Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The (partial) Whole Enchilada

There's a ride here in Moab called The Whole Enchilada. It starts on the other side of the La Sal mountains, goes over Burro Pass above 11,000ft and plummets 7000 vertical feet back to town on trails. It is too early in the season to be able to do the whole Whole Enchilada. With several late season snow storms, there is still a lot of snow up there. We opted for a compromise by starting on La Sal Mountain Rd and ride up to snow line, then begin the descent.

Dave and I met up with Rich, Pete and Eric for this ride. With multiple cars available, we decided to shuttle the ride. Now you may say this goes against Hill Junkie principles. It does. But... I have a lot of vertical credit in the bank. Many hillclimb races I've done over the years go up on the bike, down in a car. So shuttling a mountain bike ride occasional won't leave me with a guilty conscience.

We drove up to the Mountain Rd parking area at 8300ft. It was supposed to get hot in town, but it was still quite crisp up in the La Sal's late morning. Just right for me. I think it was Rich who started to scope out the climb up from there when one of the shuttle service drives yelled at him to not even think about it. There were patches of snow by the parking area, and the singletrack heading up was a tad muddy. Not ready to ride yet. Bummer. Looks like our Enchilada just got even smaller, only 4300ft descent to the Colorado River.

Rich (making statement in abomination of a kit), Dave and Pete
with La Sal's nearby in background.

HJ on one of many cleaved rocks that could tumble at any time

Bit of hike-a-bike, probably on LPS. I didn't even trust myself scrambling down it.
Nearly vertical, yet people ride it.
Dave on UPS or LPS.

I visited Moab once before, 14 years ago. I rode the Slick Rock trail and the Porcupine Rim trail. The upper terrain was new for me and maybe didn't exist back then. A little doubletrack took us to Upper Porcupine Singletrack, or UPS. I was immediately outclassed by the other riders. There was some outright frightful terrain there.  Opportunities to stuff the front wheel were abundant. Drops down slick rock at grades too steep to even walk on made me tremble. Fear of getting permamently dropped led to ride features I would never normal ride. I told the others I was getting a year's worth of risk in one ride.

Pete bombing original Porcupine Rim trail. Miles and miles looked just like this.

Gang on flat part of Porcupine Rim

Soon the UPS and LPS trails merge into the original Porcupine Rim trail, the one I rode before. This was formally some kind of road. Today one or more lines weave through nasty, rocky crud. In our group of five, line choices were quite diverse. Rich usually just launched over everything. He's done this plummet many times. Dave and I felt out-gunned on our 26ers, while the other three were on 29ers. I dearly wish I'd brought my Tallboy. I carried some insane speed over terrain I would never do back home. I just hoped my bike wouldn't break. Eric did suffer a pinch flat (still running tubes).

Off-camber and slopes to vertical just out of view. River is 1000ft straight down.

Rich with Colorado River below

Soon we went over the lip and began the thousand foot drop down the cliff wall of the Colorado River. There are many no-fall zones here. A crash could easily result in a several hundred foot free-fall to your death. It weirded me out completely. I stopped to catch photos of the others going by since I rode ahead a bit when they stopped. Dave came through last and was having trouble with his bike. The rear wheel refused to turn. We couldn't figure it out. It acted like the tire was in the dropout crooked, as the tire jammed against the chainstay. Then I spotted the horror of horrors. The left dropout along with brake mount was ripped out of the carbon rear triangle. Ride over for Dave. Could have been worse, way worse, had this failure caused a crash, especially entering the most risky part of the ride.

This left Dave in a pretty pissy state and didn't really want to plan a rescue approach, other than he would just start carrying his bike back. It was 3 miles down to the road, 10 miles to our hotel.  Rich, Eric and Pete were now long gone. I was super paranoid dropping the rest of the way into the canyon. Frequent dismounts were the result. Not only could a crash result in a 10ft tumble down jagged rocks, you could go over the edge and have a couple seconds to contemplate your final mistake.

When I got to the bottom, the others had already continued on road. We were to ride back to their rental where they had a car to take us back up to get the SUVs. It was a long, hot, windy ride. Rich and Pete also left Eric behind. I thought maybe I could catch them after passing Eric, but they took a different route and I chased in vain. I got to their rental house and they weren't there yet. Pete went back to retrieve Dave and fortunately found him on the road.

A F'd up day for sure. Dave seems to have the worst of luck on trips with me. In Georgia, 40 miles from the car, he broke a wheel. In Arizona, about an hour off-road from the car, he flatted so many times that we went through all our tubes and patches. Prospects of getting warranty repair in a day or two are slim, so Dave is looking at the prospects of renting for the remainder of the trip.

I finished the ride with 30 miles, 1200ft climb (and a lot more descending) in 2:45hrs. An anti-Hill Junkie ride. Just glad to survive with all my members intact.  Rich captured a bunch of video. I'll link to it when it gets it up.  Another easy(ish) day may be on tap for Tuesday before hitting the 78 mile White Rim Trail on Wednesday.

Might be my last post for a while. The internet is so bad it takes me one hour to upload 2MB of photos and 2+ hours to get blog post up. Had more photos to post but gave up. Not worth it. Won't stay at here again. Have to catch up after I get home next week.


Paul said...

The hike-a-bike looks like the snotch:


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