Malevolent Cartography

Write C

Drink your coffee black

Sleep on the floor

Burn your rolling luggage




Moab 2019

2019-04-07 by Quinlan Pfiffertravelwriting

Day 0: Driving all day. Listened to a lot of the Calaphate podcast, which is a pretty fascinating look at ISIS.

Day 1: Slept about three hours outside of Moab, outside of SLC. Got into Moab proper around 10:30 or so and had a proper breakfast at Love Muffin, which has pretty good burritos but bad coffee. Stayed there for a minute before heading over near the slick rock trail system. I had a brief phone call with a contact at Triplebyte, then we went on a run. I felt pretty solid and focused on turning my right foot so my IT band stuff doesn’t act up.

Later met up with Megan’s friend Whitney and we climbed a few cracks on Wall Street, right off Potash road. I got to break in the hastily purchased TC Pros and untouched crack gloves. Cracks are monstrously hard, but at least I get to toprope everything. My whole body is tired.

We all went to a burrito place in the evening. Megan and Whitney went inside and I attempted to prepare my bike for the 100 mile ride the day afterward. Everything went on perfectly except I couldn’t get my flat pedals off. Turns out I forgot a pedal wrench and I could just pliers them off; oh well. Flat pedal death march it is.

Dinner was great but really hectic and crowded. We left and headed out near Horsethief campground and prepped all of our stuff for the following day. Water, snacks, tools, clothing, etc. Megan went with around 4 liters of water and I went with about 5. Seems like it would hopefully be enough. Really nice campspot, very quiet and much warmer than day 0.

Day 2: White Rim in a day, 100 miles. Woke up sore and bruised in weird places. Crack climbing! We got up at 5:00AM right on the dot (more or less) and left the tent and got right on the road. I ate Megan’s leftover burrito for breakfast and we headed over to Shafer Bottom (I think) where we parked the car. We were riding by 6:40ish.

The first 20 miles passed pretty easily, but my new brakepads kept squeaking and I hadn’t had any coffee so I was cranky and quiet. The scenery was beautiful though, slow rolling hills and lots of high-desert shrub stuff. We passed a few riders going the other direction.

We’d left a little later than we wanted to so we encountered the entrance ranger, luckily he let us through even though we’d left out money and passes in the car. Nice guy. The park from there was really beautiful, you drop into Canyonlands proper and you’re right there among all the huge walls and stones and massive towers. It was awesome as soon as we got inside; I was definitely prepared to ride boring gravel roads in shrub brush all day and this was a welcome change.

The rest of the day went about as fast as you’d expect when you’re going to ride for twelve hours. We passed all sorts of bikers, even a couple fatbikes and full bikepacking setups. We met a guy briefly testing his Tour Divide setup, I got really excited talking to him. He left early on and we never saw him again.

Around mile 50 or 60 or something I took a fall on a descent and circumcised the end of my finger but was otherwise okay. It kind of put a damper on my mood for an hour or so, but when you’re riding all day you have a lot of hours so I was okay later.

After the halfway mark it was more or less downhill with some awful punchy climbs you could see on the elevation profile from trail forks. We kept dreading the second to last one, and it was pretty brutal. We ended up pushing our bikes through really fine sand/dirt/dust for parts of it, which isn’t really very fun after 80 or so miles of grinding.

We thought we were home free after that, but we descended back down into the canyon. I thought we were just going to roll straight out, but we had one final, awful climb back up to the car. We were grinding it out for quite a ways, it looks like a GPS error on the elevation profile. We were both really happy to be up and out and back at the car.

We were sore and very dirty, but the golden hour was just starting and it was raining a little bit, so the scenery was amazing. Rainbows and glowing cliffs, it was awesome. We cleaned up a bit and limped around and struggled to get the bikes on the car, and ate random food and snacks.

We’d both brought pretty much the perfect amount of food and water, so that was pretty nice. We both had just a little bit leftover, which means we did good. After a short drive back to camp we made two massive boxes of mac & cheese before going to sleep. Very sore butts and backs and arms were happy to lay in the tent again.

Day 3:

Slept in because we could, and the dirt century had left us kind of beat up. It was amazing, and completely silent when we woke up. We lingered a little bit and then packed up and left. The rain fly had been really unnecessary, and was kind of wet from condensation.

Burritos and more lingering in town at Love Muffin again. It was good to sit outside and journal and catch up on some stuff, upload rides, see messages, that kind of thing. We slipped back into some old patterns from Asia, a little bit.

We hung out for a bit and enjoyed our time, then washed the bikes down the street. We were meeting up with Whitney to do some paddling, so we got going around 12:30 or something, and after some car swapping and logistics were headed out to the Onion Creek putin around 1:30 or something.

The paddle was really fun, we went around nine miles and didn’t encounter anytyhin over class I/II. I’d just put my backband and thighstraps back in, and the boat felt really good, I tried to do more edging and feeling the packraft out than I’ve done before. Whitney is pretty good and it was fun to watch him surf stuff and play around in eddy lines.

We met a friend of Megan’s who had taken her packrafting swiftwater rescue course with her, and her boyfriend, and they tagged along on the last stretch of the river. Whitney managed to roll my raft before we all got out, pretty impressive. After shuttling, letting some stuff dry and packing everything away we headed back into town for veggie burritos at a place called Giliberto’s. From there we stopped briefly at City Market to get supplies and firewood before heading to Indian Creek.

It was an hour or so drive, I think, in the dusk and we pulled into the superbowl campsite when it was full dark. For some reason there are a ton of these caterpillar/meal worm things that come out as soon as it get’s dark. They’ll crawl all over your feet and they’re attracted to light so you have to be careful. They’re everywhere! We packed up for the following day of climbing, decided what to do and went to sleep.

Day 4:

We slept in again, which was great, and had a slow start. We got out of the tent around eight and made breakfast, instant coffee and just sat at the picnic table for a while. It was great. I tried to hydrate, we’ve both got colds that don’t seem to be going away. I’m sure the slight elevation and non-stop physical activity isn’t helping.

We piled into Whitney’s two door truck and headed out to our first crag of Indian Creek, Donnelly Canyon. I proceded to get my ass kicked following cracks lead either by Megan or Whitney. Although Generic Crack was pretty fun and less of a struggle, but definitely a very looooong route. It was right near the end of our 70 meter rope.

We ended the day near Battle of the Bulge. We climbed 4 routes or so total, and I flailed on a couple and ended up pretty beat at the end of the day. Crack climbing is really hard, I’ve never had the backs of my hands hurt like this before. We also didn’t bring enough water and ended up running out towards the end of the day.

Good Mac and Cheese evening, and in bed around 10:00.

Day 5:

Similar to day 4, we slept in a bit and had a nice, slow start to the day. Drank instant coffee, ate instant oatmeal and bananas, that kind of thing. Today we packed 3 liters of water for each of us, which we figured would be more than enough.

Same story, hop in the small car and drive until my foot is asleep, then hop out and scramble up to the wall. Our first climb was Wavy Gravy, which was a really interesting, featured climb.

Megan was feeling spicy and put up Brown on Butter, which I couldn’t get up. Ring locks, tiny feet and thin hands is not something I feel like I can conquer right now.

It started getting windy towards the end of the day, and after a botched attempt at the eponymous Scarface itself, we climbed one more route and bailed.

Back in camp we enjoyed the rest of our firewood, and a random guy came over and offered us his group’s camp chairs and a bunch of random supplies. Megan and I had been talking about camp chairs the whole trip so it was a bit of universal luck that someone just walked up and gave them to us. Another of her friends came by and talked to us for a while and offered us a bottle of wine, which we enjoyed near the fire. It’s a bit easier to hide from the caterpillars when you can put your feet up.

We went to bed around ten, but had to get up around 2AM to put the rain fly on. We were lucky in that the rain started out pretty light and easy, and we had time to put the fly on before it really started coming down.

Day 6:

We got up around 7AM, as the rain had sort of stopped and Whitney was heading out to fly back to Washington for a while.