Scouting for new routes

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Here at Pure Mountains, whenever we have some free time, one of the things we love to do is to scout for new routes.

There are several reasons why we are always on the lookout for new trails:

  • It's great to show returning clients the enormous variety of trails in the high sierras.
  • The more route options we have, the easier it is to adapt the day's riding to the group.
  • It's always a treat for us, as guides, to try out new possibilities.

As trail conditions can change from day to day, it's a big advantage to be able to change the riding plan at short notice. Obviously the bigger the range of trails known to us, the easier that is.

On average it takes about a week of focused exploration to find a day's ride. That may sound like a lot, but there is limited mapping in the mountains and whilst Strava, Google Earth, Trailforks and Wikiloc are tremendously helpful, nothing beats actually riding and re-riding a proposed route. When we were qualifying as guides, rule number one for guiding a group was: pre-ride the route until you know it inside out. It's so important that, as guides, we know exactly where we are and where we are going; what the clients can expect and when; what exit strategies there are (should there be a problem) and when the clients can ride freely without fear of getting lost. For example: it can be extremely liberating for certain riders to be given specific directions and to take the head of the group. This is clearly tricky if the guide is not certain about the proposed route.

But scouting can also be tremendously frustrating.

As a rough estimate, we reckon nine out of every ten promising trails turn out to be unusable. Too difficult (physically or technically) to ride, too inaccessible, or too risky to ride in terms of exposure or climate. Many is the time we've been swearing away whilst being scratched to buggery, dragging our bikes through nearly impenetrable undergrowth. Or whooping with delight whilst riding the perfect trail, only to be faced with an impossible climb or a deadly descent and a long walk back.

However, when a beautiful new section of trail leads to something we already know, or fits perfectly into a need we had, then it ranks as a perfect day.

We live in a vast, mountainous, cycling paradise and we'll always keep searching for the next wondrous trail.

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