Mount Shasta Super Century
This was my third time traveling to the mountainside town to do this ride. Lisa, so impressed by last year's epic adventure, couldn't resist doing it again. This time, we also convinced friends Clement and Brit to do the ride themselves. Clement has done this ride three times before, but wasn't as prepared physically for it this year as he may have been in the past. Still, Clement's the sort of guy who can come out of hibernation, roll off the couch and ride a whole bunch of big hills to the bitter chagrin of folks like myself. And Brit, well, there's no doubt in my mind he'd make mincemeat out of this ride.

This year's assault on the Trinity Forest and Shasta climbs pretty much mirrored our experience last year, but without the wild weather factor. While we were psychologically prepared (and resigned) to face rainy/stormy weather which I have begun to believe is the norm here in Summer, the rain never once even threatened to fall on us this time. By stark contrast, it was actually sunny and warm. Very warm. In fact, our computers were reading a temperature of just over 100F when we started climbing Mt. Shasta in the afternoon. But I think the official high air temperature was in the low 90s.

The similarity to last year's experience had all to do with the fact that we skipped the third and most junior of the mountain climbs of the day (Castle Lake) in the interest of making a rest stop cutoff on the way up Mt. Shasta. Generally speaking, Lisa and I felt as if we were in the same condition this time as we were the year before, but still didn't manage our time well enough that we could include Castle Lake in the itinerary. And my legs felt pretty snappy all day, too, until I hit the last 5 miles of the climb up Shasta, that is. At that point, I felt like I was battling a slow bonk and succumbing to the heat. Off went the helmet for the rest of the climb, and I stubbornly soldiered on, bridging back to Lisa, who was ticking away ever so steadily.

The summit air was actually quite mild when we reached the old ski bowl. No threatening clouds to be concerned with, we didn't feel any need to rush out of there but for a big post-ride meal at the Black Bear. And with the thrill of the mountain's 14-mile descent, it took a mere 25 minutes to drop down almost 4,500' vertical feet, what took nearly a full 2 hours to ascend.

Other notable differences in our experience this year manifested themselves in annoyances. I think the Shasta Wheelmen totally underestimated the same-day registration masses who awaited the weather forecast on the day of the ride. There were so many that SAG and rest stop supplies were being depleted prematurely. By the time we reached the summit of the first climb (Parks Creek), the rest stop had ran out of water that they had to melt ice on a camp stove for the remaining riders. Two other intermediate rest stops on Gumboot Lake and Mumbo Summit had also reached the end of their supplies (including food and water). I was lucky enough to have reached those spots before it happened.

Another small annoyance was the decision to do away with the lunch stop atop Mumbo Summit for the super century riders. At this point, riders are 75 miles into the ride and tired from laboring up the most difficult of the day's climbs. I think it would be wiser to do as before and serve lunch here rather than have the riders descend and ride an extra 20 miles back to the lunch stop (which translates to lunch at mile 95).

I'd always wondered if the Death Ride was really as difficult or more so than this ride like some might claim. This year, I had the benefit of doing a head-to-head difficulty comparison between the two since I was able to experience the much hyped Death Ride for the first time just three weeks earlier. No doubt in my mind, Mt. Shasta is a considerably tougher ride. I'm nearly certain its advertised 15,500 ft. of cumulative elevation gain is pretty accurate (even as the ride itself at 137 miles is about 12 miles longer than advertised). Death Ride advertises a total of 16,000 ft. climbing. However, a well calibrated altimeter measured it at 15,100 feet in 126 miles. Granted, a 1,000 ft. discrepancy on this difficulty scale is like splitting hairs, Death Ride produces its elevation gain in five passes. Mt. Shasta does it in four.

The day after the ride, Lisa and I returned to the ski bowl on Mt. Shasta to do our customary recovery hike up the mountain. Once again, we hiked up to the snow line (higher than we did last year, I believe) and witnessed the mighty mountain change the climate dramatically on us at least 5 times in the 3 hours we were out.

I haven't been as excited about making this trip again next year, perhaps because of the less than ideal support the organizers offered this time, but I think the urge to knock off all the climbs of the ride once and for all might convince me to come back.

Distance: 123 miles (out of 137) | Elevation gain: approx. 13,000' | Ride time: 10h29m
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