Mount Charleston, Fail

mt charleston rd

Our timing for Vegas couldn’t be worse. We happened to be traveling during a record-setting heat wave. The temperatures have been in upper hundred-teens. Yes, that is teens with a 100 in front of it. I’ve been to Vegas in the summer, and it is always going to be scorching, but I don’t remember experiencing anything like this.

The only option for riding was to head out at the crack of dawn. Even then, it was 95 degrees when I left. My east coast friends will remind me that this is a dry heat. That might make a difference at lower temperatures, but anything above 110 is flat out painful, dry or otherwise.

I drove to the beginning of the Mount Charleston climb before the sun was out, and was ready by sunrise. Still reeling from the heat, I was hoping that climbing into elevation would give me some respite. I got myself situated with the rental bike as much as possible, but I didn’t want to waste time. The longer I waited, the hotter it would get.

As I began the ride, I had a feeling of unfamiliar discomfort. The Scott Speedster 40 that I rented was a good bit heavier than my bike, had different components/shifters, and was fit differently. It just felt wrong, but was something I could suffer through.

The climb begins deceptively. It has the look of a long, flat desolate road in the desert. That is a false flat, as it turns out. The grade was usually only 2-3%, enough to keep myself moving slowly, yet not nearly enough to hurt. I was still climbing. At one point I looked down and was surprised to see I had climbed almost 1,000 feet.

At one point, it seemed like the pedaling became more difficult. The road looked the same, but something was noticeably wrong. I felt something on the back tire, at first thinking/hoping/wishing that it was the contours of the road that made it feel off. Then it hit me. I had a flat on the rear tire.

It was 4 miles into the ride. You have to be kidding me!

As I ruffled through the saddle bag, I could feel the sun on my back and neck. Even at a slightly higher elevation, it was getting hotter.

There was no tube. There was a multi-tool, and that was about it. I had a tube in the car, which I had forgotten to bring, not knowing I would need it.

I knew right then that this wasn’t going to work. This was a foreign bike, with different types of components, and the flat was on the back wheel. Even if I grabbed the tube from the car, and got it road ready, I would be going up a massive mountain in dangerous temperatures without a safety net.

That was the end of the ride for me. It was a tough time even getting back to the car. The valve stem was broken, so despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get air in the tire with the hand pump. I had to alternate coasting with walking. It took me almost as much time to get down those four miles as it did getting up.


If there’s one thing I hate, it’s missing exercise. Rather than ruin the morning, I drove the 18 miles to where the road ends. The temperature dropped to a cool 70 degrees, and the views were spectacular. Since I still had a few calories to burn, I took the hiking trail towards Cathedral Rock. It was a pleasant hike, with new views every time I turned a corner. There was the option for a steep hike to the top of Mount Charleston, which was 8 miles, would have taken awhile, and would not have been feasible for a guy wearing flip flops. I turned around about half a mile from Cathedral Rock, close enough to see it. That was plenty for the day. Even though the ride didn’t work out, I had a great time.


5 responses to “Mount Charleston, Fail

  • Steve

    Yikes! I guess it’s a good thing the flat occurred early on. To be stranded in the desert miles from help would have been very very bad. Congratulations on making a proverbial chicken sandwhich out of the stuff you were handed and thanks for the great pics.

    • aaronwest

      Yes, as frustrating as the flat tire was, at least it wasn’t 10 miles down the road, or worse, descending down the mountain. The chicken sandwich tasted good.

  • kruzmeister

    Sorry to hear the ride didn’t work out as planned Aaron, but at least you made the most of a bad situation. Awesome pics, that is somewhere I would like to head with my camera someday! Hope your next ride is better!

  • bgddyjim

    That is one serious bummer brother.

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