Cycling, Climbing & Ecology
Clint Valentine is an undergraduate at Northeastern University and an avid adventurer and photographer. He enjoys pursuits of endurance and distance which have included summiting many peaks in New England during winter alpine ascents, sailing the Atlantic in a vintage gaff-rigged schooner, rock climbing across the US, and cycling 5,000 miles across North America. This past summer Clint and his friend Rob cycled and climbed across Colorado while collecting data for a number of ASC projects.
Rob DeBruyn and I have finally completed our month-long tour of the Colorado Rockies. We pitted ourselves against some of the finest rock routes on the Continental Divide and have experienced the camaraderie of wild cyclists and climbers (of which we are both). We spent every sunset, dark night, and sunrise in beautiful and vivid landscapes and spent our days under the hot sun and took refuge under 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 to record ecological data for ASC.
We were supported by sponsors, friends, and family. We chose to tour uninhibited, on bicycles, with our equipment in tow. We met a community of adventure enthusiasts that have further connected us to the sport we love. Our involvement with Adventurers & Scientists for Conservation (ASC) 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 daydream about the exposed and winding alpine routes I will climb in the future.
Through ASC, we participated in four projects during our trip. Our mission was to start observing wildlife, tracks, roadkill, and American Pika. This was our first time practicing "citizen science" and it was fulfilling! As an undergraduate studying biology & environmental science at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, I participated in a geologic field study in Iceland. Ever since, I have been eager to return to the field for data collection. What inspires me as an adventurer and scientist 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 and I started scrambling to the base of the wall early in the morning, and by noon we were near the false summit. We 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. While Rob powered on his smartphone to input our observations, I regretted my lightweight decision to not pack a zoom lens for my camera. Like camouflaged Where’s Waldos, my distantly-photographed rodents were comical and could hardly pass for scientific evidence.
We had fun searching for American pika. The rodents were skittish, small, and loud. We mostly found them by accidentally wandering into their territory and listening for loud, halting squeaks. Rob and I pulled ourselves to the discernible top where a single pika stood watching. The false summit of Mt. Evans, a formidable obstruction to which we were inextricably stuck, 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, and the pika must have run off. I thought about the cracked and weathered rock visible for miles... this pika was long gone.
After much mountain traversing, we 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. We spent the last day of our adventure pleasantly hiking among touring families on the well-worn trails of the Park until weather fouled.
Our journey to Colorado, Rob and I agreed, has only fueled our desire to explore and to experience iconic climbs that have marked the history of modern rock climbing. Our time in Colorado was short, and our to-do list of rock routes is longer than ever.
This post originally appeared on Clint's website and blog, www.clintvalentine.com, where you can learn more about Clint and Rob's adventures. Want to add to your adventure? Find a project today! Subscribe to our blog and stay up-to-date on our adventurers' stories from the field and be sure to like ASC on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@AdventurScience) to keep up with all the latest news!
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