Mt. Defiance

In Defiance

After a stressful week of election crap, I wanted to do something epic, to push my limits, to step outside my comfort zone.

Since the weather was crappy, cycling wasn’t really gonna cut it, I’ve done enough long cold rides, no biggie. I decided to go solo on what’s considered the hardest hike in town – 5000 vertical feet in 5 miles. I had a good warm up the evening before, having ridden my bike 50 miles after 5pm and I wasn’t sure exactly what I was in for.

So I stacked all these things against myself. Some fatigue from cycling, I’m not in remotely good hiking shape, a longer hike than usual, the hardest hike in town, the weather was not great, and just to keep me on my toes, I left the trailhead around noon, planning to hike out in the dark.

I wore shorts and a merino t-shirt to start and was quite chilled until the trail tilted upwards. And upwards it tilted. Think of the steepest section of trail you’ve been on, then imagine that for like 4 miles straight.

The first 2 hours were a little uncomfortable because I was concerned about actually making it. Then it started raining pretty hard. With the rain came the wind and I was getting pretty cold by hour 2.

I covered over 1500 ft. in the first hour and the first 20 minutes was mostly flat. The next hour I did just under 2000 ft., bringing me up to about 3500 ft. That meant I was going to make it, just another 1500 ft. or so.

I slowed down and made the good decision to put some more clothing on before I got hypothermic and started making bad decisions.

As you can see, it was pretty socked in at the top (actually the whole way) and I still had more than half the distance to go. I didn’t linger and started down the trail, jogging where the footing was good enough and it was level enough I could stop easily. The jogging thing got old, so I decided to just go a comfortable pace.

At some point on the way down, it just seems so relentlessly steep that it’s kinda hard to believe. And when it was dark enough (17:15) to put on my headlamp, mostly for safety reasons, it got a little more exciting.

Hiking into the dark is always a little stressful to me and being alone on a steep trail was no different. There were spots that, after a day of everything being steep, I felt I couldn’t properly judge how steep it was so I treated those as “do not fall” zones.

When I got home, I read about the Starvation Creek Cutoff Trail being so steep that a lot of people are afraid to go down it at all.

In the end, it was no harder than hundreds of bike rides I’ve been on in my life, but ultimately very a satisfying experience. I pushed some limits and felt out on the edge a few times.

I was only sore for 4 days afterwards, cyclists have a disadvantage going downhill, our muscles never get worked that way on the bike.









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    12.2 mi

    6 hrs 16 min
    Moving Time

    31:49 min/mi
  • 6 hrs 27 min
    Total Time
  • 11 min
    Stopped Time
  • 1.9 mph
    Moving Speed
  • 1.9 mph
    Avg Speed
  • 4924 ft
  • 5027 ft

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