Mountain Crest Trail

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My latest adventure involved, on average, 900 meters (3,000 feet) of elevation gain, topping out at about 2,900 meters above sea level.

I average this one out, because the signal isn’t great up there. We know the highest peak in the mountain range in that area is a little over 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level. The trail we ride travels the ridge line, but not with devotion, so a lot of the highest portions of the Crest Trail vary between 2,700 to 2,900 meters above sea level. If you convert that to feet, it’s between 9,000 to 9,700 feet above sea level. That’s a decent workout for your lungs. At that elevation your lungs struggle to capture the oxygen necessary for your muscles to do the work. (Did I just call it “work”? We spent four hours out there. I’m sure we were having fun.)

Even more challenging is the condition of the trail: Dry! The mountain hasn’t felt rain on its back for a few weeks.

The dust that gets kicked up makes it even harder to breathe. Usually, I’ll hang back a good distance if I’m following anyone. If you’re too close, you can’t even see the trail. If you’re even slightly farther back, you still get coated with dust. So I just pause, take a break, drink some water, let the guy or gal in front of me get ahead. Even with that tactic, by the end of the ride, my bike and I could blend in with the scenery almost perfectly. Natural camouflage.

At the beginning of this ride is a little section people lovingly call Puke Hill. It gives you a quick dose of elevation gain, and it’s a matter of pride to climb the hill all in one go, without putting a foot down on the ground. Lots of people have conquered the hill—and a lot of them have puked once they got to the top. Many people don’t make it without planting a foot, but that’s no big deal in comparison to making it through the rest of the ride with your mountain bike, and your body, in perfect order.

There’s another section that most riders refer to as The Spine. I’ve conquered it before, but this time I had to give it a second try. It’s fun to do the technical stuff. At least that’s my opinion. There are plenty of people who take the “easy” trail and avoid the technical. Either way is valid. You’re better off knowing your limitations than leaving the mountain in a helicopter or an ambulance. Have fun, but don’t kill or damage yourself.

Doesn’t that sound like an insurance disclaimer? “We won’t pay you if you are killed or damaged.”

If I can swing it, next time I do a mountain bike archive, I’ll post a picture of me jumping off The Spine.

(Not puking on Puke Hill.)

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