Thursday, May 2, 2013

Pipe Dreams and Slickrock

Vacillating big time on whether to still do White Rim Trail. Getting up Thursday morning, I talked myself into trying the full 100 mile loop on Friday. Dave, of course, is always game for such shenanigans.  Thing is, these days my body can't always cash the checks my spirit is willing to write. Not getting any younger.

We decided to hit the new Pipe Dream trail right across Main St from our hotel late morning, call it a recovery day, then put legs up until hitting WRT early Friday. Pipe Dream is described as an "advanced" trail, and for Moab, that means a lot. And despite riding it from south (high end) to north (low end), it was wicked climby. Hardly a recovery ride.

I tried my hardest to not go anaerobic on the constant micro-bursts needed to punch over features and grade reversals. Dangerous thing, I learned, when momentum is your friend in this kind of terrain.

Initial switchbacks climbing from southern trailhead on Pipe Dream

Dave is in there. A trail runs through it all.

There was ever-present exposure. Sometimes extremely steep talus fields, other times boulder slides. Neither would be good to ragdoll down.  Going slow in hopes of attaining recovery meant riding wobbly at times on a very narrow trail tread. That just added to my apprehension of going over the edge.

Near precipitous drop-off just around bend with handlebars barely clearing protruding rocks

Near mid-point of Pipe Dream look south toward La Sal's.

Pipe Dream no doubt took massive hours per mile to build. Extensive armoring was present around every bend and through every dip. Massive rocks appeared to have been moved to open a path in places. It is truly a masterpiece of a trail. Not really my first pick in riding terrain, but a good test of skill. Glad I made it through the 5 mile segment unscathed.

Heading out for some lunch with Dave, I began to self doubt riding the WRT on Friday. Big commitment, it will leave me trashed, and vacations shouldn't induce stress. Dave was cool with any kind of riding, as long as it didn't suck and we got in 4-5hrs per day on average. So I caved and we pulled the plug for good (on this trip) on doing the full WRT loop. Another time, maybe with some non-rider support, and on fresher legs.

So that opened up Thursday for a second, late-day ride. The infamous Slickrock Trail is literally right behind our hotel. We kitted up again and headed up the Sand Flats road to the trail head. I've ridden Slickrock once before, over 14 years ago.

It takes a little bit to gain confidence on slickrock. The marked trail goes up ridiculously steep grades. The tires will hold. Only the rider can fail. You have to reset your notion of what is climbable. I think there were only couple things on the loop that we petered out on. Failing to clean a couple pitches was not an option. You'd almost certainly topple over backwards or not be able to have enough foot traction to avoid going for a slide. Slickrock is like 80 grit sandpaper. It has no qualms about paring down skin to the bone, as I learned 14 years ago.  Here are a few pics from our late day ride.

Dave early in loop on first test of wits on steep pitch

Dave descending toward a bottomless crevasse

Myself cresting a deep dig climb with the La Sal mountains in background

Swooping over, around and through these mounds was a blast

Myself on steep plummet. Camera angle doesn't do it justice. Huge pucker factor.

Dave framed by La Sal's

Colorado River

We finished with 19 miles, over 3700ft of climbing in less than 2.5hrs on the Garmin. That is a crazy amount of climbing for the distance. Seems like all of it was at 20-30% grades in 50-100ft increments. The ride turned my quads into mashed potatoes.  Nearly four hours of challenging riding for the day.  I'll feel that on Friday.

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