After 5 days of riding, Jack and I still had a bit more ride left in us – our fellow explorers decided to try something different for the day but we were determined to make the most of what Moab has to offer in the shredding department. Our RimTours guides recommended a couple of local rides. The HyMasa / Captain Ahab and the Mag 7 seemed like the best options and we chose Captain Ahab because Jack thought we really needed to do a double black diamond after five hard days of riding and I’m an irresponsible father.
We re-rented the same bikes we’d been using for the last four days and were dropped at the start of HyMasa by David – one of our Raleigh compadres. It was around 10am and already fairly busy (probably due to OuterBike).
HyMasa is a slow 3 mile grind on a mixture of rock and dirt and is mostly pretty straight forward but you have to keep moving to ascend the numerous rock steps that take you up to the start of Captain Ahab. This really is some of the best mountain biking I’ve ever experienced – slow going but fulfilling.
On the way up my son and I passed a pivotal moment in our father son relationship – given his superior fitness going uphill and fearlessness going downhill – he became the leader; and me the follower. Of course he didn’t notice – he was too busy racing some of the local hammerheads to the top of the mountain.
After you’ve enjoyed the amazing view you start the Capt. Ahab descent – it’s all very technical though most of the big drops have an alternative line so you can make the ride as hard or easy as you want – there were only a couple of places we had to dismount and walk. But this really is a very technical and unforgiving trail – if you take a fall you’re going to get hurt and you’re a long way from anywhere – I never ride in knee or elbow pads but would definitely do that next time. Jack came off twice and was lucky to only loose some skin – we slowed our pace after the second tumble.
When we got back to the parking lot (after a short traffic jam due to 4 wheelers) the mountain rescue team were heading into HyMasa with a stretcher – a rider had fallen and broken his arm (compound fracture) – a good reminder that while this is some of the best MTBing on the planet – it’s not without it’s risks.
This is a trail I would definitely ride again – with fresh legs and some armor it would be a blast !
Read day 1 – White Rim Road : Shafer to Airport
Read day 2 – White Rim Road : Airport to Murphy
Read day 3 – White Rim Road : Murphy to Potato Bottom
After the evening’s star, satellite and ISS spotting we woke to a beautiful calm and clear morning. Being next to the Green River where there’s a little more moisture – we got a mild frost and the Sun took a little longer to rise over the surrounding mesas but once it did we had coffee and a decent last day breakfast in the (relatively) warm morning sun.
First task of the day was to reclaim all the height we lost tearing down Murphy’s with a tough couple of climbs straight out of the camp (Hardscrabble) – no chance to warm up the legs or lungs.
The next 7 or 8 miles along the Green River were mostly flat and fast with some interesting stops on the way to view some old Anasazi Indian ruins and artifacts the guides had discovered over the years.
Between us a lunch was our final and toughest climb of the week – Horsethief Bottom up to the Island in The Sky – it’s not technically hard – just soul crushing as the alpine-style switchbacks seem to go on forever. The kids practically sprinted up leaving many of the adults in the dust. My plan was to start last and attack from the back – I didn’t quite pull off the second part of that strategy ;(
Our ride finished with another great lunch in the parking lot at the top of the climb – more stunning views and a great place for some group pictures. But there’s more …
Read day 1 – White Rim Road : Shafer to Airport
Read day 2 – White Rim Road : Airport to Murphy
It was great to wake to a warm sun rising and no wind and a good opportunity to dry and air our gear before packing it away. Day 3 mileage is about 22 miles but it’s either downhill or flat and pretty fast.
After we’d eaten breakfast, caffeinated and decamped we hit the trail which starts with a fast and long down hill section giving up about 900ft of altitude. At about mile 6 we stopped take take in the views of the Green River and White Crack – a long fissure on the White Rim which is a few hundred feet deep and 6″-12″ wide. At some point a huge section of the White Rim will sheer along this fissure and a couple of millions of tons of rock will crash into the valley below. Fortunately not this day.
At about mile 13 we stopped for lunch and a quick detour to explore Holeman Canyon – an interesting and fairly accessible slot canyon that ultimately drops into the Green River.
How far you can explore really depends on the level of the floor which rises and falls depending on what storm wash-off leaves behind. Pro-tip for exploring slot canyons – wear regular shoes – climbing in cycling shoes is a little tricky.
I left my phone in my pack so didn’t get any pictures but this Google Image search will give you a good idea of what to expect.
The last few miles roll fast and slightly down hill to Potato Bottom campsite. It was a cold and clear night – perfect for some star gazing after dinner.
Read Day 1 – White Rim Road : Shafer to Airpot
The good news was that my trusty 25 year old 2-season tent survived – but only just. The bad news was that I had a pretty poor night’s sleep – howling wind, flapping tent fabric, driving rain. So much for an early start – we ate breakfast and scrambled back to our tents until the rain cleared – then quickly de-camped, wrapped up in our warmest, most waterproof gear and headed out. The second day is a tough one – about 30 miles, some tough climbs and some interesting weather to contend with.
First an admission and some practical advice. Somehow I ignored the good advice on what to bring on the trip. I have every conceivable piece of outdoor gear to survive practically anything mother nature decides to inflict on me. But I left all of it at home.
Instead I packed pretty lightweight (North Carolina Winter) cycling clothes and very basic waterproofs – we have enough good riding days in NC that I don’t cycle if rain is in the forecast. Jack had to borrow a thicker Waterproof from Beth our guide (hence the color) and we had to put on double and triple layers.
An hour into the day’s ride we were cycling into vertical rain and sleet with a bit of snow thrown in. About 10 miles in (Gooseberry Camp) Jack was frozen and it was clear that no amount of riding was going to warm him up – so he rode in the support truck with Beth until our lunch spot at the White Crack junction 10 miles later. As soon as we crossed over the small ridge we we’re out of the rain and wind and into the sun – we all spread out like lizards to get our toes and fingers moving again.
The next few miles were flat and fast then you hit Murphy’s Hogback – our first serious climb. It’s loose, dusty and a bit of a lung-buster but with the right technique and some stamina – all rideable. The picture below shows our support truck rounding the corner at the top.
The hard work climbing the Hogback is rewarded. Murphy’s Camp must be one of the most spectacular camp sites on the planet – 270 degree views from 5200ft – just awesome. But it’s high up and pretty exposed so pretty cold – it also gives you a great view of what’s in store the next morning – what goes up …
Slick Rock is one of those classic rides just on the edge of Moab you have to do. The area is a mass of undulating sandstone hills that was first a motocross and off-road trail – the Mountain Bikers came later. It’s called slick rock because horses slip on it. Humans don’t – you stop almost instantly due to the sand-paper like texture – if you fall off on this stuff you will loose skin.
We had very limited ride time as we’d hiked in The Arches in the morning, eaten lunch in downtown Moab and by the time we’d rented bikes (from Chile Pepper) we only had about three hours including getting out and back to the bike shop. So we chose to limit our ride to the 1.6 mile beginner loop.
It was a fun ride and certainly a good way to acclimatize the legs and lungs – nothing super technical but a few very sharp, short climbs and a few sand-traps. It’s mostly just a lot of fun as you roller-coaster around the well-marked trail – once you get used to the amazing friction you’ll find you can ride just about everything here. Back near the start of the trail – the kids discovered a decent descent with a little jump at the end so we goofed around there for a while. Half our party drove back into town with their bikes – the other half, including Jack and I blasted down the road back into town and added another couple of fast miles to a fun ride.
Again – great warm up for the week – should I ever get back to Moab – I’d definitely head out there again and do the full 11 mile main loop.
For Spring Break this year, my 11 year old son Jack, and I and a couple of other dads and their sons spent the week in Utah with the goal of riding the White Rim Road in the Utah’s Canyonlands National Park. The “Road” is a reasonably well maintained “Jeep Trail” mostly devoid of any signs of civilization aside from a handful of primitive camping sites and some rather decent enclosed pit toilets. The camp sites are merely designations – there are no facilities other than proximity to one of the aforementioned pit toilets – they’re mostly just a sign and some markers showing you where you can and can’t pitch a tent.
If you are superhuman and don’t require much water or food – you can ride the 100.7 miles of White Rim Road in a single day – the level of fitness and logistics required to do this are beyond my comprehension. Instead, we opted for the four day, three night tour (there is a three day tour as well). RimTours our well equipped and very capable tour guide company provided a decent range of bikes, a support truck for transporting our camping gear, food and luggage and two extremely competent and affable tour guides.
In addition to the White Rim Road – we had a couple of days either side of our 4-day tour so we explored some of the local bike trails and hikes around Moab.
If you’re thinking about doing this trip – I’d highly recommend RimTours – my son and I will likely make this kind of thing an annual event and I wouldn’t hesitate in using RimTours again for one of their other tours.
There are 7 parts to this post (including this one). They are, in chronological order :
I’m posting this because I couldn’t find much information on-line – hopefully these posts will provide you with some additional information and inspiration to make your own trip. Enjoy.
If you’re not already awake by the time you start the decent down Shafer (about 7 miles in); you soon will be. It’s a pretty exhilarating 1500ft descent through alpine switchbacks – if you take it easy on the dusty / gravely corners you will probably make it down in one piece.
The rest of the first day’s ride was fairly flat, fast and easy – following the natural contour that is the White Rim. We made decent progress despite frequent stops to enjoy the stunning views.
My trusty Garmin 800 had few issues in some of the more sheltered canyons but we clocked up a fairly easy 19 or so miles on the first day.
We arrived at the Airport campground mid-afternoon – which left plenty of time set up camp, play some Petanque / Boules, eat dinner and explore a little and get to know our fellow riders. But mostly we were trying to get out of the wind, which, by dusk had picked up enough to threaten my trusty antique tent (note RimTours provide much nicer, much newer tents). This is the same tent that my wife and I used to back-pack around Greece and Turkey about 25 years ago.
The camping gear we bought was :
- 2 x inflatable roll mats
- 2 x inflatable pillows
- 2 x 4-season (ie .very warm) sleeping bags
- 1 very old – 2-person, 3-season tent
- 2x headlamps
- 2x solar chargers
In hindsight – I should have bought a newer tent or rented one from RimTours and a large beech blanket or something to throw on the floor of the tent would have added to the comfort. Aside from the first night – we were warm and dry and slept pretty well.
Read Day 2 – Airport to Murphy