Four Canyons

I didn't think I could do it.

I used to ride a lot with Jason S. and a bunch of guys at Linux Networx when I worked there a few years ago. Jason moved to Seattle. For his 40th birthday he wanted to ride the four big canyons - Little Cottonwood (LCC), Big Cottonwood (BCC), Millcreek and Emigration to Big Mountain. (Here's the route.)

I thought he was nuts. It sounded like a death march. But he's my friend and this was his day so I was going to show up, even though I fully believed I couldn't finish the ride. In fact, I planned to just poke up the canyons and head back down when the leaders came down.

Why was I so pessimistic about this ride? Because back in 2007 I climbed all of these canyons individually and they kicked my butt.

Yesterday at 6 AM we started up Little Cottonwood. I felt pretty good. After Tanners Flat I got into a good rhythm and motored along pretty good. Snowbird appeared more quickly than I anticipated and it didn't take long to get to Alta. I made it to the fee booth without ever going into granny (full disclosure: I have a triple).

I had fun on the fast descent although it was chilly at the top. We regrouped at the park-n-ride lot to refuel and dump clothing.

The ride over to Big Cottonwood was all-too-short. Time to climb again. I was leery of BCC. It doesn't have the sustained steepness of LCC but it's longer and goes higher. Storm Mountain came up quick, but wasn't too long. The flatter section up to Mill D was a nice break. The steeper section up to Solitude was a grind and I felt twinges in my legs so I slowed down to avoid carmping. The last pitch to Brighton was steep but thankfully short. We refilled our bottles and headed down - another funtastic decent.

At the bottom of BCC we met Jason L.'s wife who had our bags. We ate lunch then continued on.

The ride over to Millcreek was longer. It was nice to warm up the legs and chat.

Millcreek is deceiving. It looks so pleasant with the shade trees and babbling brook. But it's a tough beauty. The many short, steep pitches take their toll. I made it, but was forced into granny for Elbow fork and a few other steep rollers farther up.

Another good descent then a stop at Anne's house to refuel.

A bit more uphill on the ride over to Emigration. The three bridges to get across I-80 were interesting. We turned off Foothill to take the back-roads over to Sunnyside / Hoggle Zoo.

I spotted odd cloud formations all day.

Emigration is mercifully a mellow climb. And we had a tailwind. But my legs we getting pretty tired. Still, we made it up to the top of Little Mountain in good form, all things considered.

A few more bowed out and it was just Jason S., Jason L., Kevin and I going for Big Mountain. When I did this climb in 2007 I remember it being tough and the summit being yet another switchback away. Jason S. and I ground it out together while Jason L. motored ahead. We didn't talk much, just focused on turning the pedals over and toughing it out. Someone had painted the kilometers, and finally meters, to the top on the road and seeing "500m" was a relief, and "200m" even more so.

We made it.

The descent was nice, carving the switchbacks.

I was a bit concerned about the final climb back to Little Mountain. Would we be trapped like bugs in sink? Fortunately the climb is mild, but my legs were shot. We put our heads down and trudged up the last climb.

I had fun flying down Emigration. Near the bottom I took a good pull to get us out of the canyon. A bit more climbing to Donner Park (by the zoo) and we were treated to wraps, fruit, drinks and chocolate birthday cake for Jason.

I'm pretty proud I completed this ride. It had me intimidated. I was sure I'd get cramps and that would end it. But the CarboRocket worked it's magic.

Just for fun, Jason L. figure out that this ride contained three category 1 climbs and one HC (LCC) - this combination of climbs and distance is worse than all but one stage of the Tour. Of course we took way longer to complete it than pros would. But still, made me feel manly.

Here are the stats: 110 miles, 13,580 feet climbing, almost 10 hours (8:40 riding time).

Kevin's report.


Nate Kingdon said...

Thats huge! You guys had your own version of the Guantlet Supreme that we did Friday. Good work!

UtRider said...

Did you ride back to your car at the mouth of Little C or was there a shuttle? I kept thinking how brutal that would be after all that climbing...

Ski Bike Junkie said...

Nice work. Sounds like quite an adventure.

Don't mean to rain on your parade, but couldn't help noticing this: "Just for fun, Jason L. figure out that this ride contained three category 1 climbs and one HC (LCC) - this combination of climbs and distance is worse than any stage of the Tour."

I'd guess that stage 17 from Pau to the Tourmalet is harder, and probably substantially so. Especially if it's ridden at race pace, and especially if it's, well stage 17. Then of course, there's the queen stage of this year's giro with over 20k feet of climbing...

That said, it's rare for hobbyist cyclists like us to take on something like this, and it would send a lot of riders (most) running for cover. Many cyclists consider it an accomplishment just to make it to the top of Suncrest, so to do four canyons in a day is immense.

Jason said...

@Ski Bike Junkie was correct:

Pau to Tourmalet is 109 miles and 14599 ft of climbing. But it's two category 1 climbs and a *really* big HC climb.

KanyonKris said...

Nate - I just read about your Gauntlet Supreme and it sounds harder.

UTRider - I got a ride back to LCC. I was in no condition to ride any more.

SBJ - Right you are and I corrected my statement. Yes it's lame to compare myself to pros, but my vanity and ego demanded it.

Ski Bike Junkie said...

Kris, comparing one's self to the pros is useful. First, it helps put what they do in perspective. Second, it helps motivate us to push harder and try and get a bit closer to their accomplishments. None of the pros would be pros if they hadn't first been young racers comparing themselves to pros.

Don't let comparisons anything away from what you did. That was a huge ride, and more than a few pros will abandon the Pau to Tourmalet stage.