Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Moab Part 4 - Amasa Back

The fourth day of the trip was the only day that the whole crew would riding together; Roland and Davey had just arrived and Emily (aka Coonabomber) had to get back to Salt Lake for work. Luckily she didn't have to leave Moab until 2pm, which was just enough time to hit one of the true classics, "Amasa Back". Although a majority of the ride is on a jeep trail, do not let that deter you, for it is a technical playground that is equally as good on a mountain bike as it would be in a jeep.

Another morning, another ride...

Before hitting the trail we all had some errands to take care of, so we planned to meet at the parking lot about 1/4 mile from the start of the trail. Since I wanted to do some hiking/sightseeing in Arches National Park, I had actually planned to only ride the jeep trail portion which consists of a 10 mile out & back to a spectacular overlook of Jackson Hole (no, not the ski resort). This option was also the one that Coonabomber was planning to ride since she needed to take off early. The rest of the crew was planning to do the ride as a lollipop by adding the top loop which included the Pothole Arch Trail and the freeride section called "Rockstacker".

Our trails for the day. This map,
along with others can be found here.

The entrance to the Amasa Back starts at "The Stairs", and just as the name implies, it is a series of sandstone slabs that form natural steps. I love these kinds of drops and headed out of the parking lot first so I could scout out the line options. As I was scoping it out, the rest of the crew came up to it and rode down using the far right line before cutting back to the far left at the bottom. Since I really wanted to bag the middle line, I spent some time studying my route so I wouldn't get lost halfway through. Once I felt good with my choice, I hiked back up to my bike so I could drop in. Just as I had pictured in my head, I made my way down the stairs sticking the crux move about halfway down that I had been the most worried about.

The author drops over the crux section of The Stairs
(photo by Emily Pfeifer)

The author, happy with the line
(photo by Emily Pfeifer)

Just below The Stairs the trail drops down to and over a 4' to 5' ledge that all of us mere mortals walked. After this, the trails goes up and over a small ridge before crossing a creek and starting the true ascent. The high temperature for the day was forecasted to be in the high 60's, which was just about perfect since this ride would be a nightmare in the summer heat -- there is basically no shade and heat radiates off the rocks. Since I didn't have either the legs or the lungs of the rest of the crew, I settled into my own pace and made the slow and steady climb up the hill. From time to time I would meet up with the group, take some pictures, fall behind, and settle in again. I'm usually not a huge fan of out & backs, but for a highly technical ride like this it allows you to scout your lines on the way up, assuming you can remember the order of them on the way down.

Em starts the climb up the Amasa Back

Sandra, near the start of the climb

Sandra, cresting one of the many fun technical pitches

A view of the La Sal range along the climb -- spectacular!

Emily continues the climb

About halfway up Amasa Back the trail flattens out a bit and rides along the east rim of Jackson Hole, a large butte in the middle of what appears to be a giant crater, shaped by wind and water. This was a great place to regroup as well as take some pictures before continuing on. At one point in this traverse the jeep trail drops over an extremely technical pile of rocks that is certainly a hike-a-bike for all but the elite. Furthermore, the price of failure here might just be your life, as the exposure on the left drops all the way to the bottom of Jackson Hole. Three years ago when we rode this trail, I got to witness a jeep make his way down this drop, which was incredible to watch -- the guy was either insane or a complete badass, and more likely a little bit of both.

Part of the crew finishing the portage down the exposed steep pitch

Sandra rides the east rim of Jackson Hole

The crew takes a break and enjoys the view of Jackson Hole

Once past the east rim, the trail continues up the hill with more fun technical climbing until it reaches a large area of slickrock that sets up the final pitch to the lookout that would be my planned turn around. This section is steep, but the sandstone provides some amazing traction which allows you to climb up stuff you can only dream of back home. The one thing the rock did not provide was relief to my lungs and legs, which were burning like crazy by the time I crested and made it over to the canyon rim lookout.

Emily (x2) Starting off the second half climb

Roland approaches a fun techie stretch

Sandra also enjoying the terrain

Team Eugene (and Salt Lake City) pose for a group shot

The final pitch to the overlook

At the viewpoint we laid around and ate lunch, with some folks even pulling cell phones to call friends and family back home to brag about the view and amazing spring weather -- apparently there was really good cell service. This was also the point in the ride where the group would part ways. I asked around to see if anyone else would be heading down with Coonabomber and me. Davey bit when I told him I was planning on heading to Arches National Park for some hiking to check out Delicate Arch, one of the most iconic rock formations in the world. After Emily did the round of goodbye hugs, we headed off down the Amasa Back.

Jackson Hole - Ain't she purty

Randy gets in some yoga stretches

Sandra and Tait relaxing at the overlook

Coonabomber loves snack time!

I had asked Emily and Davey if they'd mind if I jumped out ahead from time to time to take pictures at key parts of the ride; both graciously agreed, so I saddled up my steed and tore down the trail to setup. Along the way I was reminded why this was one of my favorite trails from our last Moab/Fruita trip just three years prior. The rock features are some of the best I’ve had the pleasure to ride, with each drop having multiple line options to choose from -- you could make it about as hard or easy as you want, at least relatively speaking. As we continued our descent, leapfrogging our way down, I was grinning ear to ear. About 3/4 of the way down I came off a 2' drop and burped my front tire and flew over the bars, slamming onto the sandstone floor. Although I wasn't injured it did knock a bit of wind out of my lungs and took a layer of skin off a portion of my shoulder, elbow, and back. As I stood up to walk it off and brush the dirt away, Davey and Emily came rolling up and asked if I was okay: "A little winded, but good to go!"

Davey drops a fun rock step

Followed shortly by Emily

Now the real fun begins!

Davey finds some rocks to ride down

Emily at the same ledge

More rock sidewalk

Davey leading the charge

Coonabomber picks her line

After a short rest we continued down with one or two more photo stops before I decided it was time to put the camera away and bomb the trail with the other two, finishing the last stretch of trail in good fashion. Back at the car we could see what appeared to be a parachute dropping into the gully at the edge of the parking lot. I was a little confused by this until I noticed the base-jumping that was going on off some nearby cliffs. I quickly broke out my camera and was able to flip off a couple shots of the next jumper in mid-air – way cool!

Too much fun!

Emily rounds one of the final corners of the ride

Finishing up the ride, which came all too soon...

Look carefully and you'll see the base-jumper in mid-flight

Here too

The base-jumper under canopy over our parking lot

After we were done watching the show, Davey and I said our goodbyes to Emily (sadly), and then headed off to Arches for some sightseeing. Basically I had two locations in mind, Landscape Arch and Delicate Arch. As we drove through the park, I was distracted by all the cool rock formations along the way (e.g. Balanced Rock, Tower of Babel, etc.), which killed quite a bit of time. In the end, I had to decide between the hike in to one of the two arches, and of course I chose Delicate. It ended up being well worth the trip to Arches, and here are some photos to prove it!

Tower of Babel

A pano of the rock formations and the La Sal range

One of The Windows

More crazy rocks and arches

Balanced Rock

A small (relatively speaking) arch on the hike into Delicate Arch

The iconic Delicate Arch

Another view of Delicate Arch

After our hike we headed back to camp where we met up with the rest of the crew for dinner, drinks, and another relaxing social circle around the fire.

A nice sunset lights up the cliff walls near our camp

Another round of chillaxin'

And, just in case you missed 'em:
Moab Part 1 - The Moab Brand Trails
Moab Part 2 - The Klondike Bluffs (Baby Steps)
Moab Part 3 - The Magnificent Seven


  1. awesome pix man! Looks like you had way more fun than we did on our last (and only) trip up the Amasa. We found big heat on our day. And a couple of hard falls. Hey what kind of camera are you using? Those shots were beautiful. Did you use the same camera for the fish eye and pano shots?

  2. Thanks for the kind words! I was actually using two cameras on this trip, mainly because I didn’t want to be changing lenses in the dust. That said, both of the following cameras can use the lenses interchangeably.

    One of the cameras was a Sony NEX-5N, for which I mainly shot with my 18-200 lens. The second setup was my old Sony NEX-3, with a 16mm wide angle coupled with a 10mm fisheye converter. Kind of a lot of gear to tote around, so depending on the results you’re looking for, it may or may not be the best setup.

    I did a write-up on the camera gear I use for both mountain biking and kayaking, which includes carrying cases, another key element. That write-up can be found here:

    Hope this helps,