Updates on the 2018 Caldera 150/250/500:
- The Grand Depart date is set for Friday, Sept 28, 2018 @ 7am.
- This year is a “Northern Year” – meaning, we’ll be offering the Northern 250 loop at the Grand Depart along with the full 500 loop.
- New for this year, we’ll be offering an even shorter 150 mile route that should be attractive for those are limited on time or don’t feel up to the longer distances for any reason.
- Registration is now open – hope you’ve been training – if not, start now!
- All other Caldera info – click here
- There are a couple route changes to maximize new singletrack that’s become available, but other than that, not much about the routes are changing.
- Official 2018 gpx files should be available around first week of August to registered riders.
“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 🙂
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.
If you are new to mountain biking, or want to take a short ride while spending the day in the beautiful town of June Lakes, this is a great ride for anyone. It’s mostly fantastic singletrack, offering up nice views of Gull Lake and the June Mountain Ski Area, and even slithers its way through a small aspen grove. This loop can be done in both directions, but the trailhead near Gull Lake Park is easier to find for your first time – so counter-clockwise is how we describe it here. It’s mostly flat, with just a couple short/steep efforts. If you’re looking for more riding nearby, check out the Yost Trail. While in town, don’t forget to grab a beer at June Lake Brewing and a kailua pig burrito from Ohanas – just a couple blocks from Gull Lake.
- Ride Type: Loop (counter-clockwise as we describe it, but it can be ridden both ways)
- Difficulty: Non-Technical, Easy with Minimal Climbing
- Time of Year: Summer and Fall (sometimes late Winter or Spring – depending on snow pack)
- Terrain/Conditions: Mostly smooth singletrack with a little doubletrack and a short stretch of pavement through the campground.
- Access: From Mammoth, take Highway 395 north for 20 miles to the southern turnoff for the June Lake Loop (Hwy 158). Drive for a little over 2 miles, through town. You’ll see signs for Gull Lake leading you down to the right. Once you reach Gull Lake Park on Granite Avenue, park by the tennis courts and the playground. The trailhead / ride start is directly across the street where you see the trail going steeply up the hillside.
- Length: 1.9 miles
- Approx. Time: 1/2 hour
- Lowest Elevation: 7,623′
- Highest Elevation: 7,711′
- Total Elevation Gain: 103′
- Bike Recommendation: This can be ridden with pretty much any off-road bike.
- GPX File: Available by contacting us
Turn by Turn (in miles):
0.0 – Start up the steep climb. Don’t be discouraged. It looks like a long hard climb, but after 20 yards you make a left turn and it flattens out.
0.5 – Continue straight, merging with the doubletrack trail, and heading up a short climb.
0.7 – Go left on the singletrack
1.0 – Reach an intersection with a fire road. Continue straight (you must curve to the right for 10 feet). After a short stretch, you’ll reach a blockade that only allows bikes and hikers. Descend here, and then go right at the T.
1.2 – Veer left at trail split, go over the bridge and pop out on pavement. Continue on the road to the left, taking you through the campground.
1.5 – The pavement turns to dirt and you pass a bunch of cabins. Continue straight on the dirt road.
1.7 – The wide dirt road narrows to singletrack.
1.8 – Go left, staying on singletrack. After a short, windy section, you emerge in the Gull Lake Marina parking lot. Continue riding straight out of the parking lot. It turns into Granite Ave.
1.9 – Turn left, staying on Granite Ave. The park is on your left, and the loop is complete. Do it again!!
This loop is an oldie but goodie that we originally came across in the guidebook – “Mountain Biking the Eastern Sierra’s 100 Best Trails”. The tread is 4×4 doubletrack and dirt roads (with a short bit of pavement at the end) and tends to be soft and sandy in spots. Although it can be frustrating at times on a mountain bike, it is very enjoyable on a fat bike. It’s hard for me to imagine mountain bike pioneers doing rides like this in the early 90’s. But it’s definitely motivating, imagining them slogging through some of the beachy bits as my fattie floats over everything 🙂
From Highway 120, you climb steadily towards Sagehen Peak, and roll through a beautiful aspen grove (stunning when the fall colors are turning). There are marvelous views of Adobe Valley and the Glass Mountain Ridge and you can see all the way to the White Mountains as you start curving eastbound. When you turn north and descend into the valley, the views are again outstanding as you make your way across North Canyon Creek towards the last pavement climb back to your car. If you are seeking some stellar, buff singletrack, you will not get that on this ride. However, if you are in search of solitude and some of the amazing views that define Eastern Sierra adventure riding, this ride will please you and then some.
- Ride Type: Loop
- Difficulty: Non-technical, moderately strenuous climbing
- Time of Year: Spring, Summer, Fall (possible in late Winter/depending on snow pack)
- Terrain/Conditions: 4×4 roads and dirt roads (soft/sandy in sections) with the last 2.6 miles on pavement.
- Access: From Lee Vining, head 5 miles south on Highway 395 to the Junction with Hwy 120 towards Benton. Drive past the Mono Mills historic site and continue all the way to the top of Sagehen Summit (there is a sign). Park off on the dirt at the junction with froad 1N02. The ride starts here.
- Length: 17.2 miles
- Approx. Time: 2 – 3 hours
- Lowest Elevation: 7,283′
- Highest Elevation: 9,031′
- Total Elevation Gain: 1,896′
- Bike Recommendation: Fat Bike or Plus Bike (29er or 27.5 with 3″ tires). You can do it on a traditional mountain bike as well, but it’s not as enjoyable through the sandy sections, and you might be hiking your bike at times.
- GPX file: Available by contacting us
Turn by Turn (in miles):
0.0 – Start heading south on the wide dirt road 1N02 towards Sagehen Meadows. You’ll have a gradual climb with some steeper bits mixed in.
4.0 – Reach the high point of the ride. Yahoo. Get some rest on the peaceful descent towards Wild Horse Meadow.
4.5 – Stay on 1N02 towards Johnny Meadows. You’ll stay on 1N02, continuing past the junction with Johnny Meadows Rd
7.9 – Left on 1N02T
8.1 – After a short descent, go left at the T. You are now on 29E104 (called 29E03 on older maps).
10.0 – Continue straight, the road turns into 1S15A
11.8 – Creek crossing
13.3 – Continue straight
13.9 – Another creek crossing, then continue straight passed the old corral
14.6 – Go left on Hwy 120, and enjoy the final pavement climb back to Sagenhen Summit.
17.2 – Ride ends. Drink beer.
In the mood to pedal hard and be rewarded with stellar views? If so, this ride is for you. If building lactic acid up in your legs isn’t in the cards, don’t bother. Tobacco Flats is a beautiful area accessed off of Mt. Morrison Rd. As you ride up the canyon, you’re confronted with Mt. Morrison straight ahead, McGee Mountain to your left (you can see portions of the road that switchbacks its way to the top) and Laurel Mountain to your right. We call this ride a “Tootsie Roll Loop” because you have out-and-backs at both ends, and a loop in the middle. Towards the end of the strenuous upper out-and-back portion of the ride, you are rewarded with a rare perspective of Convict Lake at an overlook point. Take a moment to soak it in. Then it’s just a short burst to the top of the climb before turning around beginning the invigorating descent. Before you know it, you’ve dropped 1,600′ and are back at your car. Fantastic!
- Ride Type: Tootsie Roll Loop (Loop with out and back at each end)
- Aerobic Difficulty: Steep climbing is strenuous, strong legs and lungs a must
- Technical Difficulty: Non- technical
- Time of Year: Summer and Fall (sometimes late spring – depending on snow pack)
- Terrain/Conditions: Mostly doubletrack – gorgeous scenery.
- Access: From the junction of Highway 395 and the 203 at Mammoth Lakes, drive south on the 395 for 5.2 miles and exit at Mt. Morrison Rd. Drive 0.2 miles and turn left at the cemetery. Drive another 0.1 miles and park near the Snowmobile Information Kiosk next to the green building. The ride starts here.
- Length: 8.5 miles
- Approx. Time: 1.5 – 2.5 hours
- Lowest Elevation: 7,026′
- Highest Elevation: 8,417′
- Total Elevation Gain: 1,647′
- Bike Recommendation: This can be ridden with pretty much any off-road bike, although fat bikes and plus bikes seem to enjoy the potentially soft conditions the best.
- GPX File: Available by contacting us
Turn by Turn (in miles):
0.8 – At the junction, continue straight/right and start climbing towards the west.
2.4 – Continue straight.
2.6 – Continue straight. Shortly after, reach a 4-way intersection. Go right, continue climbing
2.8 – Veer right at the Y. Continue climbing.
3.3 – It flattens for a brief moment. Enjoy the break, continue straight, and climb some more.
3.8 – You reach a flat open area. The best viewpoint for the Convict Lake is here.
4.0 – Reach the end of the trail. Time to start the descent, back the way you came.
4.2 – Pass the Convict Lake Lookout again – make sure to take a photo if you haven’t already!
5.4 – You reach the 4-way intersection where you started the “out-and-back” at mile 2.6. Continue straight to finish off the loop. Buckle up for a fast and beautiful descent!! Stay on this road as it loops around to the north right above Highway 395.
7.7 – You reach the junction from mile 0.8. You’ve finished the loop, now turn right to start backtracking to your car. One short, steep climb and then the final descent to the finish.
8.5 – Ride ends at the Snowmobile Information Kiosk. Pat yourself on the back. Great ride!