Of Tired Legs and Snowy Cirques

Posted by on Jun 30, 2009 in Bike, Wasatch | 4 Comments


Is it odd that even looking at a map with the Wasatch Classic route on it that I become somewhat emotional? I think that the route itself has come to represent what I love about the Wasatch Mountains. Their size and rugged demeanor, their accessibility and vast network of trails and roads, and their beauty and awe-inspiring majesty. And yet, the emotion I feel when gazing upon the map is not always positive. Indeed, there is fear, resentment, regret, defeat.

In other words, everything I love about the Wasatch Mountains.

Despite the welcoming accessibility of the ski resorts and the paved canyons, the mountains themselves are harsh, rocky, primitive. And to string together a tour of both the Salt Lake and the Wasatch County trail systems requires – in one way or another – a mammoth traverse of the very ceiling of the Front. And finally this year, after much humming and hawing and this and that, I was able to climb up and over Catherine’s Pass. But the time and energy spent doing so sapped any will to continue beyond that point, and so, with moderate regret, I left the Crest and the Mid Mountain trails for another day, and another attempt (soon perhaps?) and made my exit over Guardsmen Pass and back into Midway.

Really, not a bad way to spend 12 hours, 62 miles and 10,400 vertical gain.

I discovered with mild amusement that my time, distance and elevation this year were nearly identical to last year. But this year I was considerably faster, stronger, more motivated. The difference was Catherine’s Pass (and the slight re-route due to a trail closure). Going up and over the epic hike-a-bike took 4 hours. And covered 6 miles. And so what I made up for this year with improved fitness, I gave away in the slog of a lifetime up the snow-laden cirque of Dry Fork, below the solitary Sunset Peak.

And of course, 4 hours of snowy hike-a-bike gave me time to consider the options, both of the route itself, and of the potential it holds. And as I usually do during and after The Classic, I found myself questioning the route-making decisions I made, in spite of my earlier declarations of immaculate conception. However, the code has been cracked for the first time in the short, ruthless history of this ride. I knew it could be. And I am not at all surprised that it happened this year, despite the sloppy mud that wreaked a small amount of havoc on our drive trains and the lingering, refreshingly cold snow drifts that refused to let go of their wintery grasp near the top of Brighton ski resort. The faint turns in the snow above Lake Catherine were evidence of intrepid skiers also reluctant to let go of that same grasp themselves.

And so, for now anyway, the quest to complete the ride continues.  Perhaps I ought to simply draw up a route that I can finish?  Perhaps.  However, I know I can finish the entirety of what I have created.  And the ongoing quest to do so has become a lingering obsession.  Something continually in the back of my mind taunting and tempting, whispering, mocking.

I feel surprisingly good right now.  So much so that Monday evening I was back on the bike riding some of the same trails – The Ridge, 252, Pine Hollow.  I looked with no small amount of satisfaction toward Mill Canyon Peak, across the ridge lines to Sunset Peak, and beyond, knowing that I had skittered across and around and over so much of what I was seeing.  But still, that obstinate voice in the far reaching corners of my mind reminded me that there is still unfinished business when it comes to the Wasatch Classic proper.

And I intend on tinkering and thinkering about until I find a way to finish that business.

derricklakecathwebDerrick looks down on Lake Catherine


  1. Brandon S.
    June 30, 2009

    One year I will try this with you. I am sure you will get it with good trail conditions.

  2. Aaron
    July 1, 2009

    So I’ve been thinking – what about a route where you do the Crest/Mid-Mountain section first and then go across Catherine’s Pass in the other direction? I’m pretty sure you could ride down the UC side of Catherine’s if it were dry, but there’s a lot of Brighton you can’t ride no matter what. Anyway… What and adventure.

  3. Grizzly Adam
    July 1, 2009

    It can be ridden the other way, although there are still some pretty sketchy sections. I’ve considered reversing the route. Another option is to start at Tibble Fork Res. and get the Dry Fork/Catherine slog out of the way earlier.

    And yet, still another option is to climb Mineral Basin to Snowbird, traverse across to Alta, drop down into Albion Basin, climb up to the other side of Alta and then traverse on singletrack to Catherine’s Pass.

    According to Derrick, riding down Brighton is much faster when the trail is not covered in snow. Same with the hike up C.P.

    There is just no EASY way to connect AF Canyon and either of the Cottonwoods.

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    July 14, 2009

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