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August 22, 2010

Squamish: Marc My Word and Value Added

Filed under: 2010, British Columbia, MTB Travel — anotherheader @ 9:43 pm

Dan rolls a tricky drop on Marc My Word

“What trails do you like here?” the guy behind the counter at a local bike shop asks.

With a trail system changing as frequently as Squamish’s, we always learn something of value when we visit a bike shop.  The bike shop interview usually starts with a question similar to this.  The question serves a purpose.  With the variety of trails and terrain types in Squamish, the question orients the discussion.  The answer to “What trails do you like here?” is more useful than the response to the standard “What kind of trails do you like?”  The Squamish palette of trails is much broader than most mountain biking areas.

Scott on Marc My Word

“That’s one my favorites also,” the guy behind the counter invariably says.

Marc My Word has quickly become a Squamish cult classic.  We found this trail, not too long after it first opened, when we were headed on our inaugural trip down Entrails.  I’m not sure why we took this option.  Maybe we equate new trails to unofficial trails and unofficial trails to good trails.  In any event, the first time down, we took the turn onto Marc My Word.  Each year since, during our Squamish stays, we’ve made the same left turn off of Entrails at least once and ridden Marc My Word.

(Reports from 2007, 2008, and 2009 may have additional useful information.)

Shiloh and Dan joined Thermo, Knobs, and myself for the day’s ride.  We took a now standard route through the Garibaldi Highlands: Wonderland to Alice Lake Road to Forest Road to Mike’s Loop to Entrails to Marc My Word to Mashiter to Rollercoaster to Lumberjack to Jack’s Trail to Brakentrail.  As usual, for us, the highlight is Marc My Word.

There’s zero flow when we ride Marc My Word.  The trails routes riders down a series of Paul Bunyan sized steps off of a granite ridge.  Each step down is committing.  Perhaps if we were able to ride Marc My Word more frequently, we would remember the details of the precise line needed to survive each drop and move seamlessly down the short trail.  But that is not the case.  For us, each step requires scrutiny.  Rolling them blind is not an option.

Approaching the edge series of questions pop into the head:  Which drop is this one?  Has the line changed?  Where’s the kicker?  Where does my wheel need to be at the top?  How’s that root going to roll?  The discussion begins.

Dan comes off the log at the end of Marc My Word

Off the bikes and in the group, a flood of memories of past visits, past victories, and past mishaps comes.  Finally, when the cameras are set and rolling, the attempts come, rider by rider, usually with several false starts.  In the end, our visits to Marc My Word are not so much rides as amusement park style excursions.  It takes us a long time to get to the bottom.  Perhaps some day we’ll remember each nuance well enough to let the trail flow.  (This trail does have flow even if the riders don’t!)  It doesn’t really matter, though.  Marc My Word is fun, no matter how we ride it.

Exiting Marc My Word, we cruised down Mashiter for a quick pass on swoopy Rollercoaster.  Lumberjack, a trail we hadn’t tried before, was a fun transfer to the dirt roads that took us to Jack’s Trail and Brakentrail.  In this direction, Lumberjack starts easy and finishes with more challenge.  After Brakentrail, a short pedal along Highway 99 closed our loop.

It is safe to say that we like Marc My Word.  A few days later, after Scott’s arrival and Knobs departure, we made a return visit.  After finishing Marc My Word’s rock festivities, we looped back to the top, rolled the endless low narrow bridge over a lush marsh on Tracks from Hell, and climbed to top of Value Added.

Scott rolls in at the top of Value Added's big drop

Value Added starts with a challenging climb to a ridge.  From the top, the track descends steeply on a combination of granite slab and dirt track punctuated by the required root and rock obstacles.  The trails in Squamish quickly had dried after the rains a week ago.  Now dry and powdery, the dirt portions of Value Added’s tread were tricky.  Throw in Value’s steep, committing gradients and we were in for a challenge.

Value Added’s signature feature is a big steep line down a granite face.  Undulations in the granite and a loose dry downhill exit made this trail feature look hard and scary from the top.  The drop is substantial; I’d estimate that about 18 feet of altitude is quickly lost going from the top to the bottom.  Once you roll in, there is no stopping, no slowing, and no easy bail out.  At the base of the high traction granite, it is Surf City in the loose and powdery soil.  The tread’s slope on the dirt, though far less steep than on the granite, was sharp enough under the conditions to be tricky to ride even without the added speed from the drop.  Value Added’s big drop was an immediate pass for 4 out of 5 of the members of our group.  Only Scott was undeterred by the collective’s reticence.

A cloud of dust ends Scotts progress at the end of Value Added's big drop

With the cameras set, Scott rolled down the long granite drop with good form.  At the bottom he had acquired plenty of energy.  The loose, descending run out was now in play.  It didn’t go well.  The last of Scott’s speed was scrubbed in a long body slide in the dirt and a cloud of dust.  Scott came away with a coating of trail powder and some trail rash.  It was a very good time to being wearing pads and a full-faced helmet.

Knobs rolling Marc My Word's big ladder

All of us came away with added respect for this drop.  Spectacular wipeouts always make challenging sections more intimidating.  It’s not like Value Added’s big committing granite drop needed anything extra to enhance the pucker factor.  And now the loose exit conditions will just add to the concern.  The crash test made this one look harder.

At the bottom of Value Added, the standard End Hole Connector, Icy Hole of Death, Jack’s Trail, and Brackentrail took us out.  By now the Squamish heat wave was in full force.  The temperatures were reaching into the 90’s.  With empty Camelbacks, we were happy to get into the air-conditioned trailers.

First day pictures

Second day pictures


  1. The 20 dollar question is if you cleaned more/all of MMW on the second visit. Well, did ya?

    Comment by surlypeach — August 22, 2010 @ 10:15 pm

    • Well, at least I cleaned more than certain other riders on both days.

      Comment by anotherheader — August 24, 2010 @ 7:37 pm

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