Caldera 250/500 – Race Diary of the 2015 Grand Depart
“Confronted with the petty concerns of my ordinary life, I feel empty, as if I am wasting a priceless gift, the brief time that is allotted to each human for creativity… Can this longing and restlessness be the price that mortals pay for daring to trespass in the houses of the Gods? Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambitions to achieve. They are cathedrals, grand and pure, the houses of my religion. I approach them as any human goes to worship. On there alters I strive to perfect myself physically and spiritually. In their presence I attempt to understand my life, to exorcise vanity, greed, and fear. From the vantage of their lofty summits, I view my past, dream of my future, and with unusual acuteness I experience the present moment. I celebrate creation, for on each journey, I am reborn.” – Anatoli Boukreev / Above The Clouds
Love that quote. Fitting as the Caldera 250/500 route has now been tested by the first batch of guinea pigs! We’ve been objectively claiming that this would be one of the toughest pound-for-pound routes around (if not the toughest) – and one of the most beautiful. Now that the dust has settled, and the lab rats have chimed in – we are definitely not liars. Below is a brief, informal race journal I kept as I spoke with riders and stalked blue dots (and one pink). If you’re lazy to read past this point, here’s the link to the Race Results and Arthur’s Strava File and the Rigs of the Caldera article in Bikepackers Magazine – those should give you some insight as well. Salute! –ps, sorry for not giving photo credits – thanks to all who contributed!
DAY 1 – 9/18/15
After a nice gathering at Gomez’s for some mexican food the night before, chilly 40 degree temps and uber clear skies greeted the riders at the 7am start in Mammoth. Some last minute Spot Tracker issues were handled, and we sent off the eager bunch at the official start time of 7:14am. The GD’s only singlespeeder, Keith Richards-Dinger, drove up, still in jeans, just as the group was about to depart. Being a veteran, he didn’t worry. He parked the car, changed, and it took him about an hour to get into the fold. The riders quickly sorted themselves out as Blake Bockius, Arthur Kopatsy, and Isaac Chilton found their way to the front of the charge. The first “course hiccup” was a mistake on my part that accidentally took a short jaunt on local photographer, John Dittli’s property. Luckily, he was there, and knew about the riders via Facebook, and helped everyone down the 0.5 mile route change that kept everything kosher and off a hillside that he’s been nurturing.
As night fell, the fastest riders made it into Big Pine before the gas station closed to resupply before climbing the Inyo Mountains. Blake and Arthur set a blistering pace for Day 1. Most others camped somewhere in the Coyote Flats, choosing to wait until sunrise and ambient light to handle the tricky, steep descent to Big Pine. Country Kitchen, and a nice big brekky was the ticket for many 🙂 The climb up Horton Creek to the day’s high point up Coyote tested riders’ grit and was a humbling reminder to all riders that this route is no joke.
Crazy happenings. Isaac Chilton forgot to turn his tracker on, but finally got it back on when he hit Bishop. Tony Symanovich had weird tracker issues as well, showing he was up near Reno. But he contacted us later in the day and confirmed he was still riding with Zak Tourville and was in good spirits.
First place rider pulls out:
Blake Bockius continued his fast pace with Arthur Kopatsy nipping at his heals. Everyone seemed to be settling into a nice groove, when reality struck. Even though he riding fast for “this route” – it was nowhere near as speedy as Blake was anticipating, and he realized he wouldn’t be able to finish the route in time to get back his work on time. From first place, he was officially the first rider to pull out from the race in Bishop at 1:11pm. He debated switching over to the 250 route, but did not have the track loaded. After struggling with the options for a bit, he decided to just pull out and come back and tackle the full 500 when he has more time.
Although unofficial, it appears (according to his blue dot) that George Reynolds left course before the Coyote climb on Day 1, and took the road into Bishop, bypassing a large section of the course.
The next to withdraw, was Kevin Hinton. He had an unfortunate mechanical while navigating some techy singletrack during the Inyo Traverse. He broke his derailleur in no mans land and was forced to abandon. Shortly thereafter, I got a call from Forest Baker, who was riding at a solid pace and had just arrived in Bishop. The hike a bikes had gotten to him, and he pulled out as well. Keith Richards-Dinger, the lone singlespeeder also notified me that he was abandoning the 500 and would continue on the 250. The Caldera route is breathing fire and showing it’s true colors. By the end of Day 2, Arthur was leading the charge, getting up towards the Glass Mountains, while Keith, Zak, Tony and Isaac were readying for the Volcanic Tablelands. Matt Reynolds made it to Bishop. Art de Goede, Danny Kaukola, Meade Plum, Jeremy Plum and Jeff Brooks stayed at various spots in the White Mountains for the night. 15 year-old Meade Plum continued plugging away with her dad Jeremy, making it to route mile 133 before bedding down for the night.
With renewed vigor, many were up and riding by 4-5am after just a few short hours of sleep. Arthur Kopatsy made his way into the Glass Mountains before the crack of dawn, while Keith, Zak, Tonny, Isaac, and Art de Goede grabbed some shuteye in various areas of the Volcanic Tablelands, or what Keith called the “sandpit from hell” when I cheered him on as he exited that section. Arthur continued past the turnoff for the 250 in the Glass Mountains and rode strong all the way to the steep climb into Bodie where he took a break and waited for the heat to subside before tackling it. He would up making it to Bridgeport just before sunset. What a blistering pace he’s been keeping!! As of Day 3, he’s the only 500 rider that’s passed the 250 turnoff.
Zak Tourville was riding strong but withdrew before the Glass Mountains climb, and rode Benton Crossing Rd and Highway 203 back to Mammoth – he needed to be ready for work the next day.
First 250 Finishers:
- Keith Richards-Dinger came in at 9:18pm on Sunday night 9/20/15 – giving him first place and the inaugural course record on the Caldera 250 with: 2 days, 14 hours, and 4 minutes – and he started the race late as he couldn’t get to the start line in time to begin with the rest of the riders. I was at the finish line waiting for him, and we took him to my house for a warm shower and bed. His only request, milk. He drank a lot of milk.
- Isaac Chilton and Tony Symanovich rode most of the last 25 miles with each other, and came through the finish line together at 11:26pm with official time of: 2 days, 16 hours, and 12 minutes. Unfortunately, both were having tracker issues, and I had no idea they were gonna finish that quickly – so I missed them at the finish line 😦
Jeremy and Meade Plum, Jeff Roberts, Matt Reynolds, and Danny Kaukola spent the night in Bishop, with hopes of getting an early start to the beat the heat. Danny broke his seat post clamp and has been trying to fix it with hose clamps, as the bike shop in Bishop is closed on Sunday. Arthur Kopatsy rode into Bridgeport to bed down for the night- smoking fast. Looking forward to tomorrow!!
Sadly, we got the announcement that Meade Plum and her dad, Jeremy are withdrawing. The hike-a-bike took a toll on her, and her achilles are very swolen. What a trooper. She made it to approximately route mile 161 and over 16,000′ of climbing. WOW!! Kudos to Meade!!!
Art de Goede was off to an early start, making his way up through the Glass, looking strong. Matt Reynolds and Jeff Roberts left Bishop nice and early to hit the Volcanic Tablelands. Danny Kaukola couldn’t get the hose clamps to work, so he’s off to the bike shop to get it repaired, and should be off and running soon. He’s also been having spot trouble, but is keeping in touch via texts.
Arthur Kopatsy left Bridgeport very early and is continuing to ride strong!! By 10:30am (as I write this), he reached the town of Belfort at 10,200′ on his way up to Mt. Patterson (the high point for the whole route). He’s currently at route mile 313 and still the only rider past the 250 turn off!!
10:30pm – update: Danny Kaukola officially scratched earlier today from Bishop, citing losing too much time trying to fix his broken seat post clamp. Only 4 remaining riders on course. Arthur Kopatsy has pushed past Walker and is now heading south with around 120 miles to go. Art de Goede is resting up in a motel in Bridgeport, getting ready for the Sweetwaters tomorrow! Jeff Brooks and Matt Reynolds are camping in the Glass Mountains around route mile 208. Might see some finishers tomorrow!
DAY 5 (7am)
still on course:
5pm update: Jeff Brooks and Matt Reynolds have finished the 250. They came in together at 4:13pm for an official time of 4 days, 8 hours, 59 minutes. Sweet!! There are no remaining 250 riders on course, and there are now officially 5 finishers of the 250.
That leaves one rider on course. Art de Goede. He crossed the Sonora Pass, and 250 finishers Matt and Jeff greeted him with cheers and encouragement at Leavitt Meadows campground, where they said he was in good spirits and just charging along. He made it to Obsidian Dome campground, where it appears he’s bedding down for the night before heading out to Molybdenite Creek tomorrow. Good luck, Art!! We’re all pulling for ya!!
He’s all done. Art de Goede crossed the finish line at 5:35pm. Only the 2nd person to complete the full 500. His official time is 7 days 10 hours 21 minutes. That makes 7 finishers out of 16 starters. That’s a wrap for the inaugural running of the Caldera 250/500 – hope to see y’all next year!!