The Utah Canyons Classic


A Colorado Plateau-based wilderness event in the Wilderness Classic/Bob Open mold needs to happen. The possibilities are just too great. My problem is that reasonably extensive though my travels there have been, they all took place a while ago, before I had the eyes I do now. I need your help.

A course, and by course I mean start and end points, needs the following:
-100-150 mile on-the-ground length
-all public land (no Navajo Nation, too complex)
-easy/not contrived to obey a rule of no linear travel on paved roads
-not be such that a mountain bike would be the obviously fastest way to go

This last issue is rather interesting, in that it highlights the extent to which the Bob Open plays by artificial rules. Absent the current ban on mountain bikes in Wilderness, the route I did would have gone to a team of strong bikers in less than 30 hours. Even with the deadfall and the inconvenience of hauling bikes across Lodgepole Creek, that would have been the fastest. Future courses, with more snow, will make the bike question less ominous, but it will remain a blight on the events free spirit.

With few exceptions, southern Utah does not have this disadvantage, setting up the Utah Canyon Classic to be a hellbiking race par excellence.

My idea for a course? Henrieville to Natural Bridges. It would work out to a bit more than 150 ground miles, but just looking at that line freaks me out, so it’s probably a good idea.

Your thoughts? Better routes? Appropriate time of year? Have at it, because I’m seriously about this for 2014.


19 responses to “The Utah Canyons Classic”

  1. Looks cool. My thought would be why not plot a route that includes a mountain range crossing or at least the possibility of a mountain route.. Not to turn it into another BMWO, just enough to make the route more interesting, “Do I hike over this range or detour through the desert? I’d think a spring or fall time frame would be interesting because it would add the possibility of snow.

  2. Excellent. Late February would be pretty interesting. I like the shoulder season challenge and the days are a bit short in the fall. I think your line is pretty awesome. Just glancing at the map, Hanksville to NB could be cool, although shorter. Other options require more highway crossings (Torrey to NB?). Anyway, count me in.

  3. Great route. Another opion I have been thinking about is Cedar City to Bluff using the old Mormon Trail down through Hole in the rock. Problem is the portage across Lake Powell from Hole in the rock to Cottonwood Canyon. I agree with Brendan, Shoulder season is the best for that country.

  4. Take a sixer and a map to Garro’s shop and you’ll probably get it sorted.
    I’m intrigued. As a SW native I’d lean towards a warmer timeframe on the calendar to maintain something of a home-field advantage.

  5. Long time lurker, this post got my gears turning. I think a little later in the season (Mar/Aor) would be good, I guess I’m voting for having it a little warmer along with Matt. Would be great to have some options for canyoneering, rappelling, and some class 4 stuff. Allowing caches might prevent the routes from being overly congruous due to water availability. I’m not a biker (yet), so I would second Luke’s point about having some attractive foot-travel routes.

    I live in TN now (originally from central CA/Yosemite) so I’m not sure if I could do this. Doesn’t stop me from daydreaming about it though.

  6. This has soooo much potential. I’ll have to ponder on this one a bit.

  7. The Bob has always garnered my interest but Memorial Day is a tough weekend for me to get to Montana. Hell, Montana from So. Cal. is tough period. But Utah is another story. This post alone might be the impetus needed for me to dust off the MTB and inflate the tires…
    I’ll be watching this and look the map over.

    1. I’ve spent a lot of time in that area, too early in the spring and it can be a mud hellhole, to late (and memoral day is too late) and things can dry out and leave you some rather serious water issues (there is none). Fall is nice (October) but again, water can be a problem. The Bob is easy with regard to water, not so the Colorado Plateau. Dealing with bears in the Bob is nothing compaired to a 24 hour period of limited water in that part of the country. I would suggest mid to late April. My experince is that water, water holes, springs and snow are much more abundant that time of year even if it means some mud.

      Other issues to think about: Route finding is greatly complicated by the fact that there are numberous canyons that cut across the terrain, however, these can really add a level of excitment too. Besides hiking and canyonering skills the abliltiy to identify springs and other water sources cannot be understated. Once these items are addressed the area is stunning with regard to it’s beauty. Depending upon the route(s) rafting portions of the Colorado, and San Juan Rivers is also possible. I’m all for it!

  8. I’ve done almost all of that route, off road. But have yet been able to do it all off road in one trip. Could be a great course . Why not run it all the way to moab? Natural bridges to Bears ears to Needles to lochart road to moab it pretty rad. The cruz is Poison springs road.

    I’ve been thinking of a loop. La sals to Henrys to Abajos. Would need a packraft for that one.

  9. Thanks for the comments everyone. Randy, your endorsement gives me hope I’m on the right track.

    As you mention Craig, this would be a lot closer to a lot more people. A good thing in that it would garner a deeper and more diverse field, potentially complex if numbers got too high.

    If this went forward under my direction, and irregardless of the start and end points, I’d insist on the “no linear travel on paved roads” guideline. That means you can ride or walk directly across a paved road, but nothing else. That means the White Canyon Bridge is off limits.

  10. I love this! I’ve been thinking of something similar since I’ve been living vicariously through all those Alaska and Bob trip reports, but love the unique challenges that the CP offers (dryness and cliffs).

    Any route should “almost” necessitate rope work. The unique geography of the CP is what makes the region such a great canyoneering and year round climbing destination. If you aren’t on a rope then you aren’t truly experiencing the desert southwest.

    Finding a route that would limit MTB is difficult. As much as MTB has a strong heritage in the SW I agree with others that a primarily foot race is more ideal. I’m also not a MT biker (I stray away from any outdoor activity where my feet aren’t on the ground since they all require extra $$ to pursue. Even climbing is dirt cheap compared to a proper bike or packraft kit).

    My initial thought was actually something along the Mogollon Rim (I’m AZ biased). Geographically that region covers a lot of slot canyons, flat plateau, and even some typical mountainous up and downs but it comes with the unfortunate drawbacks of being less than wilderness like the Bob and Alaska. I was looking at the E-W corridor between Springerville and Flagstaff. That route has a ton of deep canyons (usually with water) that perpendicularly intersect the corridor and a lot of challenging featureless x-country travel on the flat plateau tops. Closer to flagstaff the elevation rises and becomes more forested and uneven. But in my searches for an AZ route I’ve kind of given up on a 100+mile route. AZ is better suited to 70miles of brutally rugged terrain. Still 70 miles may be enough because there is so much tedious travel and navigation with our canyons.

    That said your route location looks to capture more of the wilderness aspect and looks like it can be less contrived. I’ll have to let this one simmer but I’m definitely interested in seeing this realized and want to help in any way possible.

  11. Doing it in April would be like doing the BMWO in July. Easier, but dealing with conditions outside the tamest time of the year should be part of the challenge.

    Looking at that line again, I’d say it equalizes modes of travel pretty well. There’s definitely not a most obvious choice.

  12. Matt Anderson Avatar
    Matt Anderson

    With the Bob Marshall in the spring and the Alaska Wilderness Classic in the summer/winter I think October would be a good time of year.

  13. I am interested as long as foot travel is not at a disadvantage.

  14. As I research the area and possible routes I’ve been encountering all sort of winter photos that leave me enthusiastic to visit. I would think we would likely have the place to ourselves then as well.

  15. Any new thoughts on this Dave?
    I’ve been looking over maps and considering an all foot route but might mix in an MTB.

    1. The more I think about this route the more I like it. Whether I do it early next year will depend on other events which cannot yet be predicted.

  16. […] Next is likely the last year I’ll keep the event in the Bob itself.  New terrain and challenges for everyone, myself included, is always necessary.  A very snowy spring route in the Beartooths has appeal.  The Selway-Frank complex must have enormous possibility, but I don’t yet know enough about it.  Other areas, like the Missouri Breaks or Big/Little Belts are intriguing, but the non-roadless aspect will likely preclude them.  I even think about taking it out of state. […]

  17. […] the Bob more of a ski and snowshoe affair has also been a longtime thought of mine, along with doing something in the southwest.  Those are also options I’d like feedback on, from past and prospective […]

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s