Saturday, December 13, 2014


The Fat One
photo: Pat Claton

How is it possible that riding my bicycle to Canada took less preparation than riding 22 miles up The canyon south of town?

I ask because it baffles me. Why am I so freaked out to ride my bike to the Grotto trailhead and go ice climbing?

I've ridden hundreds of dirty winter roads, and I've gone climbing in many amazing and awe inspiring places. So why does my backyard scare me and freak me out so much?

I don't know. But I love it. I love the interconnectedness I feel about the place. The history. The climbing. The people. The animals. The trees. And the way I feel when it's snowing in the middle of a route. Awesome.

The place is made of heroes. They're there every day. And unlike many hot-spots on the climber's radar; to me, this place is not just a proving ground; it's just a special place.

Sure The canyon comes with a reputation. And sure, every climber who's ever climbed in The canyon, should know the reputation and how to act appropriately.

It's like the first day you climb in Yosemite, the first day you ski in Valdez, the first time you're like, Oh shit,,,,, am I really doing this? Oh yeah!

Certain places and mountains make us come alive. And not just us climbers and skiers who forgot about mainstream life. But for anyone who goes there and goes there frequently.

Hello Grotto.

The 29er+ mid-fat wheel size is great for long distances.

The 3" wide tires aren't quite fat enough to be a snow bike.
Best ride into The canyon yet.

Fully loaded for an overnighter and a day of ice climbing.

There are so many new tire sizes now for bicycles. I've been riding a 4" wide tire on a 26" wheel fat-bike for a few years now in the winter. This was the orginal size for fat-bikes, and great for snow riding, but slow over long distances.

This year I'm riding a 29er+ with 3" wide tires, and I've been calling it my mid-fat because it looks like a fat-bike, but really it's not.

The 29er+ has very low rolling resistance and is great for long distance travel. The 3" wide, low volume, tires on the 29er+ make for an extremely comfy ride, and allows adjustments in air pressure (10-25psi) to match changing road conditions.

Riding up The canyon, I was not worried about the icy paved section in the narrows. Sure, steep mountain roads, with icy corners are dangerous, but I was worried about the last three miles past the reservoir.

Would the ruts be to big to ride through? Would the snow be to deep for my skinny 3" tires? I didn't want to come up short, and not make it to the trailhead. Realistically I could stop and camp anywhere near the reservoir, and walk the rest of the way into The canyon to climb some ice.

But that's not the plan. The plan is to be ABLE to make it to the trailhead, relatively EASILY, from home, in winter weather and changing road conditions.

Well it's not really a plan, yet. More like an idea or a wandering gaze across the arctic circle where the earth curves. The sort of vision that alters reality, and the sort of reality that alters vision.

I wouldn't say human-powered mountaineering, during it's inception, has been a constant vision quest, or that to be a human-powered mountaineer I've had to wake up every morning and remember why I swallowed the red pill.

But I will say that I have an active imagination, and that's mostly what it takes. I think. I guess. I don't know?

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