Sunday, October 10, 2010

Jumpingpound Ridge & Cox Hill

Yesterday we finally got the chance to ride a loop that I had wanted to do for quite some months.  Billed by the local guidebook as "probably the only legal world-class ride in the Canadian Rockies", we were all set early Saturday morning to try our hands (& legs) at the Jumpingpound Ridge & Cox Hill combo.  We'd put it off so long trying to avoid eighteen kilometres of gravel to make it a loop by organising enough riders & cars to shuttle.  This never happened, so we bit the bullet & parked at the Dawson Trailhead & proceeded to hit the road south.  The morning was quite overcast & breezy, so we all started off in long sleeves - these were ditched after a couple of climbs.  Another blessing of the early hour was that there was much less traffic than we have previously seen on this road on busy weekends (this particular weekend being Thanksgiving) - so with a little moisture on the road as well, we didn't choke in a cloud of dust every time a car drove past.  It took about ninety minutes before we got to Canyon Creek & the Jumpingpound Ridge trailhead.  Pleasingly, there was a long big-ring descent as the last section of road - it was fun to have the wheels slewing around a bit in the loose gravel at speed.
Approaching the high point of the road part - Gerry trying to stretch out a week's worth of roofing.

We then hit six hundred vertical metres of climbing.  It started off flattish for all too short a period, & then hit some steep technical switchbacks - this turned out to be one long climb in the granny ring.  I was pretty pleased with how I climbed - there was only one really rooty steep section that I had to walk.  It must be said that I did have a lot of rests to catch my breath as we dropped Gerry pretty quickly - he was much slower than last weekend, after a hard week's work.  
Riding out of the gully we had been switchbacking our way up, we were on to the end of the ridge & could actually see out to the road & beyond.
For the start of the ridge it was a little easier to ride, but then we hit a pile more roots & rocks that were rather difficult to negotiate - I was well pleased to be able to ride the whole way up, with just the one dab.
During our ascent on to the ridge the cloud was starting to burn off & blow away.  There was a brief side trail up to the lookout - we mostly walked up here.  The summit didn't look too much higher than where we were, but was a kilometre or so off & as it wasn't part of the trail the possibility of going over there was not even mentioned.  The lookout afforded us a 360º panorama - including a few of the places that Alex & I have ridden in the last few months: Moose Mountain, Elbow Loop, Barrier Mountain and Mt Baldy (I think Powderface was obscured).  Also off in the distance was Calgary sitting on the edge of the prairies.



It was a little demoralising to see a helicopter sitting on the ridge - when we had worked so hard to get up there, but we were quickly past it as we snaked our way quickly down through the meadows & north along the ridge.

Alex was interested to see how the chopper would go taking off in such high winds - so we had a rest stop sheltered behind some trees in the sun.  In the end, the take off was uneventful - but there were some nice clouds around.

We rode along the ridge for a little, dropping altitude gently, but at speed, before we reached a junction - straight ahead would have taken us to the road.  As for many of the rides around here - I was constantly in that wonderful dilemma of not know which to pay more attention to: the wonderful scenery or the great singletrack.

We went right & plunged down through about three hundred metres of great trail to the bottom of the gully before another brutal climb up on to Cox Hill.

Through the trees it was quite steep again, particularly some of the switchback corners.  The legs were starting to feel a little weary, but not overly so.  Coming out of the trees we could see the trail snaking its way up well in to the distance to the summit.  We were by now back exposed to the very strong wind - the terrain itself was challenging enough, but never before have I had to walk the last ten metres because it was too windy.

Once again, the views were quite something, but we weren't so keen on hanging around for too long as the huge downhill that we had been earning all day was awaiting us.

It started off with a little of the descent on the ridge before dropping off the left hand side on to some big banked corners that lead through loose rocks & a gnarly couple of chutes.  We started to meet a few hikers climbing - we must have been making a bit of noise as they all cleared well out of way, very nice of them.  Back in to the trees the trail would switch from bumpy roots, to flowing smooth trail & then to rocks quite quickly.  Gerry had picked up his pace a bit now that we were on the fun stuff & we all took turns leading as I tried to get in front & get some photos.  As always I was having too much fun on the best part of the trail to stop & get photos - but here are couple on some of the flatter sections.

We were back at the car five and a quarter hours after leaving - not too bad considering the wind & all the climbing we did (I think about 1400 m).  I was pretty stoked - I'm definitely rating that as the best ride I've done since I've been here (I'm nearing sixty for the total number of Canadian rides so far).  I have definitely earned my first Thanksgiving feast.

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