Thursday, August 21, 2014

Two must-do rides in the White Cloud Mountains that will blow you away

These guys are living large in the White Clouds! L-R, Mark Anderson,
Mack Lyons, Roberto Negron, Steve Schneider and Jim Young.
Woo hoo! Roberto Negron descends into
Chamberlain Basin on a steep series of switchbacks,
with Castle Peak in the background.  
Hi all,

I missed out on a big weekend with some of my mountain bike buddies in the White Cloud Mountains because I was just coming off a Middle Fork Salmon River trip, and couldn't fit it in. But I heard all about it -- "it was totally epic, man ..." -- I've seen the photos, and my friends pretty much were exhausted and exhilarated all at once after the experience.

I'm recapping their experience in my blog this week because the two rides they notched in the White Clouds are some of the best rides in Idaho and the Rocky Mountain West, in my opinion. The scenery is totally spectacular. Very unique. It's pretty rare to ride by high mountain lakes and high peaks like you do in the White Clouds. 
Hanging out on the saddle divide ... 

On Saturday, they rode a huge traverse in the White Clouds from 4th of July Creek Trailhead to the East Fork of the Salmon River. This ride is often referred to as the Castle Divide Trail. They also rode the Big Boulder - Frog Lake - Little Boulder Loop. Both of these rides will be doable until the snow flies in October. September would be a great time to plan to go there. These rides are pretty much advanced to expert cross-country rides because of the endurance and skill set required. 

"Oh man, it was incredible," said Doug Lawrence, a retired school teacher. Noting that the big loop took them 7.5 hours, Doug said, "it was a frickin' workout. But what an incredible downhill from the Castle Divide all the way down Little Boulder Creek. It was 9-10 miles of downhill, and there was cold beer in the rig, so that was perfect."

"I thought the Big Boulder-Little Boulder Loop was fun, but the big traverse was totally awesome," added Jim Young, a retired log home builder. "I'd say that's a bucket-list ride for sure. You've got to do that once in your lifetime."
Remember that the White Cloud Mountains are used by horseback riders,
backpackers, motorbikes, trail-runners, etc.  ... so keep a watch ahead on the
trail for other users and yield accordingly.   
Plus, folks who worry about how the proposed Boulder-White Clouds National Monument would affect these trails will be relieved to know that both of these loops are included in a MOU hammered out by IMBA and the Wood River Bike Coalition with monument advocates. Both loops would remain open under the monument proposal. 

Loop #1 - Big Boulder-Little Boulder Loop - About 20 miles. Riding time: 5.5 hours. Vertical gain: 2,800 feet. Access is off the East Fork of the Salmon River Road. Take the dirt road up Big Boulder Creek to the Livingston Mill area and the Big Boulder Creek Trailhead. Take the Big Boulder Creek Trail to the Frog Lake Trail and descend on Little Boulder Creek. The climb is reasonable on Big Boulder Creek Trail, and the downhill on Little Boulder Creek is rocky and technical in places. Leave a shuttle vehicle at the bottom of Little Boulder Creek. 

Loop #2 - White Clouds Grand Traverse - "Castle Divide" Ride - 25 miles. 5,000+ vertical gain; riding time 6-7.5 hours. Sturtevants in Ketchum runs a regular shuttle service. Call 726-4501 to book it. You can leave Sturtevants in Ketchum at 8 a.m. and be back by 6 p.m. They drop you off at 4th of July trailhead and pick you up on the East Fork. My friends hired a Stanley shuttle service (Sawtooth Transportation) to take them from the East Fork to the 4th of July trailhead, and they camped on the East Fork. 

The Castle Route route is totally amazing ... you start at the 4th of July Trailhead, ride over to Washington Lake, then climb over to Chamberlain Basin, ride a super-steep trail to the top of Castle Divide (on the shoulder of Castle Peak), and then descend on the Little Boulder Trail down to the East Fork. So there are three major climbs and then the long rocky downhill on the Little Boulder Creek Trail. 
All eyes on the map! 
"It's pretty cool to ride through the pine trees, aspens, red rocks and sagebrush until you come to the East Fork," said Mark Anderson, an engineer in Boise. "Because of all the climbing and the stops we made along the way, we only averaged a little better than 3 miles per hour. We were all pretty gassed by the end. One of our guys fell off his bike on Little Boulder, so he was hurting pretty bad by the time we finished."

The folks at IMBA put together this super-cool virtual tour of the Castle Divide Ride. Check it out.

In case you're interested in the monument proposal, and how mountain bikers would be affected, see this press release on the MOU from the IMBA web site
Paul Hilding strikes a pose 
Full disclosure: I personally am in favor of the monument proposal because it would allow nearly all of the key mountain bike trails to remain open in the White Clouds, while protecting the ecological values in the high alpine areas and world-class fish and wildlife habitat. The old wilderness proposal (CIEDRA) would have closed off a number of those routes to biking, but the wilderness bill appears to be dead in our do-nothing Congress. I work for several groups in support of the monument, so I am biased. I'm also a longtime IMBA member. 
Beer-me now! 
Hope you have a chance to experience these rides. You will love it! 

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