In Praise of the Climb

Words Seb Kemp
Photos Kaz Yamamura
Date Jul 21, 2015
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Pete Roggeman up-and-overs on Ladies Only.

In Praise of the Climb

What goes down must first go up. Or maybe it goes down then goes up, but either way, one follows – or precedes – the other. It’s the Newtonian law that mountain bikers are both constrained by and turned loose by. You gotta get up to get down, or if you go down then there’s gonna be some up to pay off.

I don’t ride pedalable, all mountain bikes because I like going up hills. Going up hills isn’t what I’m programmed to do or wired to enjoy. Climbing is a necessary evil, a bargain I make with the devil on my shoulder so I can get somewhere that’s worthwhile being (i.e. the top of a trail that goes downhill) or riding something that actually satisfies my need to ride mountain bikes (freewheeling and gliding downhill).

But thank god, there is some fun in going up…sorta.

The Nimby climb in Pemberton is an excellent, well made piece of singletrack that winds riders up nearly 500m of elevation in a little over 4.5km of trail, and it’s fair to say it changed the dynamic of the riding and the riding community there because there’s alway been a metric shit ton of good downhill trails; the problem was getting to them.

When you climb up Nimby you are provided with stunning views of the surrounding landscape and the forest that houses it. There’s beautiful sinewy pieces of trail that weave through the woodland and sections of trail that are challenging not only because of the physical output. It’s long enough that you either suffer through its duration or drift into a different mental state, somewhere between being so utterly within your body but also somewhere far away from the physical realities. However, it’s still a climb and if it weren’t for the numerous amazing descents that it leads to I might never have ridden it. From Nimby there’s flowing trails like Back Pains that provide easy to come by thrills and there’s heinous trails that have more in common with an elevator that’s had its cable cut (Gravitron). There’s even a trail I had a big hand in making and knowing that riders can get to it easily and enjoy what I put a lot of my heart and soul into makes Nimby even more important, at least to me.

A good climb is hard to come by and Nimby is one of the best. Squamish has nurtured and reared a gaggle of great climbing trails in recent years, and North Vancouver has been adding smart, upwardly trending singletrack to its inventory of trails. But Whistler hasn’t yet got the buzz for trails that feed riders in the buzzing single track. We have a few – Yummy Numby and bits of connectors like Piece of Cake and A La Mode and…errrr, there’s others but I just can’t remember them right this minute…

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Once gravity has her way, all the suffering is long forgotten.

Anyway, what I’m saying isn’t just that Whistler suffers from CCCR (Chronic Crap Climb Syndrome) but that we should praise, applaud and show our affection for climbing trails done right. For these pieces of singletrack are worth as much, if not more, than all the downhills they lead to. When people talk about their favourite trails the common answer is always to list the best downhill trails (or downward trending trails) but perhaps one day climbing trails will be just as sexy – and not just to the kinds of riders who love to suffer, are perhaps more lycra-inclined, and monitor their heart rate with the same focus that most of us don’t monitor our beer intake.

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Tower, this is Seb Kemp requesting a fly by.

Climbing any trail is a son of a bitch; a kick in the throat with a red hot hoof or a punch in the thighs with an icy mallet. Sure, Nimby is good because it makes the way up easier and more pleasant than pedaling up the road would be, but it’s still an effort. I’m not going to bullshit you and say that climbing Nimby (or any trail for that matter) a spiritual experience that gives my life meaning or puff out my chest and declare that all mountain bikers riders should earn their turns or that I get a tingle in my shammy from putting battery acid in my thighs and needles in my lungs. I only like going up a climb because once it’s over there’s always going to be a good descent to come. I hope.

Please, dear Dog, never let me climb a hill that doesn’t lead to delicious downhill recompense.


Is the climb just a necessary evil for you, or do you enjoy a little time in the pain cave?

 

Comments

dorse
0
The Big Picture  - July 28, 2015, 9:13 a.m.

I ride up most every hill I ride down and I sweat a lot. But let me tell you, sweating is not hurting much these days. 🙂

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stewart-spooner
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Stewart Spooner  - July 25, 2015, 7:22 a.m.

Refreshing to read great single track climbs getting the appreciation they deserve. The first climb (to Mt Elgood) on the Seven Summits trail is a favourite.

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simplicityofjoy
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Simplicityofjoy  - July 22, 2015, 12:51 p.m.

Great piece Seb and I couldnt agree more.

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awesterner
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awesterner  - July 22, 2015, 12:49 p.m.

With the climbing trail nearly to the top of Maple Mountain, is a destination for the climb itself just as much as Maple Syrup. A cruiser climb through the arbutus forests and flowering clearcuts, profiled where you can actually accelerate out of the corners (imagine that on a climb). And Riley even building some berms and kickers on some of the quicker sections. What's not to love about climbing!? 😀

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - July 22, 2015, 12:54 p.m.

Slightly ironic angle to this article is that Seb is bloody fit and fast and climbs like he weighs a buck and a quarter. But keeping him in sight on the way down is even more difficult.

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Vikb
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Vik Banerjee  - July 22, 2015, 6:37 p.m.

The climbing trail on Maple is a lot of fun. The downhill trail has a lot of techy climbing as well. So you can enjoy both ends of the ride. 🙂

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bavaria-20
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Bavaria 2.0  - July 22, 2015, 8:05 a.m.

Good piece - one that needed to be written. The pre-descent meditation. The alignment of chakras through breathing, and suffering. As a rider from an area with a little more flow(up and down) and a little less chunk, the climbing in the Whistler area has always been not only gut wrenching but mind opening. One major benefit I noticed after my last tech climb in the Whistler Valley, was the improvement in speed and flow on the well earned descent. The same body english(language - PC?) used to efficiently get up and over the roots and rocks on the climb turns on the out to be the same technique used to flow and carry speed on the descent. Climbing in Whistler Valley makes you a better descender.

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mark-karlstrand
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Mark Karlstrand  - July 22, 2015, 8:05 a.m.

The feeling of cleaning a technical climb is often as, if not more rewarding than cleaning a technical downhill. That said, they are really apples and oranges. I like both types of fruit.

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litespeed74
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litespeed74  - July 22, 2015, 9:15 a.m.

Since I started mountain biking back in 1992 climbing technical was always something that I could keep getting better at. EAch ride I'd clean something I haven't been able to before. As I got better/stronger I kept looking for challenges and still today there are those sections I come close to making. I love the challenge! And best of all…then you get to go downhill after it's all said and done!!! I like trails that I have to "attack" going uphill. grows hair on my chest and makes me want to eat meat and drink beer.

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tim
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Tim  - July 22, 2015, 12:53 a.m.

Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment but I have a thing for the climbs…I'm not a bad climber and it allows me to make up for bragging rights over my mates who tend me to leave me behind on the descents!

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giuseppe
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Giuseppe  - July 22, 2015, 2:16 p.m.

Yes! Exactly this!

Also, I wouldn't want to descend without some nicely warmed up muscles.

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naveed-nasir
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Naveed Nasir  - July 22, 2015, 12:26 a.m.

if it wasn't for climbs I don't think mountain biking could be considered as a form of exercise.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - July 22, 2015, 8:24 a.m.

Oh I think you'll get lots of disagreement there, Naveed. You can easily get anaerobic on a descent - have you ever raced downhill? It's very intense exercise.

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naveed-nasir
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Naveed Nasir  - July 22, 2015, 8:38 a.m.

hey Pete - love your work!
I was really going by my own personal Fatometer - when i just ride downhill and do uplifts I notice my beer belly juts out regardless of how many descents I do. When I enter the pain chamber and start adding climbs to my ride, the skinny jeans suddenly call out to me once again…

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morgan-taylor
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Morgan Taylor  - July 22, 2015, 9:21 a.m.

My heart rate spikes higher on descents than on climbs, but the "new" style of meandering semi-technical climbing is about the best form of sustained heart rate I can imagine.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - July 22, 2015, 12:52 p.m.

Thanks Naveed. There's no doubt that pedaling and climbing and sustained cardio are better for the waistline than just downhilling - I learn that lesson time and again. Intense DH is exercise, but a different kind, as in the multi muscle group circuit training kind that really can hurt and make you go cross-eyed from exertion if you're pushing hard.

But yeah if you like to drink beer and eat things like bread, nothing beats long climbs or, as Morgan points out, meandering semi-technical climb with a personal best hovering above you or a buddy trying to kick your ass on the way up.

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craw
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Cr4w  - July 22, 2015, 9:09 a.m.

If you're fully charging downhill, sprinting where possible and absolutely railing every corner - there is no way that isn't exercise. It's not the same as a long climb but it's still strenuous, and in some ways more intense. Ever pass some gorby in the bike park riding downhill sitting down? That's when it's not exercise.

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marsh-wilkinson
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Marsh Wilkinson  - July 22, 2015, 12:40 p.m.

I'm guessing you're a roadie! If so, come for a ride sometime, I think you'll change your tune!

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naveed-nasir
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Naveed Nasir  - July 22, 2015, 1:41 p.m.

Hah, my profile pic hasn't helped me here, no I'm a mountain biker - I just have a strange fascination with the Tour!

Reply

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