Category: Mountains

Exploring New Territory

Three expats living in Oaxaca set out on this bright Thursday morning in late March to explore some new territory in the Sierra Norte mountains to the north of Oaxaca city.  Using a minivan to haul themselves and their bikes into the high country, the trio drove north on Hwy 175 through La Cumbre to El Punto, then took a newly-paved country road to San Pedro Nexicho where they unloaded the bikes, got in the saddle and rode to San Matias Zoquiápam and back, covering just under thirteen miles (21 kms) along the way. Although the total elevation gain and loss was about 2000 feet (609 meters), the logging roads used were never particularly steep so the pedaling was easy. It was a warm March day in the Valles Centrales, but the temperature in the mountains was perfect for such an outing. Alex, Andy and Larry spent three hours on their out-and-back ride, taking time along the way to stop for refreshments at a trout farm and restaurant tucked into the hillside along the way. An excellent time was had by all. 

Gringos Go For An Epic Ride

With the coming of December there are enough gringo mountain bikers in winter residence in Oaxaca to constitute a weekday riding group. On this first day of December five guys set out from Oaxaca to ride an epic loop in the mountains. The plan was to ride in the Sierra Norte from La Cumbre to La Neveria and then plunge down the mountainside on the Mil Rios trail (14% grade in many places) into Tlalixtac.  The total distance for the day’s outing amounted to  45.9 miles (73.8 kms) and had a total elevation gain & loss of 6518 feet (1987 meters). The group pedaled to the monumento on the east side of town, where they hired a camioneta  to haul themselves and their gear up Hwy 175 to La Cumbre. This mechanical assist eliminated pedaling 13 miles (21 kms) and saved the group climbing 3875 feet (1181 meters) up the mountainside. But that still left a challenging 32.9 miles (52.9 kms) for the gringos to manage under their own power.

The portion of the ride between La Cumbre and (almost to) La Neveria entailed riding 12.3 miles (19.8 kms) on logging roads — which, as it happened, had several crews cutting trees in the forest and hauling the logs out on nearly a dozen trucks. Our bikers managed to climb 2075 feet (632 meters) and descend 1918 feet (584 meters) on this segment of the ride.

The most challenging part of the ride — and the most fun — was the descent on the Mil Rios trail. It was also the most confusing. Even though one fellow in our group had ridden this way before and we had a fairly accurate GPS map of the trail, we still managed to make a couple of wrong turns. For a while it was a comedy of errors — think “Laurel and Hardy meet the Three Stooges”. At one point we spent 45 minutes bushwhacking up and over a ridge in the hope of connecting with the correct trail. Happily, we were successful in this endeavor. And once on the Mil Rios trail, it was all downhill. A good part of the trail was great fun, as we swooped merrily through the woods. But there were also many really steep and rocky sections that had some of our riders hike-a-biking.  We found the Mil Rios trail ran 9 miles (14.5 kms), dropping 3768 feet (1148 meters) in altitude to the town of Tlalixtac on the floor of the Tlacolua Valley. From there the final 7.9 miles (12.7 kms) was an easy ride back to Oaxaca.

Doing Maintenance on the San Felipe Trails

It has been a while since we’ve gotten a crew together to do serious “pick and shovel” maintenance on the bike trails in the hills above San Felipe del Agua, and some of the trails have erosion damage that requires attention. On this Wednesday in early August Larry, Alex, Rafa, Andrés and Phil tackled one of the shorter, more needy trails. This being the rainy season, 1.7 inches of rain had fallen in the past four days. This was a good thing, as it softened up the soil and made it easier to dig new drainage channels to move water off the trail and into the woods. The crew finished their work in three hours time. They hope to return in coming weeks to do similar work on other of the many nearby trails.

High Country Ride at El Carrizal

Two visitors to Oaxaca from the U.S. — David from Pennsylvania and Jeff from California — were in town and eager to sample the excellent trails in these parts. They hooked up with some Norte Americano mountain bikers who call Oaxaca home and who were happy to act as local guides. As the weather had been hot in the Valles Centrales in recent weeks, a ride in the high country seemed in order. So it was that five gringos set out this Tuesday, 19 April, to ride the El Carrizal Loop, described elsewhere on the “Rides” page of this web site.

We stopped at the ecotourism office in San Miguel del Valle to register and pay the 50 pesos per person admission fee to use communal lands. We did not hire a guide, as we planned to ride well marked roads rather than footpaths through the woods. Then began the long, sinuous ascent to El Carrizal. We parked our van at the trucha restaurant below El Carrizal, geared up and began the climb into the village and then on up the mountainside, following the logging road that wends through La Neveria and La Ventosa, eventually reconnecting with the road from San Miguel. Recent overnight rains left puddles along the route, but the trail tread was in excellent condition, with a minimum of mud. It took almost exactly four hours to make the circuit, with time out for a sack lunch along the way. The group logged 12.2 miles (19.6 kms) on the loop, with an elevation gain and loss of 2219 feet (676 meters). The municipal building at El Carrizal sits at an elevation of 8951 feet (2728 meters). The highest point on the route was 10,213 feet (3113 meters). A creek crossing just outside San Miguel was the low point at an altitude of 5972 feet (1820 meters).

Three of our party elected to ride down the mountain to San Miguel del Valle, rather than returning to the van parked at El Carrizal. This deviation added 8.3 miles (13.3 kms) of downhill fun to the day’s adventure, with the guys dropping an additional 3983 feet (1214 meters) on the descent.



Llano Grande in the Rain

It was bright and sunny when 29 members of the “Nitos Ciclistas en Movimiento” bike club set out from Oaxaca at 7:15 am for a day ride at Llano Grande on Sunday, 25 October 2015. A caravan of ten cars and trucks hauled the riders, family members and their equipment the 42.2 mile (67.9 km) into the Sierra Madre. Unfortunately, heavy cloud cover rolled across the mountains and light rain began falling mid-way through the ride. The fog and rain prevented the group savoring the vista from the mirador, but made the forest vegetation seem more lush. Temperatures were mild, so everyone seemed to enjoy the outing, despite getting quite wet and muddy. The mud made for slow going; and tree roots and wooden bridges were especially slippery and dangerous. However, everyone made it safely through the ride and then enjoyed a hot lunch at one of the comedores in town before the group returned to Oaxaca.

Guides from the ecotourism camp at Llano Grande lead the way on a double loop through the dense woods. The route covered 9.95 miles (16.0 km), with an elevation gain and loss of 1812 feet (552 meters) for the day. Llano Grande sits at an altitude of 10,143 feet (3091.5 meters). The mirador was the highest point of the day, at 10,941 feet (3334.8 meters), while the cascada was the lowest point at 9635 feet (2936.7 meters).


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