It’s a pretty funny story actually, I was watching ”The Line,” a local Reno/Tahoe TV show, when a commercial for Arcade Belts caught my eye. The commercial resinated with me because there were some girls trying to snowboard down a sand hill. Anyone (and not really anyone else) who has ever ridden a mountain bike down a steep sand hill understands the rare opportunity of such a steep gravel/sand face. It is like powder skiing or snowboarding, but better. The commercial looked geographically close to home, so I decided to take a shot in the dark and write in to email@example.com .
Barely a day later, I get a response from none other than the company’s founder, Cody Townsend, who was also recently awarded, “Line of the Year” for Skiing (I believe skier magazine?).
Cody writes: “ Hey Cam, thanks for reaching out, I know who you are from your Mountain Biking and this spot would be perfect for riding, you have probably driven by it a thousand times!”
Well that was easy.
Unbeknownst to me, I had been driving by this gem in the Eastern Sierras for the last 20 years on trips to Mammoth Mountain and Southern California. It is practically on 395, with access far easier than any riding of the sort I had ever experienced. We had literally flown around the world to find similar terrain for the documentary, “Where The Trail Ends.”
Cody had written me in late Fall when it had begun to snow and I was waiting for an opportunity to make the trip to the area. I was recently contacted by “Staaker,” a drone start-up based in Norway, who specialized in GPS tracking and rider following drones. Basically, you wear an armband tracker and select the pattern you want the drone to fly and it does the rest, letting you ride whatever you desire while it films it, barring any close trees…
I took this opportunity to make the couple hour trip down 395 and document my first ride in the area with Staaker. So after a couple warm up laps in Reno getting used to using the drone, we headed south.
After using Google Earth to find some roads in, it looked as if we could possibly drive to the top, but blocked off roads led us to the bottom of the 57 degree face to climb it head on in the 90 plus degree heat.
With the golden hour approaching and darkness immediately succeeding it, we hiked. My bike, water, Fig Bars in each pocket, my dog Zader, the Norweigans and the drones, we pushed as quick as possible to the summit of the 1000 foot face. Desperately needing moisture, every step slides within inches of the last, even worse than a steep snow climb. Zader instinctually weaves back and forth like a billy-goat to spread the climb out on a longer plane, while I choose to kick my toes straight in to gain as much traction as possible as I hike straight up with 40 pounds of bike and protection on my back.
As soon as we reach the second false peak we could see the final horizon which was sure to be the top. The shadows start to race across the valley quickly removing our hopes of some rest. The drone is being set up as I am telling my New-wegian friends that we have to drop as the run-out of the line is getting shadowed and I won’t be able to see the . As the temperature finally starts to drop, the intensity and sense of urgency are rising as fast as the shadow up the face. As soon as the drone is in the air and the filmers are out of the shot I let it go. Instantaneously, all stress, sweating, sore muscles and burning lungs are forgotten and pure happiness is in action. Each corner is hooking like a bicycle never knew possible. The effortless flow driven by nothing but gravity pulls my YT “Tues” Downhill bike at 40 mph, but I take the long road and enjoy every corner until I reach the darkness at the bottom of the hill. After slowing down and turning around I could see a faint spot paralleling my tracks. I whistled cheering for my friend riding the same line on all fours. “Good boy!” I said as we immediately walked back to the truck for water. It’s always the same; no matter how tough the climb is, the struggle is immediately erased by the sheer joy of the line coming to fruition and you just want more.