bottom for lunch. My thighs are on fire, my back is broken, my fingers will never be able to move again, but I’ve never been more proud than I am right now. I’ve made it. All of the training, preparing, and hard work has paid off. I could have stopped, I almost gave up, and some of the people around me did. But I couldn’t, wouldn’t, and didn’t. I didn’t give up. I made it to the top.





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