The 2016 Grand Depart went down on Sept 24, with an official start time of 7:02am. A combined 17 brave souls set out for glory. This year marks the first running of the Northern 250 loop (which is actually about 317 miles). Each year, in addition to the full 500 option, we will alternate between doing the Southern and Northern loops (in 2015, we did the S250). My favorite thing about the Caldera and bikepacking events in general is the camaraderie that bonds the people that partake. I love seeing friends old and new, and watching everyone push themselves through their limits.
A few thoughts to ponder:
- Full Results Here
- It’s now official, the best bike for this ride is a plus bike of some sort. They excel in the pumice and soft sections, and riders who are on them are definitely hiking less than traditional mtb’s and fat bikes. Riders with the most success were using 1x drivetrains with a 26 or 28t ring in the front and 42 or bigger granny in the rear. Tires are still personal preference, but something with strong sidewalls is key.
- Adrian broke the 5 day barrier on the 500 and Tony set the inaugural course record for the Northern loop – both guys live in Bishop. I met Adrian at the finish line cheering on Arthur last year, and he said he wanted to do it next year. Here we are. Congrats!! I met Tony on the Sierra 7500, and he slowly got the itch… now with the S250 and N317 and Stagecoach 400 under his belt, he’s a bikepacking vet!
- We still are waiting to see a female complete any of the routes… come on ladies!!
- A super cool dude who’s been in a Tour Divide movie and a Trans Am movie and has a bikepacking resume longer than the Torah bailed after 220 miles. Yes, this course is brutal at times. And rewarding like no other at times.
- If your mind isn’t right and you don’t embrace pushing your bike through sand, you probably should choose another route. This is the Eastern Sierra. It is what it is. Rarely a free mile on this course, but every footprint or labored pedal turn leads to magical views. The pain fades. Good memories last forever.
- So stoked the KC, Pat, and Kyle met eachother and wound up having fun choosing their own adventure. I’m stoked that Devin chose this as his first multi-day bikepacking adventure. I hope it’s the first of many. I can’t believe Hunter made it as far as he did on the fat bike with 10lb tires 🙂 – when we saw him pushing his bike up the 395 to June, he was toasted!! Ha hahahahhahaa!!!
- I hope people continue to ride the Caldera in it’s entirety, or in bits and pieces, however they see fit. Get busy living or get busy dying.
Until next year… here are a few pics. If you search #caldera500 in instagram, you can find more… If you have some, send em my way and i’ll add them to this blog so they live forever in Caldera lore… To all the 2016 riders, thank you for riding. Recover well… and start thinking about the next adventure….
“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!!
The Caldera 250/500 start list is blowing up. I’ve you’re registered, check your email – we just sent out the GPX tracks and cue sheets. If you didn’t get it, shoot us en email.
20+ people have already indicated their desire to seek the pain cave in the endorphin forest. And we’ve hit the mainstream! Who woulda thunk that bikepacking would cross over to hip hop icons and teeny bopper heart throbs. Usher just hit me up and said he’s gonna crush the 250 and is training hard right now. He said he’s even gonna work some lyrics into his next single… “What up Habeggar, zig zaggin Coyote Traverse, lungs implodin, best bring a nurse, better yet a hearse don’t need no baggage I’m packin, not heat, just 4 liters, try to step i dare ya, i’ll make you my biatch Caldera…”
Also, Taylor Lautner said he’s gonna do the full 500 to get in shape before the filming of Twilight 7 in October.
So yeah.. if you haven’t registered, get on the list. Only registered folks will receive gpx, cues, and official updates. Here’s some more general route info and other stuff:
- Stats and Scoop – The 250 is identical to the 500 until it splits apart towards the end of the Glass Mtn Traverse and makes its way back to Mammoth. Topofusion is telling us these stats:
- 500 = 480 miles, 65k climbing
- 250 = 256, 31k climbing
- Bears – always a potential concern in the Sierra, so bring some paracord to hang food if you’re camping in a potential bear zone – or at least sleep away from your food. Otherwise, nippy dogs or grumpy bulls are probably a bigger threat.
- Toughest sections – Probably Coyote climb, Volcanic Tablelands to Bodie, and the Sweetwaters/Mt. Patterson climb
- Longest stretch without water/resupply – Volcanic Tablelands to end of the Glass Mtn traverse — that’s one tough section with only a water tank for sheep at the start of the Glass climb and a creek in Taylor Canyon or Adobe Creek. Camel skills required.
- Water filter – definitely. Lots of natural water opportunities on most of the route, and in some places, your only option. CARRY A FILTER.
- Terrain – lots of climbing, lots of descending. Mostly doubletrack, some stellar singletrack, some fireroad miles, and not so much pavement. Volcanic dirt in spots, soft and moto’d out in spots, which leads to…
- Bikes/tires – run whatcha brung – but fat tires are good. 2.35-2.5’s seem good – my 29+ is gobbling it up. so yummy. comfy hiking shoes = important.
- As always, feel free to contact us at any time, for any reason 🙂
Okee dokes. With the Caldera 250/500 exactly two months from today, we figured it’s time.
Click here to register. We are capping the Grand Depart at 45 participants. Honestly, we have no clue how many people will be interested in this sufferfest/magical carpet ride – but we’re covering our arses.
- If necessary, riders will be wait-listed in the order their registration was received, and bumped up in line as people back out. Kinda like flying stand-by.
- Want to ride the route, but not available for the GD? No problem, but you’ll still need to register for an Individual Time Trial – only registered folks will receive gpx tracks, cue sheets, route updates, and be considered “official finishers”.
- If the registration form is confusing, or you have any questions at all – please don’t hesitate to Contact Us or post in the comments of this blog post.
We’re hoping to send out the gpx tracks and cue sheets for both the 250 and 500 around August 1st. We’re doing our best to make sure the tracks and cues are accurate and 100% legal, so it’s likely there will be some updates after the initial release – but all in all, the route is done. Let’s get excited like the Pointer Sisters!
It is true. After consideration, mucho feedback and input, we’ve decided to make a ~250 mile route that’s basically the southern half of the Caldera 500. Guess what we’re calling it? Yup. The Caldera 250. The Grand Depart will be the same for 250 and 500 riders. The routes are identical through the Glass Mountain Traverse, at which point 500 riders continue north, and 250 riders head west and back to Mammoth.
Our hope is this will be a viable option for riders with time constraints or who might not want to commit to the full 500 for whatever reason. Spread the word!!
More riding. Less couching.
The Caldera 500 route is coming along sweet azz sweet. September 18th is still a ways off, and we’ll probably go quiet for a bit after this update – just figured we’d throw a quick shout. The southern half of the route is pretty much dialed in. We’ll have to wait a couple months for snow to melt out of the Sweetwater and Glass Mountains to finalize a few bits on the northern half of the route.
All in all, Topofusion is telling me that we’re at 500.89 miles with 71k climbing at the moment. Maybe that’s accurate.
We posted a “Photo Gallery” page with a few images to give a little idea of what to expect on the route – we’ll be adding more pics soon.
We also posted our “Rules Page” – give that a looksy as well. It’s a work in progress, and I’m sure it’s gonna ruffle some feathers – but hey, we’re doing our best to make this fair and keep with the spirit and principles of self-supported racing that have inspired us to create this route.
What else? We’ll make a sign up page probably around July 1st. We’ll probably recommend a $25 donation to Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (where I’ve volunteered for the last 6 years and seen so many smiles). We will limit the field – probably to around 50. Who knows, we may only get 5 people to show up, but just in case… Oh yeah, we’ll be on trackleaders.com, and SPOT Trackers will be available to rent.
Okee dokes. That’s it for now.
After a mapping, day dreaming, and beer drinking between bike folk, we’re stoked to officially announce “The Caldera 500”. Mark your calendars now. The revolution will not be televised. The official Caldera 500 Page is up and running and full of all the info…
Grand Depart of the inaugural “Caldera 500” will be on Friday, September 18th, 2015 at 7am.
Umm. Yeah. So what exactly is this caldera deal?
We’ve got a 500 mile (give or take) loop around, over, and through one of the the most majestic, geologically rich regions in the world. To get through said 500 mile loop, you’ve gotta earn it with 70+k of climbing. Ride start/end is at 8,000′ with much of the route at 10-11,000′. 95% on dirt. This ain’t a sag supported, aero tucked, bottle handup, strava sort of affair. This is a soggy chamois, brown teeth, hallucination-inducing HAB fest, that will take you through heaven and hell on earth. Loose screws are a prerequisite.
So, yeah. That’s it. Make sure you follow this blog (sign up box to the right) if you want to stay in the mix on this event, and all other stuff we get huffy about.