Saturday, July 26, 2008

Scariest Descent Ever

Flight of Icarus loop
25.25mi, 4500ft vert

After seeing the Peter Fagerlin video of this ride, I told myself some day I'd have to try it. The deal is, most riders shuttle this thing with downhill oriented gear and bikes. Dave and I ride hardtails, Dave with no suspension at all. We earn our vertical.

Paved climb to Douglas Pass

The ride starts with a 2470ft vertical climb up CO-139 in 10.6 miles. This road has very little traffic. The grade picks up after a few miles with tight switchbacks. Around one of these, a novice tanker truck driver had trouble finding the right gear, stalled, and actually started to roll backwards towards me. He manage to recover, barely.

At Douglas Pass, a dirt road is taken to continue the climb. At high point on this road, 3100ft was gained. Lots of rolling hills piled up accumulated vertical on the way to the plummets.

Icarus ridge

ATV trail eventually peters out into singletrack that is very hard to follow in places through the brush and trees. But eventually, it became obvious which way to go, as immediately to the left or right was shear cliff. The trail hug closely to the right drop-off and was off-camber to the right. Zero room for error here, as a fall would have been hundreds of feet.

The first plummet was not kind to me. I'm sure parts of it approached 100% grade (45 degree angle). Dave did better with 29" wheels but misjudged which line to take in a couple places, forcing stops or dabs. On one of the steepest loose parts, my wheels slid out from under me. I more or less face planted into brush, which fortunately was not thorny. That left my nerves on edge and I ended up walking a couple other bits after that. This descent was totally nuts. I think I bruised my sternum, as I had my butt so far back over the saddle.

First plummet

After some rolling bits, another bigger plummet was next. This one switchbacked more and was not as persistently steep, but still probably averaged about 30-40% grade. Definitely not IMBA kosher trail design, as it tended down the fall line at insanely steep grades. I rode all of this 1200+ft plummet in a mile or so with one dab.

The ride finishes on bumpy cow trails the last mile or two back to the car. The loop was worth doing, but I probably wouldn't do it again. Death grip on brakes whole way down seems a waste of good vertical. The paved climb, however, was marvelous. It was nice and cool at Douglas Pass, while temperatures were soring in Fruita below.

Zippity Do-Da

Ride #2 of the day was at the Bookcliffs system. I had always wanted to ride Zippity Do-Da. It too has some exposure, but the plummets are only 50 footers or so and more carefully designed. Some could easily reach 100% grades as you drop into them. Think roller coaster steep with perfect run-outs at the bottom. Huge G forces were experience bottoming out down these drops. There were some nasty steep climbs here too, maybe 50ft gains at greater than 30% grades. Putting a foot down was not an option. You'd slide on rock hard clay for a hundred feet.

We finished the day's riding by bombing down Kessel's Run. This drops maybe a few hundred feet after climbing the dirt road to the upper end of the 2.2 mile trail. The whole run is like a slolom course. No matter how bonked you are, you cannot help but smile bombing down this getting air every few seconds.

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