Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Summit Fever

Sunday: I realized I had not heard a peep from the gang in regards to this ride in a couple of days so I could only assume I had been uninvited. I was a bit worrined at first but after making 3 drops of my own, I realized a solo bid for The Ring could be doable if it came down to it. Water, food, clothes, tubes, spare hangers, and a back up battery for the light had all been strategically placed along the route. With the recent rains and moving, I havent touched my mountain bike since our last attempt a month or so ago. Not sure if that's a good thing or not. Riding up Veach to make a water drop, the bike felt great but the forces powering it felt weak. As I sat at Jalisco's in Strausburg, my mind raced with questions of who would show up, who would succeed, fail and why. I felt confident and mentally prepared, but anyone whoi has spent a long day along the Massanutten/ Tuscarora Trail can attest, anything can and will happen up there.

I got to Camp Roosevelt and as I set up my tent in the smaller of the two flat areas with fire rings (some courteous equestrians let their steeds crap all over the other one), Mike and Jimmy pulled in with some storms in tow. Pat and Kyle pulled in as we lay dwon to sleep. Our gang of four awakened at 3am downed some grub and began our journey. I felt strong climbing up Duncan Hollow until I burped my tire bulldozing into a downhill switchback. It took me a while to get the tire reseated and then made a short detour before realizing I was on a trail blazed white. Backtrack and then the hike-a-bike up Waterfall. I shouted up for the others to push on. Regardless of my situation, I was able to keep my cool and caught up to the group on the ridge as the sun bagan to illuminate the foggy valley below. On Jawbone we came across 3 angry hunters. The obvious ring leader with his salty beard, bear claw necklace and meth fueled stare shouted, "It was a good day!" as Pat greeted him with a pleasant, "Good morning." Must be hard living when you can let someone ruin your day before most even think to hit the snooze bar.

I was feeling strong and comfortable on Jawbone and Short, casually making my way through some of the tricky bits the ridge has to offer. I was having trouble getting food and water in me, and thought this may come back to haunt me later in the day. On the climb up Short Mountain, Jimmy flatted after being pretty badly blown. I had a feeling this was the end of J-Mac. Lunch at Tasker's Gap then steady gunning up Wanazze Peak, rolled the flowy ridge to Woodstock Tower and kept moving North with the promise of water at Mudhole Gap. We all had "pipe dreams." Thoughts of sticking our heads under the pipe that carried fresh, cold water from the spring to roadside. We filled and chilled knowing the Signal Knob fire road would be rough. A slow, chunky, 45 minute grind in sun before heading west to the overlook. Pat and Kyle kept it rolling up the road while Carp and myself walked a good bit of the way.

I have only done a limited amount of riding with Carp, ut I had never seen him suffer to the extent he did on that climb. He was able to recover and keep with the group on Signal's descent, but I fell off the back. I was in bad shape. I tore off a hanger and went over the bars and over the exposed edge. It seemed like a long tumble and as I lay tangled in bike and brush, I noticed my right calf contorted and cramped. Broken tib/ fib? I grabbed my leg behind the knee and pulled toward me. The cramp subsided and I was able to move my leg fine. Left femur took a nasty hit and is possible still in one piece due to the rod Dr. Sumida put in place 7 years ago. My noggin got a floggin' and broke my helmet in the process. I remembered the story of a hiker who broke her ankle on the East Ridge and bled to death up there. I slowly got moving and made it to the lot where I was accosted by a stranger named Joe sent on behalf of one Chris Scott to assist our efforts. I was hardly in the mood to be social. Bonking, blown up, and broken biked, I shed my gear and grabbed a sandwich. The group had been there for at least 30 minutes already and was ready to head out. I barely got a sandwich and soda in me and my bike rolling before it was time to move again. My leg was protesting. Stiff and weak and started to push up Shawl Gap. The others were far ahead of me by now and I began to think of how this would pan out. I was experiencing something referred to as "summit fever" in the climbing world. The realistic thought of bivvying at Veach crossed my mind and then the clarity took over. Water would be an issue the next day, but above that, the fact that I only had shorts and a sleeveless jersey to overnight. I knew I had to bail or things would go very wrong. I shouted up to Pat to ask where his keys were and made my way back down. Never had I ridden that trail so slow.

I drove back to camp packed my things and rolled out. Delerious and mildly concussed I laughed and cryed my way through the valley. I wondered where the others were on the ridge and how they fared. I ate and drank non-stop on the drive home and somewhere along I-66 I checked my phone. There was a text from Pat. Carp bailed at Veach to ride the road back. I felt like a sack for not looking sooner. I was a good hour away. And then there were 2.

On my drive back, conflicting thoughts flowed through my mind. All I wanted for my birthday was to complete this one ride. Instead, I found a very dark place I had seeked for a long time. I have seen others find it and I have been at the threshold and pushed through. that point where you just cant go any further. The point where your spirit not just cracks, but splinters into a million little bit and the oh- so human weakness is exposed for all to see. It's humbling for sure. I have had my eye on the Tour Divide for this very pupose. I guess I dont have to waste a month on my life to get to that point.

The next day, I had an email in my box from pat saying that he and Kyle pulled the plug Milford Gap after being forced off of the ridge by an electrical strom. And so the legacy of the Ring lives on.

Foto from my Fuji Instax Mini

Tree boxin'...

Crossing the streams...

Last seen slummin' on Short...

Downhilling on Duncan...

Pat on Short...

Raspberries are out early this year...


  1. Yeah, awesome stuff! Keep at it!

  2. There're no Shorts and Jawbones on the Tour Divide. How many people have completed that compared to The Ring....

  3. Epic post, burly ride. Hats off.

  4. Inspiring...I'm not at that level of riding but it makes me want to get there! Keep it rolling!

  5. Man, I said last time, camping for 3 hours at Veach gap is the trick.

    If Mr. Pat had done that maybe the storm would have stopped by the time they rested.

    Also, those hunters poachers are ridiculous I've never seen an animal in Fort Valley. They hang out where it's illegal to kill them like Chad Mtn Maryland.

    Good luck and do it again soon. I'm looking to thru hike in 2 days.