Friday, April 4, 2008

Arizona Day 2: Fantasy Island and Mt Hopkins

Fantasy Island Trail Ride
Thursday morning, April 3
21.5mi, 1:46hrs, vertical - who cares!
Cloudless 70 degrees

After epic ride the day before, some chill'n on trails was in order. The Fantasy Island trail network was a short 20 minute drive from the hotel. I was going to squeeze this ride in before checking out, and the women were going to hang out at the pool.

Dodging Colla

I planned to do full perimeter loop, which means hitting each of the named loops. All the trails are unidirectional. The whole place is like an amusement park for mountain bikes. No fear of death stuff, but tons of wash drop-ins, table tops, gravity cavities, and other opportunities to get air with amazing flow.

As I worked my way around, I noticed named loops that were not there a year ago. I had to ride them despite being on a time budget this ride. The Snake loop and Rez loop were new ones added off the Bunny loop.

When I stopped to take a photo, I swung my bike around and clipped a Cholla cactus with the rear tire. Chunks broke off, and about 30 needles stuck in the tire. I tried to remove the balls of thorns with a sharp stone, but the more I tried, the more they rolled around and embedded more thorns into the tire. Eventually I got the balls off, but the thorns would not pull out. They would break before pulling out. Now I know why these things are the bane of a mountain biker's existence out here. You hit one, you go to the hospital. Glad I run tubeless tires with Stan's sealer. At least a couple of the thorns went through the sidewall and leaked a little Stan's.

Anyway, it was a great ride, energizing even, on uber trashed legs from the 7.6hr deathmarch ride the day before. Got back in plenty of time to check out and prep for ride two of the day.

Mt Hopkins Hillclimb
Thursday afternoon, April 4
38.5mi, ~6000ft vert, 3:28hrs
Pleasant 70's bottom, frigid up top

The women were nice enough to let me indulge in one more ride today. They dropped me off in Amado, just miles from the Mexican border, while I did an out and back up Mt Hopkins. They were going to hit the Pima Air Museum while I rode. Mt Hopkins from I-19 gains about 5500ft to 8500ft elevation. It is a one lane dirt road most of the way and meticulously maintained. There is a Smithsonian research complex with telescopes up top.

Wash at start, Hopkins summit in distance

In haste, I forgot to take long layers with me when I got dropped off. Easy to do when it is clear and 75F at the bottom. I left a couple water bottles at the bottom in case I got back before the women and was dehydrated. My legs were so sore and sluggish starting out riding through a flowing wash 6" deep.

Switchbacks from summit

You can see the main observatory, precariously perched on the pinnacle, for much of the climb. At first, the grade is gradual, and it looks like you are making good progress to summit. But you are merely getting closer, not higher. After about 1.5hrs of climbing, you come around this bend and see the big white building up top almost straight above you. It is still waaaaay up there, and it completely crushes you. The road meanders all over in a very small volume as it edges up the cliff faces of this beast.

Don't think it was a rattler, but it sure was big

About this time, I started to get cold. I had severe reservations about continuing all the way to the summit, as a dark cloud was starting to form and I had no protection with me against hypothermia. When I climbed this mountain several years ago, I froze on the descent. It was 60-70 at the bottom and everything up top was covered in rime ice. I pushed harder and harder to stay warm and to make sure I had elevated core body temp to begin my descent. I figure I would suffer the first 20-30 minutes to get back down to less frigid air.

I was breathing very hard the last 30 minutes of the climb, and I felt the early tale-tell signs of cramping coming on. But I made it. The last 0.25 miles or so must average 20-25% grade. I resisted the urge to use my granny gear and suffered through this last bit with a 1:1 gear ratio. The view is stunning in all directions. I hung around only a minute or two, as any excess core body heat I had would be quickly depleted by the frigid breeze up top. It took about 2:26hrs to reach the summit from I-19.

Hopkins summit, nasty steep

I saw what looked like a little rain dropping from darker clouds in the distance, but I doubt any of it was reaching the ground. I was up much higher however, and I feared the dark cloud forming above the peak could douse me at any moment. I flew on the descent. I got cold enough that I started shivering, but nothing like the uncontrollable shivers Dave and I experienced on Mt Evans a year ago in sleet. The descent took 62 minutes. Amazingly, as I pedalled back through the wash I started this ride in, the women just pulled up. Perfect timing.

Looking north at Santa Catalina Mtns (Mt Lemmon highest peak) with Tucson at base

All cyclists should try this climb, including non-mountain bikers. The climb is road bikeable, but the descent would be ultra sketchy with road tires. I had the knobbies back on for this ride. A cross bike would be ideal. The climb is very isolated, and I encountered cars only a few times in 3.5hrs during the ride. Mt Hopkins is much bigger than Mt Washington in New Hampshire but not as steep. Like Mt Washington, you get that "top of the world" sensation at the summit.

1 comment:

Erme said...

People should read this.