September 7, 2013

Brown's Peak Challenge

I received an email from Mark, 'Want to ride Four Peaks rd & climb up Brown's Peak?'. I sure do. I've had this ride on my 'to-do' list for a long time. I can see the Four Peaks from my house, well, you can see Four Peaks from practically anywhere in the Phoenix metro area. Brown's Peak is the highest of the Four Peaks at 7,657' and often times has a blanket of snow draped over the summit in cooler months.
Four Peaks near the end of our day.
Our plan was simple, meet at the staging area at 5:30a, ride up the graded dirt road for 18.5 miles, ditch the bikes in the trees, change into hiking shoes and summit Brown's Peak. Mark warned me about the Class 4 climbing that awaited us on the final approach to the summit, but I was not deterred.

We started the gradual climb up FR143 under an overcast cool sky. It was downright pleasant!! The miles went by rather quickly as the road undulated giving us bursts of speed. There were a handful of other bikers out making the climb, but we had other plans when we crested the usual turnaround spot. Somewhere around the halfway point of the climb my front tire started getting squishy. Time for a bottle of Stan's and soon we were back on our way. There were a few punchy climbs that had me gasping for air, but nothing too steep to walk. Mark is a really strong climber and I was glad to hang onto his wheel most of the way up. I think I only asked to stop once or twice!!

We made a quick stop for snacks a couple of miles from the Pine trailhead when I noticed Mark staring intently at my front tire. I thought he saw sealant leaking. No, it was worse. My tire tread began separating from the inner casing creating a bulge in the tread!! We were two miles or so from the top and I wasn't about to bail out now. Upon further inspection we found the tire had three bulges. Oh well, nothing we can do about it now. Keep pedaling!
Bulging Rampage.
We crested Pine saddle and made the short ride over to the Pine TH. We officially rode 1 mile of the Arizona Trail, part of passage #21.
Our first glimpse of Roosevelt Lake.
AZT leading to Pigeon Springs.
At the trailhead there were a few people camping out, so we decided to backtrack a bit before ditching our bikes. We found a well hidden spot beyond some barbed wire fencing and changed into our hiking shoes. This ended up being quite the chore for me as my quads decided it would be a swell time to cramp!! I was sweating so much due to the high humidity I was electrolyte deficient. The cramps finally subsided after eating a bit, I sure love packing those dill pickle spears!!

We started up the trail, tame by any standard, but gradually climbing towards the sky. The Peak still seemed a bit far away, darting in and out of view as we trekked upward across a mountain slope.
At the Pine trailhead.
Mark leading the way.
This little fella blended in rather well.
Now we're getting close! Nearing the chute of scree to the summit.
Superstition Mtns.
Saguaro Lake.
Roosevelt Lake.
The footing begins to get a bit loose the higher we go.
As we approached the scree chute we spotted another group about halfway up, but couldn't tell which way they were going. We had our first obstacle to navigate over before entering the chute. It was an up & over on a large boulder, but there was only a small ledge to work with descending down the other side. As I was about to find out, there are plenty of hand holds on the way up, take your time and plan your route.

Mark started up the scree and I gave him space so I could dodge any potential rock fall.
Time to use our hands a bit.
Mark caught up to the other group at one of the trickier spots. I watched a bit as he disappeared over a small headwall. When I reached that location I kind of cornered myself into an area I wasn't too comfortable with. I stood there for a couple of minutes deciding which way to go. I opted to slightly retreat and work my way up and over from the left side. That was much easier!
Mark and the other group at the tricky spot.
A few minutes later we were cresting the summit!! Not before I passed by a million ladybugs!!
Ladybug swarm!!
Some people refer to this as the ladybug trail.
Summit attained!!
Looking east towards Brother, Sister & Amethyst Peaks
In keeping with tradition, we cracked open a couple of Four Peaks brews!!
The rain started to fall as we were finishing our snack. Time to head down before it gets too slick! I thought the descent may be more challenging than the climb, but it wasn't the case. The rain stayed light, but it did make for a few slick spots here and there. I slipped on one of the large angled rocks on the lower reaches of the chute, but didn't tunble.
Starting our way down.
Woodstock rock!
Tame trail near the trailhead.
The lower portion of the hike seemed really long to us. Eventually the trailhead was reached and we made our way back to the bikes.

A few trucks decided to set up camp in the middle of the dirt road we rode in on, so we had to bushwack a bit to find our bikes. On our way out we had no choice but to take our rigs through their campsite. I think they were a bit surprised to see a couple of mountain bikers come out of nowhere!

Now I had to re-focus my attention to my ailing tire. Would it hold up for the 18+ mile ride down to the car? I took a more cautious approach to the downhill, but the tire seemed fine.
Mark takes flight on another downhill section.
The sun finally came out to give us the views we missed in the morning.
Big sky country.
Back to the desert lowlands.
Back at the car , hard to believe we were up there!
 I can now cross that one off my to-do list of rides/hikes. Thanks to Mark for sending out the invite, it was nice to have someone familiar with the route. There are a few other 'must do' hikes I have on my radar, I need to start knocking them off.

My tire held up fine all the way down. I tallied up the stats for that tire: 1857 miles of mostly rugged AZ trails for my Panaracer Rampage. Can't argue with that. I consider anything over 1000 miles gravy when I comes to tire wear / life expectancy.

The ride portion:
The hiking portion:

 Photo album:


  1. My rampage did the same thing. I'm curious as to why it happens.

  2. Some people claim the sealant eventually begins to affect the integrity of the tire. I'm not sold on that, but I did put a ton of miles on it so I'm not really too upset.

  3. I have had it happen to a couple of my tires also. This guy really gets into to it here...