June 1, 2013

AES: Aspen 'Total' Asphyxiation

I should have been out riding an out-n-back from Flagstaff to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, but I couldn't get off from work Sunday evening. Plan B was hatched. Camp out in the pines of Flagstaff and ride the AES Aspen Asphyxiation route. Jeff & Nancy were game, so we met up at one of the primo camping spots about a mile up from the Shultz Creek trailhead.
Living large in the pines.
It was nice to be in camp all set up with beer in hand before the sun went down.  Salmon for dinner, omelets/pancakes for breakfast, yeah totally roughing it!! A huge thanks to these two for providing a magnificent spread.

We were rolling shortly after 6a and were soon on the AA route climbing the gradual lower portions of the Elden lookout rd. This was my first time up this forest road, I knew it would get steep eventually. I tried to keep a similar gear to Jeff & Nancy's singlespeed, but I had to relent when the grade shot up. It was about then when Nancy looked back, Armstrong style, and took off - no catching her on these types of climbs. I couldn't keep pace with Jeff either, only briefly getting close to him on the steep HAB SS sections.

Jeff and I made it up to the Sunset trail split, but didn't see Nancy. We assumed she kept going knowing that we'd catch up on the downhill techy bits.
Top of the climb for us.
Spectacular views to the east from Mt. Elden.
This wouldn't be the last time Jeff pushed his bike.
Jeff and I descended the Catwalk, a narrow piece of singletrack clinging to the mountainside. His phone rang, it was Nancy asking where we were. She had gone to the top of the lookout road, then when we didn't arrive road back down a ways looking for us, but flatted. Soon after, Jeff had tire issues and added Stan's to the rear wheel. A few minutes after that we met up with Ray, who had come up the other side. We mentioned what was going on then contacted Nancy again to have her meet us down at the Sunset trailhead.  Ray, Jeff and I (Team AES on this day) started down the mountain towards the Sunset TH. Jeff had more tire issues, this time his front tire!! While he was messing with his front tire I rode down to Sunset with Ray. Then Jeff called, his front tire was a no-go so he was bailing out, walking back to camp! He also informed us that Nancy had secured a lift from some downhill shuttle riders back up to the top and was going to try and catch up to us.

I wasn't really feeling it, just sluggish, and the thought of 50+ more miles was quite exhausting. I too noticed that my rear tire was getting low...again. I also thought I forgot my pump back at the car. I told Ray I was probably going to cut the ride short, but still wanted to check out some more of the route since it was on trails I hadn't been to before.
Beautiful day for a comedy of errors.
Ray modelling the AES jersey.
Ray toured my carcass around a few more trails, which were really good. Soon we came to the split where I decided this would be it, we aimed our bikes downhill and were off. We picked up the short AZT connector and ripped down Shultz Creek to the spur trail we started on earlier in the morning.

Back at camp, Jeff & Nancy were already gone so I assumed Nancy also made a beeline to camp. Even though the ride was shorter than intended, most of it was new-to-me trails, which is always a good thing. I look forward to completing this route in full someday, maybe a autumn attempt would be primo??
Leaving camp, Humphrey's Peak with a bit of snow in the alpine.
These last two rides have taught me something. I can't sustain this riding schedule - no mid-week rides followed by all day sufferfests on the weekend. Fortunately, my summer work schedule will be changing giving me the opportunity to squeeze in an afternoon ride once or twice a week.

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