TR: Bikeaneering? Mountainbikeaneering?-
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  1. #1
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    TR: Bikeaneering? Mountainbikeaneering?

    Tom’s Thumb Biathlon - December 20th , 2010

    I'm not sure the proper term to use... it has so many variation. Bikeaneering? Mountainbikeaneering? Hikeabikeaneering? We debated this some on the way up there.

    October 2009... I started up the Windgate Trail with a buddy from work, locked and loaded to ride up and climb Tom’s Thumb. Seemed like a good way to combine my two favorite activities. The bad news is that my buddy, who was essentially trying to do this off the couch and in the kind of shape you’d expect for a suburbanite dad with three active kids, sorta petered out at the bottom of the last big grunt hill leading up to the ridgeline where the formation is located. He was in pretty bad shape and I was kinda worried about him cacking with a heart attack or something if we pushed on, so we turned it around and headed back down. I made one more rather sad effort to pull it off the week after New Years, but I just couldn’t make it happen on my own with a heavy pack full of climbing gear and water. I needed a partner. Zoom forward to April 2010. I headed back up with my buddies Tim and Tom. We weren’t packed to climb, just to ride up the Tom’s Thumb Trail, down the East End Trail, and then back up and over Windgate Pass. A good ride, but I still needed to knock off the biathlon.

    December 2010 - Mike O. is in town and looking to ride. I’d just hit my Christmas vacation stretch, and I was looking for some good long workouts. We put in a warmup ride on T100 and followed that up honking up the Sunset Trail on the south side of the McDowell-Sonoran Preserve, a 21 mile 2500 feet of climbing day that put a dent in us. I mentioned the Tom’s Thumb biathlon project to Mike and he was immediately on board and thought it was a cool project. He picked me up at 9:30 and we headed for the trailhead to meet Zac. Zac was a last minute entry and turned out to be our YSL (young strong local). The term was sort of coined by Fish in a trip report back in July of 2007 for when you get some young kid with an overabundance of energy and psyche to help you out with the heavy lifting on a project. This would be the first application of the YSL for biking purposes (but with a climbing sidecar). Zac is twenty-couple years old, all legs and lungs and a pro bike racer to boot. He was so psyched to do some climbing, he’d run out and bought a harness and climbing shoes just for this ride. We couldn't fail!!

    The ride started out of the visitor’s center on easy terrain, then left on the Gateway Trail, which starts climbing as you move away from the center.

    The angle keeps going up for a while as does the density of rock covering the trail. This trail wouldn’t be nearly as bad if it was smooth, but the combination of angle and pushing through the rocks makes it a pretty hefty cardio challenge.

    We motored up the lower slopes, dodging hikers and sucking for air. As we rode through one group, I said something like “what was I thinking”. Some lady hiker (in fairly questionable shape herself) said something about my two cohorts being much younger than I am. Dang... that's rough, considering Mike is a couple years older than I am. I think what she really meant is that they’re so much THINNER than I am. I deserve it, but I’m working on it.

    Further up the trail we ran into a rider coming down and talked to him a bit. He recommended bailing off onto the Desert Park trail, the Preserve’s version of a wilderness golf cart path, as it would be easier for us. We decided we’d keep our man cards and continued up the Windgate Trail to the Tom’s Thumb turnoff.

    A nice downhill run gave us a break before we had to hump up yet more climbing to the base of the “last hill”. This starts out on the hike-a-bike program, then moves on to steep switchbacks that are extremely tough to try to ride (translates to more hike-a-bike).

    //Getting closer...Tom's Thumb in the distance.//

    After humping the bikes up this hill, with short periods of riding tossed in for good measure, we exited onto the last hill leading to the saddle across from our objective, Tom’s Thumb.

    The south side of Tom's Thumb with the route shown.

    We did a long sweeping downhill run through the rocks over to the climber’s access trail that branched off in the direction of Tom’s Thumb. They don’t allow bikes on these side trails, so we pushed our bikes up the first little hill and stashed them behind a rock. I swapped to my Five-Ten approach shoes and we headed up the hill to Tom’s Thumb.

    What a cool tower!! We skirted the south side and headed over to the southwest corner where the original 1948 route is located. When you’re humping up a few thousand feet of elevation gain on a bike, you go with the smallest amount of climbing gear you can live with. We had a couple of nuts and a couple of tri-cams, plus a sling and a couple of extra biners for our lead rack. The route itself is officially rated “4th class”, but it’s actually easy 5th class in a couple of spots. Mike had never done the route, so he got the onsight lead.

    He motored up to the rap anchor, clipped in and belayed Zac up. For as little climbing instruction as Zac got before he started up (none to speak of), he fired up the route in pretty good style.

    Zac totally psyched and topping out on Tom's Thumb

    I went last, cleaning the two pieces Mike placed. Great views, beautiful day!
    We took a couple of summit shots, checked the register and got ready to head down. I’d forgotten to bring an extra rap device, so Mike and I dredged the biner-brake rap setup out of dim, foggy, memory and he rapped off. Zac went in the middle with a fireman brake from Mike in case he got out of control. He did pretty well on the rap, although he was amped to the ceiling and shaking when he went over the side. My harness was just a wrapped swami of 2” webbing, so rapping off was tons of fun. Not.

    Back at the base, we took a break to have a snack and pack up. With the ascent in the bag, we were all pretty psyched about the day so far. We hoofed back down from the Thumb to our bikes, walked them down to the main trail and started pedaling again.

    We talked about heading over to the East End Trail to take that down, but in the end we opted to head back down the way we came up. Mike and Zac were psyched about riding the switchbacks.

    I wasn’t that psyched... I am not the Switchback Kid at this point and need to get in some more riding on that sort of terrain to be happy about them. They rode a lot of the switchbacks, while I would ride down, stop, swing my bike around then repeat. I did manage to ride a few of the lesser heinous ones.

    We were soon back down at the base of the “last hill” and we motored from there, pretty much all the way back down to the end of the trail at the Visitor’s Center. There were a surprising number of hikers on the Windgate Trail when we descended, but we tried to be polite and not run into anyone. We finished up to the parking lot and crossed a great adventure off the list.

    Many thanks to Mike and Zac for helping me knock this one off. Now I have to come up with a new one for the tick list.
    Last edited by Steelmonkey; 12-21-2010 at 01:29 PM.

  2. #2
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    Now that looks like a fun local adventure!
    I can't believe I have yet to do that trail, and its right down the street from me. I SHUN myself

  3. #3
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    Wow. What a fun day.
    How 'bout calling it repedaling for the trip down?

  4. #4
    Powered by ice cream.
    Reputation: Enel's Avatar
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    Mar 2004
    Superb story.
    Quote Originally Posted by buddhak
    And I thought I had a bike obsession. You are at once tragic and awesome.

  5. #5
    aka Diesel
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    Fantastic post. I smiled the entire time. Thanks for sharing it.

  6. #6
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    totally pitchn!

    Dual sport day's rule!

  7. #7
    "No Clue Crew"
    Reputation: Grave9's Avatar
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    Aug 2009
    GREAT photos and writeup! Thanks for sharing!.............Drew

  8. #8
    My other ride is your mom
    Reputation: Maadjurguer's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
    Great TR......the 2" swami rap story has my panties in a bunch though....surely BD can design a lightweight harness for use while biking....

  9. #9
    I am Walt
    Reputation: waltaz's Avatar
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    Nice!! Makes me pine for my climbing days...gotta love a swami-wrap, and lowering over the edge on rappel!!
    Ride more; post less...

  10. #10
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    Sweet and timely run down, SteelBro! Thanks for the guiding and, yea, that damn idea to begin with!

    Last edited by She&I; 12-21-2010 at 08:29 PM.

  11. #11
    Reputation: Pirate Girl's Avatar
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    Great story!

  12. #12
    mtbr member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maadjurguer
    Great TR......the 2" swami rap story has my panties in a bunch though....surely BD can design a lightweight harness for use while biking....
    Nahhhh... No biggie. Many climbers ran 2" wrap swamis iN the 70's and 80's without problems. I'm guessing they avoided rapping as much as possible, however.

    Mostly it was about room as opposed to the weight.
    Takes up way less than a harness with leg loops.

  13. #13
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    Oct 2010
    That's my teammate Zac!!! No fear!!
    Nice job bro.


  14. #14
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    cool combo adventure, photos and write up! major stokeage.
    I'm thinking about a combo kayak/mtb/hike around Bartlett, Canyon lake, Roosevelt lake? Powell also comes to mind for a multi-day adventure.
    Any ideas or suggestions?

  15. #15
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    looks almost as much fun as the Monday I had battling caffeinated cougars and braty kids (not my kids, of course) at Fashion Square!
    Maah Daah Hey

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