Simoni spends his days "almost falling off mountains by bike and by foot, one misadventure at a time."
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If asked how I got into self-powered adventuring, I would almost call it a fluke. At 36 years old, I’ve now spent about 14 years wandering around Colorado- by foot and bicycle. The beginnings of my cycling journeys were simple enough: after selling my junk-show car, I became a Denver city bike commuter, and shortly after joined the local bike messengers for their underground alley cat races around the city. My ensuing all-day solo rides on thrift store bikes came next, proving that I didn’t care too much what I was doing, so long as it was on a bike. A year later found me on a cross-country bike tour, then mountain biking down the long craggy spine of the Rockies- that stretches from Canada to Mexico- as part of a self supported race known as the Tour Divide.
All this manic pedaling led me to ask, “Just where am I going on all these bike rides?” The answer; “the mountains!” Today, I get the most enjoyment from starting a ride from my back door, riding to a trailhead, ditching the bike, and venturing on by foot. Whether it’s just a few miles to a favorite Boulder spot- running up a Front Range peak or scrambling a Flatiron- or being gone for weeks at a time linking up my rides with runs to tag the summits of some of Colorado’s high mountain peaks, the goal is always the same. It’s always been about pushing myself to find more interesting approaches and exciting ascents; packing light, going fast, and having some major Type 2 fun.
My most recent project was The Tour of the Highest Hundred. During a single two-month, nonstop sleep-deprived push, I would summit the highest hundred peaks of Colorado, getting to the trailheads by bike, then running and fast hiking up to the summit. The style was self-supported (I managed all of my food/water/gear/transportation, resupplying when I passed through towns), the pure ethics of which I had come to value after participating in ultra endurance bikepacking races, like the Tour Divide; true “sangres froid” style. It was no surprise that my course was quite varied; on the bike the path ranged from smooth tarmac to singletrack, by foot, I covered everything from the state’s most popular trails, to unmapped technical scrambling. Facing and adapting to these different environments was one of the enjoyable challenges, especially for such a polymath, accidental athlete like myself.
Rewind two decades. I bought my first pair of La Sportiva rocks shoes around age 16 at Prime Climb, a local climbing gym in my hometown in Connecticut. The foreign-sounding name, “La Sportiva,” was intriguing, even exotic. As a member of a loosely organized climbing club in high school- where we’d climb indoors during winter, and get out at the local crag, Traprock during spring- I decided that purchasing real shoes was a rite of passage, a way of proving to myself that I was taking this “climbing thing” more seriously than other hobbies. Climbing, and the visceral sensation of complex problem solving through movement, had me hooked.
Ironically enough, after high school I took a break from climbing to attend school in Boulder Colorado. But a few years after graduating, I dusted off and resoled that same pair of tan leather La Sportiva climbing shoes, and fell in love with the sport once again. Now climbing, with its inherent problem solving, has regained its place among the list of things, like running and biking, that alway keep the adventure-seeking wheels in my mind turning.
In 2012, a mountain biking-related hand injury spurred me to start trail running. Two years later I laced-up a pair of La Sportiva Mountain Running® shoes for the last leg of my self-powered tour of the Colorado 14ers: 58 peaks in 34 days. I had been wearing a different brand for most of the trip, but switched to a pair of La Sportiva C-Lite 2’s in the Sawatch Range. The difference in durability and comfort was immediately apparent. From then on, La Sportivas were my shoe of choice for trail running, racing ultras, and scrambling at Front Range crags.
Pure fatigue had me on the proverbial couch for the rest of 2014, and just as I was getting back in the groove the following year, unexpected injury (I guess that’s all injury) put a halt on any other mountain objectives I had been brainstorming. Finally, after testing myself with a birthday challenge in the spring of ‘17, where I “Everest-ed” Boulder’s Green Mountain, summiting the peak 13 times in a day to simulate a summit of the iconic Himalayan giant, I knew I was ready to take on the Highest Hundred Tour.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Justin Simoni is a Boulder-based mountain athlete committed to human-powered adventures.