Thursday, January 12, 2012

Breaking Point

White Rim, Canyonlands National Park. By bike (of course). 101 miles straight through. No camping.

Dubbed WRIAD by some hardcore badasses, I got the invite to join in on the ride Jan 2.

Full explanation of the route here.

Completely stoked at the challenge and beauty of this undertaking, I rearranged my schedule only to have my car completely crap out on me a long, long way from Canyonlands.

Well, so much for that. Happy New Year to me....Welcome to 2012. Ugh.

After taking care of the entire car fiasco, I decided to just solo the route last Tuesday. My fellow mountain biking addict buddy, Brian, decided to come along and we left Durango Monday morning to ride a short, fun ride and set up camp north of town to get an early start Tuesday morning.

Sovereign Trail was the consensus and we set out around noon. Brian sets a quick, even pace that pushes me to ride faster and smoother. I chased him on his Fuji hardtail through techy rocks, fast turns and a few climbs for about 3 hours.

After trying to rent this bike (with no luck) to roll on the upcoming AZT 750, we set up camp that evening and built a roaring bonfire.

Lucky that thing was roaring because the longer the sun was down the COLDER it got. The sky was perfectly clear and the full moon eliminated really any need for headlamps. My phone alarm was set for 5:30AM and I crashed out in my tent inside a warm 0 degree bag.

Tuesday morning was bitter cold. We started a fire while we quickly broke camp and drove towards Canyonlands on Hwy 313 to Mineral Bottom Rd. Parking at the top of the Horsethief Switchbacks, the temperature was hovering in the single digits. I put on warm layers but had no face mask. I was not anticipating the excruciating cold of the early morning.

We rolled out, lights mounted for a probable post sunset return and started down the switchbacks. Most park at the bottom and camp,.but just for added self-torture, we were going to climb back up in the dark after 100 miles.(Yeah, I know...don't say it).

Starting down the descent that led to my demise
The next 1.5 miles of descending was the most miserable and painful 1.5 miles I have ever encountered. Sub zero temps in the shade and a bone-chilling, joint burning, hypothermic wind hit me straight in the face. I literally froze up and my brain was convinced that my body had quit functioning.

Don't let the sunny spot fool you, it was barely warmer than the shaded switchbacks

I slowed down as much as I could and watched Brian, tucked down tight, gain a switchback on me. I began shaking and my teeth were chattering. The icy, evil wind was searing my exposed skin but I somehow made it to the bottom and into the sunshine.

I broke.

I wanted nothing whatsoever to do with pedaling one more inch. I took some time to try and warm back up and recoil the emotions and hatred of the cold. Once I was able to move my lips to speak, we both realized that the 10 bucks needed for both of us to get into the park was still in the car at the top of the switchbacks of death. We contemplated going on, hoping for a nice park ranger, but that plus the shaded canyons that lie ahead caused me to bag it for the day and go ride something else in the noontime sun.. If it were a race, I would have dug deeeeeeeeeeeep and suffered through for the next 10 hours, but my spirit was lying broken in pieces at the bottom of that canyon.

A hard right turn sent us back up the climb of shame:

Thoughts of riding Amasa Back as a substitute began to creep into my head as I climbed, doing my best to stay right on Brian's back tire. Yeah, I was pissed at myself for turning around. But I got over it.

Amasa Back has a strange way of easing one's mind immediately:

Here is some raw footage (no music or editing yet) of the descent back to the parking lot. Its long and will get boring, so I highly recommend skipping through to minute 15:00 and watching through the end. Gives those who have never been on Amasa Back a look at some good, clean fun in Moab.

There were about three drops beyond my skill/comfort level at this point but it felt good to clean 95% of the descent Tuesday. Especially since a year and a half ago, I walked 70% of it.

And my mood changed from this:

To this in a matter of a few hours:

Lessons learned:

Bring a facemask
Don't forget your 5 bucks
DRIVE down shaded sub zero switchbacks

But the most important:

“Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind” 
                                                 -Zen proverb

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