With the CBC afterglow still in full force, we headed to Mt. Fromme for more fun. At Mt. Fromme, we typically park in the neighborhood and pedal up Mountain Highway. The road turns to gravel/dirt and passes through a couple of gates and continues up the hill. Though the gradient of the service road is reasonable, the climb still takes significant time before we reached our first trail objective—Pipeline.
Pipeline Trail is labeled as a blue-black trail on the trail marker. It would be a double black diamond in many other locations. The trail was recently revitalized by the North Shore trail elves and has tons of steep armored drops and well built, reasonably low ladders. Most of the drops are “lungeable” but in case your skills aren’t up to that (like mine) there’s always a kicker or a thin board or ladder to roll your front wheel on. One of the more memorable sections of trail is what I’ll call the Pipeline Drop. Routed alongside the trail’s namesake pipeline, this drop occurs in three closely linked stages each approximately 10 feet high. The whole section of trail is entirely armored with rock. As you head down the hill, the drops become narrower, steeper, and the rocks are more even. The memory of Alex catching some unscheduled flight time on this trail section trail last year was still firm in our memories and added extra interest. For Becky and myself, this trip down was our fourth so we were starting to recognize the obstacles pretty well. This is the first time that we could really start to experience the flow of the trail.
At the bottom, we connected on the still gnarly intermediate connecting trail Baden-Powell back to the service road. The protective pads were stashed and the full-faced helmets were lashed to the bike as we headed back up the hill on the service road a switchback turn past Pipeline to Upper Oil Can. Upper Oil Can, another reworked trail, is marked as a black diamond advanced trail. It was definitely more challenging with bigger, gnarlier drops, skinnier ladders, and an occasional mandatory air. It is generally a notch harder than Pipeline. Perhaps the alternative line stump drop at the top of the trail (shown in the pictures) sets the level difference. Where we rode Pipeline with flow, we picked our way down Upper Oil Can. Upper Oil Can was a fun trail worth a return visit. With a little better familiarity, we’d expect better flow on our next visit.
From the bottom of Upper Oil Can we bypassed Oil Can proper and headed to another one of Fromme’s signature trails, Ladies Only. Ladies’ trailhead is next to Pipeline but the trails have significantly different challenge levels. On our trail map Ladies Only is labeled as a single black diamond advanced. The sign at the trailhead labeled had two black diamonds. On the North Vancouver rating scale, Ladies Only seems to fit at the upper limit of single black diamond trails. But even the easiest trail we descended on this day, Pipeline, is harder than any official trail we’ve ridden within a 200-mile radius of our Bay Area home.
As we moved past the trailhead and a universal silhouette sign of a skirted woman whose absence is from a bathroom somewhere is surely causing confusion, the trail started innocuously enough. Soon enough the trail features began. On Pipeline, we were able to ride nearly all of the obstacles. On Upper Oil Can, we could clean most of the challenging features. For Ladies Only, we passed through long stretches where we could ride most of the features and then would run into equally long stretches where only some of the challenges were even attempted. The trail features were just bigger, rockier, rootier, and skinnier on Ladies. Late in a 6-hour ride we were not even close to the top of our game. Ladies Only was too much for now, but give us a couple of years.
Towards the bottom of Ladies Only, the trail splits. We took the line to the left and it seemed to be the old, washed out alignment. This section was rideable for a while and then turned into a steep, loose rut. We didn’t taken the right line but on the map it is labeled as a double black diamond so it seems unlikely we would have been riding much on this line either.
At the bottom, Ladies Only exits onto Baden-Powell. Our planned route for the day took us onto Lower Ladies Only and we continued this way despite being spent. Lower Ladies was easier than Ladies but we were too tired to put in much of an effort at this point.
We finished with the roll down the hill to the truck. Hungry and cold, we loaded up and drove immediately to the nearest restaurant. Our waitress’s life was in danger when our food was seemingly slow coming out. Thankfully, before things got serious, the food appeared. The food was consumed quickly in silence.