Cycling and climbing with ups and downs
November 8, 2023
It’s been 3 months off the bike in Belgium and a lot has happened since. I’ve been climbing, cycling and preparing for the next stretches. The plan is to cycle from LA to Seattle with a detour to Yosemite. Then in December I’m heading back to Belgium for the holidays and preparing for the 3rd and final part to Denali. This will be from Februari till May. I had a great time seeing my friends, family and Marie again. I organised a brunch celebrate the 10 years of the Secutec seven summits and all the people who helped me in those years. I got an extension from my sponsorships, so a BIG shout out to Secutec (the cybersecurity expert), Elementsbvba (distributors of Houdini, kleankanteen, Nordisk, Patagonia,… lots of great gear) and VDWbikes (distributor of VSF Fahrradmanufaktur, my bike). Marie and I spent a great summer together but then we kinda realised our lives aren’t very compatible anymore. Sadly we broke up just before I left on this journey again. With double feelings I left back to the US for another part of this adventure.
Back in LA I meet up with some friends and head out to the place my bike was stored over summer. I take my time to set everything up, Karen and Bob are great hosts and take me around whenever I need to go to the shops. I feel ready for this adventure as this will include parts cycling and a big part of climbing. The first day is very nice as Bob is joining me and knows all the nice roads for me to take. But soon I get to some boring farmlands and realise that the wind will be against me for a long time (as most people warn me about). It’s great though, cycling against the normal direction. Most people cycle south so that means I’m meeting so many other cyclists every day, with lots of information about the upcoming route.
I follow the highway 1 along the coast, which gets more beautiful the further I go. It’s with a detour I’m heading to Yosemite, but just so wonderful. There’s a landslide on this highway not allowing any traffic to pass. It will take a long time for the road to be ready again but because of the other cyclists I knew there was a way around. Just go very early in the morning, or late in the evening when there’s no workers there. So I did and it’s pretty great cycling in this region with not so much traffic. Just a couple of cars every ten minutes or so because of this roadblock. I guess when the road is complete it’s a lot more tricky to cycle. Soon I’m in Big Sur and there it gets really beautiful. Those redwood trees are amazing and camping in this forrest is too. After some decent rest I’m heading to Monterey by the coast and it’s all easy cycling. Until I go inland. Then things get boring again and more complicated.
I’m trying to avoid the big roads as much as possible and sometimes I win, sometimes I loose. The biggest loss is when I try to get through from Hollister to Los Banos. Komoot gave me a nice mountain route, but after 30 minutes cycling uphill, I found that this road is closed. It’s private property and the owner shut it down. Pretty frustrated (and how is this just possible, it was public once?) I go back and go for the freeway 152, that clearly is allowed to cycle on the shoulder. Not advised tough. It’s just a crazy road, try cycling the E40 in Belgium on a windy road. Full of trash and other obstacles on the shoulder, cars driving by and you go uphill so slowly. Sometimes people think I shouldn’t be there and start to honk at me. There are cyclist signs painted on the shoulder so I’m supposed to be there. It was a crazy day and when I get to the other side of the hills I’m just done. I find a place to camp at a lake, where I meet really friendly people. A German couple I have dinner and beer with and then a Mexican American couple. Really nice to finish my long day on terrible roads. That’s what is great about trips like this. You get some lows, but you get rewarded!
Back to the hills
Another day of cycling later I’m staring the feel the first hills. I’ve been riding through farmlands again but on much nicer roads. Then I get to Mariposa, a bit of a gateway to Yosemite. The old road doesn’t have much traffic and I really need to get there. Late in the evening I arrive at a door of my warmshowers host. She told me she is on a trip herself, but will just leave the door open! I was super excited about having a nice bed again and maybe even a rest day, I started to get some knee pain in the past days. After my day off, and eating very good, I set off to Yosemite. A climber’s paradise and I was looking forward to this stop for a very long time! Just before arriving I got in touch with Forrest Schaeffer. He’s a hobby photographer and was up for a photoshoot as I would enter the valley. Just look at the pictures! I mean it really felt like I was cycling in a painting and I felt overwhelmed by emotions just arriving here. By the night was falling I got to the famous camp 4 where I pitched my tent and had a great first night.
Rock on and fly high
I came to Yosemite with not too many objectives or expectations. I just wanted to get to know the area, it’s people and climbing style. Even before I was really settled in, I got contacted by a couple of people. Cary sent me a message and we set off for my first multi pitch in the valley. The same evening I met up with his friends and all of them ‘adopted’ me in their group. A couple of days later they where planning to rig up a highline. That’s kind of a slackline, but higher off the ground. We left early in the morning on El Capitan, jugging our way up a couple of hundreds of meters to Heart ledges. The plan was to rig up the highline across this ledge system. While I was just witnessing the spectacle. A huge line, across these ledges, hundreds of meters where the result! Really impressive as I saw it just above my head and Cary was the first one to walk over it. Everyone had its go on it and I climbed up higher up to see it from above. Just amazing to see these people crossing this thin and bouncy line, high up. When almost everyone was finished they called me in to get there and give it a try. I was a bit reluctant but I gave it a go. Not easy being on something like that and in the end I managed to slide sitting on it about one third. There I tried to stand once but I epicly failed on that and fell off. Overall it was a crazy experience with that kind of exposure. I’m happy I was on my first highline ever, on El Capitan!
The next days we did several other climbing trips, with different people. I knew it was gonna be a very tough one to be climbing here. The style is totally different to what I’m used of (crack climbing). And having a bit of trad experience helped, but not for the nerves. Overall I’m very happy about my time here already. I learned a lot and one day I want to climb El Cap so this was a very good first learning school for when I will cycle south again. Then I want to pass by here again and get one of the objectives here. For now, it’s still a distant dream and I need to focus on the next summit and getting there.
Not all is good
After about 2 weeks in the valley I go climbing with David and we’re up for a long day out. I get up very early, but I’m feeling a bit off. I think I’ll get warmed up while doing the long approach and get into it. During this approach I’m too fast out of breath and we climb the first 2 pitches. A horrible chimney where I can’t seem to get through. When we get to the anchors, I explain I’m feeling bad and maybe should retreat. In the end I’m happy I did, because the next day I was really sick. That explained a lot over the days. At the same time, I wasn’t feeling mentally strong. A result of the sad news I heard that my aunt has cancer and not so much time left. It creeped in the back of my head and popped up during the climb. Being sick in my tent now and getting as much rest as possible helps, as well as keeping in touch with some friends and family back home. There’s a lot of stuff going in my head right now, the breakup with Marie, my aunt, being ill. I’m just happy and grateful I can call friends and family and talk about it. At the same time very grateful to have met so many cool people here so that gives me time to get distracted and space to let things come to me.
Still, I’m very happy to be here, even when being ill. I’m looking forward to be seeing friends and family in December, but enjoying lot’s of moments here too. The time off here I use to write, think, rest and prepare for the bigger objective: heading to and climbing Denali!
The last days in the valley I went for a hike and a last multi pitch climb. The perfect goodbye to the valley and it’s great people. Then I left for a 75 km bike ride out of the hills, with some long climbs. I suffered a lot that day and when arriving in the evening I had a fever and a cough. This made me stay in bed for 3 days and I hope now, I’m ready to continue cycling up north to Seattle.
Thanks to my sponsors who make this happen!