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August 28, 2009

Squamish—Powersmart (Ride 23)

Filed under: BC 2009, MTB Travel — anotherheader @ 5:53 am

Knobs on the upper portion of Powersmart

Knobs on the upper portion of Powersmart

Yesterday was supposed to be our last ride for this trip to Squamish.  Somewhere along the way, we decided to extend our stay a day.  If we’d have followed our hearts, we might still be in Squamish.

For our last ride we had left a prime trail, Powersmart.  Powersmart is accessed from the upper shuttle drop off point.  Rolling left where we went straight onto Bush Ape, Powersmart quickly drops down the hill.  This trail is rated as single black diamond advanced on the map and is on the upper edge of that rating in Squamish.  The upper portion of Powersmart is the steepest with a dry-loose and loamy tread.  Tree root supported drops and the occasional slab-rock turn drop are the major challenges.  The drops are big, often near the roll-able limit and come frequently with steep sections in between.  Powersmart benefited from some recent trail work making some of the features easier to ride.  Further down, the trail shallows and the drops decrease in size.  This section is fast and twisty encouraging lunges at the smaller drops.  The quads were burning and the tongues were wagging at the end.  Today’s voyage was our second trip down Powersmart.  It won’t be our last.  We like this trail.

At the bottom of Powersmart we connected through Middle Powersmart to an old skid road.  Or was it IMBAsmart?  Oddly we never seem to see the intersection between these two trails and we really don’t know which one we ride.  What we will call “Middle Powersmart” is a fun trail that suffers only from being at the end of Powersmart.  Middle Powersmart is entertaining with smallish drops and a couple of ladders including one high crossing over a good-sized drainage.  On its own, Middle Powersmart is worth a visit, but it tends to be overshadowed by the raw, visceral intensity of Upper Powersmart.

Knobs easily crossing the bridge on Recyle that I couldn't couldn't or wouldn't ride.

Knobs easily crossing the bridge on Recyle that I couldn't couldn't or wouldn't ride.

At the end of “something-smart,” we climbed a grown in logging road to the top of Recycle.  Recycle twists through a fern covered forest floor.  This intermediate rated trail is easy.  The slopes are mild and the necessary bridges, though narrow, are short.  This trail is satisfying and casual.  Well, except for a bridge that I just couldn’t get myself to ride.  This narrow, 18-inch wide ladder had been recently reworked with a foot and a half rise in the middle.  At its peak the bridge was four to five feet above the ground on the downhill side.  Knobs rode this one without pause.  I tried but I just couldn’t do it.  Never once did my tire rubber hit the wood.  Each time I got close some portion of my brain took over and my hand clamped down on the brakes resulting in some painfully rapid dismounts.  After five tries, I gave up.  I’m not certain of what triggered this response.  I just couldn’t do it.  I’ll have to ride this on a future trip.  I’m sure I’ll wonder what the fuss was about afterwards.

From Recycle, we headed down Pseudotsuga.  In case you are wondering about the name, Pseudotsuga is the phylogenetic name for Douglas Fir.  You get extra points if you knew that.  I certainly didn’t.  Last year we took a similar route but by the time we reached Pseudotsuga my rear brake had failed.  Pseudotsuga is a slot car track that heads down the hill on a sandy loose tread with a couple of rock drops and a few ladders.  This trail is an easier intermediate blue square challenge, as long as your rear brake is working.  Functioning brakes make this one a lot more fun.

The path my bike took after I ejected on Deliverance

The path my bike took after I ejected on Deliverance

At the bottom of Pseudotsuga, we looked at the trail map on a sign for a route back to the retrieve vehicle.  We were searching for something different so we headed to Deliverance.  Deliverance is a single black diamond advanced rated trail on the map.  To get to the trailhead, a dirt road transit and a 5-minute steep and loose hike-a-bike was necessary.  Entering the trail, it looked to be of older construction and not under heavy, current use.  That’s never a great sign.  Deliverance starts with some ladder and log rolls and continues down with optional and sometimes non-optional airs to the top of a steep pitch.  We slowly worked our way down this long, steep section until we reached a point that looked to be committing.  There was no stopping if we went further on.  Off the bikes, we scouted the next trail segment.  I decided to give it a go, feeling confident in my skills on anything that didn’t involve a narrow, steep ladder.  The first section of this drop was on rock dusted with dirt.  It was very steep but, if the traction on the rock was good, it should be OK.  I entered into the drop and inched down, more or less on my chosen line, as far back behind the saddle as possible.  Things were fine until the rock steepened and the dirt on the rock increased, dramatically reducing the traction.  I could not brake, front or back, without inducing a skid and I started to pick up speed.  It quickly became clear that I wasn’t going to make the corner at the bottom of this first drop or miss the tree on the edge of the trail.  At the last moment, I ejected off of the back of the bike and grabbed onto the tree.  My bike continued on without me, rolling the thirty feet to a rock cliff and plunging over the edge.  The bike came to rest seventy feet from the trail and forty feet down.  I was glad I was not along for the ride!

Before I scrambled down the hill and retrieved the bike I resurveyed the line.  It seems that I was not the first to miss wide right at this corner, though I suspect that a few have been able to make the turn.  I’d guess you’d have to commit to gaining speed but, after the turn, the trail remained steep and loose with a couple of big drops.  With a bigger bike and downhill racing skills I could see this as possible.  But isn’t that always the case?

Nick at the camp

Nick at the camp

After climbing down and collecting my bike, we walked down the remainder of the steep section and continued on Deliverance to the bottom.  The lower section together with the upper section of the trail was highly entertaining with most of the fun coming on the build-ups.  I’d like to give Deliverance another shot in the future, though I suspect we will wait until we have ideal tread traction conditions.  And that could be a long wait in Squamish.  Under the conditions of our visit, Deliverance was the hardest trail we rode in Squamish.  It was easily harder than all of the double diamond rated trails that we rode down.

The Deliverance excitement capped our ride and our visit.  We ripped down the service roads back to the retrieve car.  On the next day we would leave Squamish for North Vancouver.  We will miss Squamish.  We will really miss Squamish.

Our last trip down a similar trail sequence:



  1. […] year the conditions change.  Last year, Powersmart was freshly refurbished and easier.  This year, wear and water have brought the gnar […]

    Pingback by Squamish: Powersmart to Credit Line « Another Header — August 20, 2010 @ 4:52 am

  2. […] short climb up the hill from the bottom of P-Nut’s is the entrance to Angry Midget, Recycle, and a new trail, Half Nelson.  Starting the climb our plan was to drop Angry Midget, a newer […]

    Pingback by Squamish: The Plunge and Half Nelson « Another Header — August 25, 2010 @ 10:39 pm

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