Sunday, June 29, 2014

Are we ever going to go down?!

Those words were uttered working our way up to the summit of Black Cap Mountain in North Conway on Saturday. I led a ride with with two never-beens, K-man and Isaac, on the trails east of town. It is my favorite place to ride in all of New England. If the Hill Junkie had his way sometimes, we'd climb all day, with no descent. The climb is the reward.

It was already warm and steamy heading out just past 9am. Recent rain ensured high humidity under the dense canopy. We started up Kettle Ridge Trail. There's barely time to warm the legs up before hitting the heinously steep section at the bottom. There are probably 50 switchbacks on this trail, mostly of them non-trivial to negotiate on a long-travel 29er sofa bike. With a 2x10 drivetrail, there is no way to soft pedal this beast of a climb. You are in the red and stay there until a brief reprieve in the middle. Then it kicks up again. I dabbed three times, once dismounting to pass under a fallen tree over slimy off-camber granite. Didn't need a hip check to granite.

Further up on Black Cap Connector, there is another wall to tackle. I've been managing to clean it regularly, but man am I cross-eyed after scaling it. We had the summit to ourselves upon arrival.  Bit of haze in the air, but the view was still pretty good.

The white knuckle descent down Connector was next. Recent rain ensured the many off-camber granite slabs were still wet with seepage. Ugh. Didn't phase K-man at all. Riding behind me, he "encouraged" me to let my sofa bike carry more momentum over stuff. In other words, "your're going to slow, so get out of my way!" I did, and I struggled to keep K-man in sight after that. I did ride everything though, against better judgement.

We next worked our way around Side Hill, Quarry, Outer Limits and Twilight Zone. All good stuff in there. Isaac admitted to a couple pine needle slide outs that I missed. It was now past noon and very warm out. We all finished our water supplies by this point. After hitting Sticks and Stones, we restocked at the cars parked at Cranmore.

As much as I like climbing, I do like to finish wicked climby rides with a good descent. The Red Tail Trail is my favorite in the Northeast. I save it for last. That meant we had to get back up there again, something like a 1500ft+ steep climb up the ski area service road. Death march!

Red Tail never disappoints. My wrists were ready to fail from fatigue and my triceps were ready to cramp up. That what a long descent that requires a lot of body input will do to you. You can't help but grin ear to ear the whole time.

Near the bottom, the stream was flowing pretty good. Covered in grime and salt, we had to take a rinse. Isaac went in first, carefully navigating the uber slippery granite. His reaction was priceless. He didn't spend two seconds in the water. I thought yeah, right. It is almost July and hot out, it can't be that cold. I checked it out next. Yep. Take your breath away cold. The water couldn't have been much over 50F. It was enough though, totally refreshing.

We finished the day with 33mi, 5100ft climbing, in just under 4.5hrs moving time.  It is one of the slowest but most rewarding rides I do and easily comparable with some of the riding out west. Fun and satisfaction was had by all.  Hopefully a few photos will convey the essence of the ride.

Isaac cresting the summit of Black Cap

Taking in the view of the Presidentials and Mt Washington

K-man looks like a giant standing next to Isaac!

Isaac on Outer Limits

K-man on Outer Limits

Isaac descending through clearing on Red Tail

In for a second...

...and right back out!

Shock, and trying not to let go and going for a ride down the slick granite

Isaac's reaction was even better. K-man was smaht and didn't go in.


John Kinnee said...

Hi, Doug. I rode with you on Shawn's Merrimack ride in December. Is this course tough to follow? I want to go up and do this ride.

Hill Junkie said...

The area of Red Tail, Kettle Ridge and Black Cap summit is pretty easy to navigate with or without a GPS. The area around the Quarry and Outer Limits is challenging to follow with GPS and would be almost impossible to navigate with no knowledge of the trails and no GPS guidance. There are many junctions of ATV trails, moto trails and singletrack out there.

the bully said...

Priceless! Never been to that ride location. Pictures always look great.