Day 6 – Little Elbow to Rafter Six Ranch

It was flipping freezing when we woke up in Little Elbow this morning…really, really cold.   But the sky was clear, and it looked like we might at least start the day in the dry – just as well, as this was the longest distance of this year (71km), with 1900m of climbing, with a big climb up to the top of Cox Mountain.

Just before the start, the sun rose over the surrounding mountains, and its heat got clouds of steam rising off all the wet packs and shoes that everyone was struggling into.  From the course briefing, we knew that today started with the same horrible fireroad climb as yesterday – yuck.  Strangely tho’, my legs felt much better than yesterday, and the whole climb seemed much easier – I even managed to stay in the middle chainring, unlike yesterday!

We then had a long-ish climb/hike-a-bike section before dropping down a long doubletrack , and then rode up the river valley that we’d come down the day before…I can honestly say, almost none of it looked even vaguely familiar!  At this point, I was feeling pretty rotten…not sure why, but I felt really nauseous, and found it all pretty tough going.. and we hadn’t even started the real climb of the day yet!!

Leaving the first feed station, we started the long, long, long climb to the top of Cox Mountain, with over 500m vertical ascent.  About 2 minutes after leaving the feed station, I realized that I’d filled my Camelbak with Ultima energy drink, not water…really not a good move with probably an hour and half of hot work ahead of me – yes, the sun was still out!!  The climb went on and on up through the woods, up tight switcbacks, rooty and rocky sections and forever upwards – for a while I was completely alone, which is a strange sensation when in you’re in a race with 350 other bikers!!

Anyway, after endless climbing we eventually topped out…to be greeted by this:

well worth the trip

The views were stunning, and as we rode the long traverse across the saddle, it was hard to keep your eyes on the trail!  And seeing as I annoyed Mark by constantly stopping to take photos, here’s another!

The descent down was “awesome” really was.  It went on for miles, a twisty, rocky, rooty trail down the side of the mountain…by the time we hit the road at the bottom, I was exhausted…thighs burning from being off the saddle the whole time, and hands and forearms aching from the hard braking!   Now there was an endless gravel road to feed station 2…I’d had enough by now, and just wanted to stop…I’d decided to give up mountain biking and take up flying radio controlled planes instead (I have no idea why!).  A quick look at the course profile at the feed station showed we only had 250m of climbing over the next 20km….and I didn’t really notice much of it!  It turned out to be fast, flowing track dropping down slowly before hitting dirt road, then tarmac for 7km to the finish…6:40 something after starting.  I’ve never been more pleased to see the finish…possibly!

So, we’re now in Rafter Six Ranch campsite, looking forward to the LAST DAY!!  I can’t wait to finish now….enough is enough!  Hopefully the weather will hold, and it will be a fast and not too exhausting 45km into Canmore…and beer!!!

Here’s a couple of photos of the camp tonight….probably the nicest spot I’ve stopped at in a TransRockies…much helped by great weather and great food (but have you tried cutting a big slab of beef with a plastic knife?!?!).

the view....

yep, I’ve found the panorama mode on my camera!
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