Utah fun-fest on White Rim Trail and Mt Peale (12,721)
Combined elevation: 13,610ft
Fellow masochist: Steve Knapp
White Rim In A Day (WRIAD):
The seed was planted years ago for me when I heard it was possible to
mountain bike the entire 100mile White Rim Trail in a day. Last year after Steve
and Beau biked it, I was extremely jealous. Not long afterwards, Steve and I
were talking about a repeat for Spring of 2008. A plan was hatched and Steve
mentioned hiking the highest peak in the La Sal Mtns while in the
neighborhood… why not?!
Thursday evening we headed out of town and set up camp after midnight near
Dalton Wells. Friday we rode the awesome Sovereign Trail and drove to Mineral
Bottom after stashing a couple hundreds ounces of water near the turn-off for
Dead Horse State Park. This would save carrying all that extra weight for the
first 17miles and 2K feet of elevation gain in the dark… a mighty fine idea!
It didn’t feel like cheating to me since we had a triple digit mileage day
ahead of us. Down at Mineral Bottom we set up camp next to about a dozen
trailers, dirt bikes, and jet skis before grilling some grub and heading to bed
early. The stack of pallets next to the fire ring was sure to bring some good
late-night entertainment. Sure enough, about 2am I heard some hootin’ and
hollarin’ then someone shout, “This is why I love America!!” then they
proceeded to light off dozens of bottle rockets. I had to laugh, as I would’ve
been the guy chugging a beer and cheering them on if I didn’t have to get up
in an hour.
3:15am came quickly. Steve and I tore down our tents, ate a quick bite of
breakfast, and were on our bikes with headlamps right at 4am before we really
woke up. It was only 46 degrees by the river and sure to warm up real soon.
It’s a good thing it was dark so we didn’t have to see the 2mile/900ft climb
up from Mineral Bottom. Afterwards, it was endless miles towards the horizon on
Mineral Road… another good reason to do this section in the dark. After 2hr,
17miles, and 2K of climbing, the sun was coming up and we were at our water
drop. The next several miles went by real quick as we flew downhill on pavement
congregating in the middle of highway 313.
At the entrance to Island in the Sky, we made the quick turn onto the rugged
dirt road leading down Shafer Trail. It was pretty rough and kept our speed in
check. Mile 31 after 3:20 and we took a break to check out Musselman Arch and
walk across it. Steve biked across it last year, and I could hear Jean in my
head telling me not to even dare think about doing the same. HA! The day was
warming up nicely and we got rid of our long sleeve shirts.
At this point we were cruising right along the White Rim with towers and bluffs
everywhere, my favorite parts of Utah! Mile 40 and 4:20 into the ride we were at
the Airport camp and finally started seeing other bikers lumbering out of their
tents and starting their ride. Gooseberry camp was the halfway point for us and
we reached it just after 6hrs. We were both feeling good, eating lots, and
drinking plenty. With all the vehicles along the road, we weren’t worried
about bumming water if needed.
More rolling trails and before long we were at White Crack camp, mile 58 and
6:45. It was starting to warm up quite a bit and we were both starting to feel a
bit knackered. I put my mp3 player on and rocked along to most of my favorite
bands. This was huge to me, music really keeps my mind where it should be.
warned me about the upcoming Murphy’s Hogback climb and I was actually looking
forward to it. A Hammer Gel and Stone Temple Pilots pulled me right up with just
one brief stop in some sand. Nothing like a huge climb 65miles and 8hrs into a
bike ride! Some guys at the top were giving me crap until I made fun of them for
NOT doing this ride in a day! Good fun stuff. Steve and I hid out under a rock
alcove and enjoyed some ice cold water from some campers.
Mile 74, it was hot and another decent hill came up. I thought I found a desert
oasis as there was about a dozen
chicks on bikes at the top! I knew it wasn’t heaven though… no margarita bar
with the ladies. 10 miles of mostly downhill got us to Candlestick camp were
Steve and I escaped the mid-80’s temps in the shade of a bathroom. I was still
feeling great but Steve was starting to feel the effects of an epic day. Mile 85
about 10hrs into the ride and we were near Potato Bottom. I was in this same
place just last month, but in a kayak on the Green River instead. Sure brought a
smile to my salt-caked face. The slight headwind from the north wasn’t bad as
it actually helped keep the temps feeling reasonable. We chatted with some
Canadian’s at Potato Bottom who peppered us with questions of our sanity.
this point I won the mental battle by convincing myself that the last 15miles
would be all downhill despite the rumors of Hardscrabble Hill, which I
personally renamed Easy-scrabble Hill. A pack of Grandma’s fudge cookies and
some bluegrass got me up this one with heart beating behind my eyes and just one
short section that I couldn’t ride clean. 88 miles, 11hrs, and a cooler full
of beers was drawing me closer. I was psyched and felt amazingly great….
Except my bum. Felt like I had a jackhammer in my pants for the last couple
hours. I can’t imagine how Steve did this on a hardtail bike!
Less then 10 mostly downhill miles to go and I didn’t want to stop. Some sandy
spots slowed me down a bit, but it was mostly big chain ring spinning all the
way back to Mineral Bottom for a grand total of 12:15, 9:45 riding time. It
didn’t take long to get 3 beers and 2 hotdogs in my belly before Steve pulled
up at 13hrs even. What an awesome day!!! It wasn’t long before we had the car
packed up and chowing on some pizza in the circus of Moab and heading to……..
Mount Peale (12,721); highest peak in the La Sal range
camped part of the way up the La Sal Pass road and awoke out of a deep sleep by
my alarm clock at 5am. Ugh, a couple more hours of sleep would’ve been
great… but the alarm doesn’t care. Driving further up La Sal Pass road we
hoped to start at the 10,250ft top, but a snow drift at 9K stopped us. What’s
another 1200ft on top of almost 10K yesterday?! For a second we actually
contemplated biking up the road past the snow drift. Glad we didn’t though, as
there were several more. I was in a bit of a rush to get out of town at a decent
hour, so we boogied up the road on a good mix of dirt
and snow. We’re not sure we actually hit the pass as the elevation was way
off, but we left the road and started bushwhacking. It was a mix of post-holing
and jumping over downed trees. Next was some dinner-plate talus that lead us to
the bottom of the climb just after an hour and at 10,600ft. Surprisingly, we
both felt great and yesterday’s ride didn’t completely wipe us out. On with
the crampons and ice axe, and off we went! The shaded snow was perfect for cramponing
up the next 1300ft loving every step. Solid and bonded all the way through,
nice! It didn’t even take an hour to reach the top of the coulior at 12K.
Sunny and warm, with a slight breeze. The 45 degree temps was quite the change
from the near 90’s of yesterday! We picked our way up the last 700ft of shaky
talus and popped up on the summit after just 2hrs and 50mins. Great views all
around towards Colorado, the rest of the La Sals, into the Fisher Valley, and
down toward the canyons that surround Moab. After 15mins we headed back the same
way we came. Steve attempted to glissade the softening snow near the top, but
conditions just weren’t perfect. I plunge-stepped all the way down knowing
that my sore arse from yesterdays ride would have nothing to do with glissading!
We cut through a couple small meadows and found the road again, and high-tailed
it back to the car for a round trip time of exactly 5hrs. Not bad for 3700ft
considering yesterday’s ride! Now just a long ride back to Denver with ear to
This w/end was perfect and combined two of my favorite things to do in
Spring…. Mountain biking in Moab and snow climbs. I can definitely see why
Steve has ridden the WRIAD for the third time now… I’ll probably be back in
the future as well. If Steve suggests this to anyone next Spring, take him up on
Link to White Rim movie taken
throughout the day