Saturday, July 27, 2013

Idaho bike tour part 2

The town of Custer is about 10 miles up the Yankee Fork river, which in turn is about 20 miles from Stanley.  It was a former gold rush boom town in the 1870’s and is now a tourist destination and gives a pretty good glimpse into life then.  Not far away is one of the amazing dredging machines, which I think was actually a converted steamship that they somehow carted into the wilds of Idaho to pretty much churn up miles of a river bed.   Sort of an environmental nightmare, of course, but they didn’t think much of that then, and there’s still a big working mine above town that not only is literally tearing down the mountains but I’m sure also using cyanide to leach out the gold.  Makes the dredging seem not so bad.  In any case, Custer is a worthy stop, especially for families with kids who might be interested in that kind of stuff. 

Some awesome two-piece skis from the 1870's
Apparently avalanches were a big reality then as well
a new school mine

At Custer we faced a decision:  zip back out to the highway on the Salmon and figure out a way to keep ourselves busy for a day or two since we were a bit ahead of where we thought we’d be, or head up and over into the Frank Church/River Of No Return wilderness on a road that  - according to some folks in Custer – was “impassable”?  It was a fairly easy choice, so up we went towards Loon Creek pass on Forest Road 72. 
A fine road
 FR 72 is pretty unusual in that it’s a 45 mile horseshoe that goes right through the wilderness area, with the wilderness boundary going right up to the edge of the road on both sides.  It must have been grandfathered in because of the ranger station and the Diamond D ranch down in the bottom of the valley.  So it makes for a pretty efficient way to move through really rugged country, for better or worse (depending on how you view the concept of designated “wilderness”). 

That road was like any other that we had been on; just a simple, pretty well-traveled gravel road.  It was a nice climb up to the 8800’ summit, and then we started plunging down into the Loon Creek drainage, still on a fine road.  “Impassable?  Locals are so useless!” .  About halfway down a motorcyclist coming up the road waved at us to stop and said “I heard you guys were coming this way.”  Huh?  Really?  Why’s that?  “The road out back up and out of Loon Creek is not the same as this road.  It got washed out by an avalanche and there’s lots of downed trees.   I turned back.”

Hmm.  Ok, well now.  That’s probably a bit more legitimate beta.  But motos can have a pretty tough time with downed logs, we were on bikes, we had plenty of food, and it couldn’t be all that bad, right?

Just past the ranger station and the ranch the road took an abrupt turn uphill, as we anticipated.  In less than 10 miles it was going to climb nearly 5000 feet, and we knew we were in for a grind regardless of the road condition, but at least it was blistering hot. 

11 miles and 5000 feet....
Soon enough we realized what had happened:  that area had been hit last year by one of the infamous fires that raged around the west and the forest was completely denuded, so the recent thunderstorms had pretty much made entire hillsides sluff downhill.  It was impressive; the water and its debris didn’t wait to find drainages, it just flowed in sheets down the mountainsides, streaming down until it came to something flat….like a road.

It was pretty tough “riding”.  We did a lot of pushing, and it took all I had not to get pretty frustrated at trying to drag the Bob trailer up and over baby head rocks and downed logs.  At one point I chuckled to myself remembering how a week prior I wrote about the concept of going a vertical mile in an hour, and here we were struggling to go a horizontal mile per hour, on our bikes!  After a couple of hours we saw a moto coming down, which was encouraging.  He was a German guy who loved moto-ing the backroads of the intermountain west, and he told us that we still had 6 miles to climb and the road condition continued to similar to where we were, which was pretty bad.  That was a bit disheartening, but we still were alongside water and had plenty of daylight and a bit of energy, so onward we trudged. 

As it turns out, however, the road actually improved dramatically, and it was only about 3 or 4 miles to the summit (the German guy was going back and forth between kms and miles, and I think he got them mixed up), so our speed picked up considerably and we finally topped out to some amazing views of the Frank Church wilderness and the Sawtooths in the distance.  We had left our last water source in anticipation of going up and over the top and down into the next drainage, but to add an exclamation point to our day, the road actually rolled up and down along a ridge for seven more miles.  Glorious riding, but the light was starting to wane and we were keen to find some water and camp.  A couple of lakes glinted tantilizingly a thousand feet of steep hillside below us, but still we rolled on the ridge, until finally we began the plunge off the ridge and quickly came upon a tiny pond that looked like a mosquito haven, but we didn’t care and flopped out to camp, accompanied by a lone curious deer (which created a pretty funny tale that I’ll write up later).

nearing the top....

stoked to be on top

an unwelcome grind up onto the ridge after a quick descent

A very welcome pond
For what it’s worth, I did a quick google search on Frank Church, since he’s the namesake of a couple of huge, awesome areas.  Longtime senator from Idaho, he was one of the sponsors of the ’64 wilderness act, THE sponsor of the ’68 wild and scenic rivers act, and fought against moving water from the Pacific Northwest to thirsty California, not to mention being a foreign policy wonk who achieved notoriety for being the first senator to speak out against the Vietnam war.  Here’s the wiki site: that’s worth a look if for no other reason than there’s a great photo of him with the venerable Joe Biden in 1979.  And he was from conservative Idaho!  The last Dem elected to the senate from the only state with the dubious distinction of possibly being more conservative than Utah.  And, presciently relative to the headlines from (literally) today, he had this to say about the National Security Agency, in 1975:  That (surveillance) capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.”

But back to the trip......Our German friend had told us that the descent down towards Highway 21 was  a “fast, glorious, descent”.  It was actually something like 12 miles of bone-jarring embedded rocks, and we were glad we hadn’t tried to go any further past Mosquito Pond because it took a lot of effort to hang onto the laden bikes.  As we bounced down I decided that literally everything that guy had told us was wrong.  Ah well, we know what we know, and don’t what we don’t.  Eventually, however, we hit the “glorious road” a few miles above the highway, and rolled into Stanley just in time to catch breakfast at the Stanley Bakery, where the The Great Metabolizers mowed an impressive amount of food. 

From there it was just a 60 mile ride up and over Galena Pass back to Ketchum.  However, our adventures weren’t quite over.  We decided to stop at Redfish lake and join the hordes there who love that lake and the views across to the craggy Sawtooths, and we hopped the boat across the lake and hiked up to ogle at the amazing Elephant’s Perch rising out of a couple of shimmering mountain lakes.  A pretty incredible place. 

The remainder of our trip consisted of much socializing (we bumped into a gaggle of SLC’ers in the neighborhood for a wedding, Scott Martin who jumped off the train of a huge tailwind blowing past Smiley Creek lodge when he saw us there talking to yet more SLC’ers) and a couple of fun days in Ketchum.  We shredded some amazing singletrack with our longtime buddy Bruce Rogers, who showed us his favorite ride (which is saying a lot):

 had breakfast with the awesome Dave Chase,:

Dave will change health care for us all, eventually.....
and then..... our adventure built to a final crescendo with the first annual Sweet-Martin/ Gray/Patterson/Diegel putt putt golf tourney on the hallowed greens of the Sun Valley Golf Course.  The competition was fierce:

With Leo fetching beers for the elder statesmen of the crew the tourney of boyz vs girlz was a seesaw battle until the final hole, where Michele Gray proved yet again that she is the dominant sibling by draining an 8 footer and then watching brother Scott shank the boyz’ last gasp.  
Michele not letting any silly heart attack get in the way of showing us all how it's done
the boyz still able to smile after the devastating loss

Ah well, at least the losers were able to commiserate over schooners at Grumpy’s and the winners didn’t gloat too badly! 

And as a bonus, we are fairly certain this strapping lad is the lead singer for the latest hot new Boy Band that shared the course with us!
 Ash and I are prone to saying “This is the Best Ever” so often that its meaning gets a bit diluted, but we agreed that the backroads of Idaho (and the rest of the intermountain west) do indeed provide a truly unique opportunity for backcountry bike touring and this one was definitely The Best Ever.  Sure Europe has glorious roads, quaint villages, soaring peaks, fabled passes, scrumptious pastries…(better stop there) but there are no real “backcountry” roads (the ever-wrong German said that it’s nearly impossible to ride a motorcycle off road in Europe), and in developing countries the back roads are THE roads, so there’s a fair bit of traffic.  Thanks to the US Forest Service (the most prolific road building entity on earth) we have about 1.76 gazillion miles (maybe kilometers) of awesome and relatively deserted backcountry roads to ply, and the best way to do it is, of course, by bike! 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A brief interlude: an almost-lap around the Tetons

I need to finish the awesome Idaho bike tour tale, but I thought I’d throw up a quick post about another quick adventure from this week. 

For years I’ve been saying “I need to spend more time in the Tetons” and “I want to do more big mountain runs”, and the truth is…..I have still done very little of either!  So when Jason Dorais contacted me to do a quick blast up to the Tetons for a big run it was pretty easy to forget about all the work yet to do before I get enmeshed in the Outdoor Retailer show next week and said “sure.”

As it turns out, the SLC Samurai Jared Inyoue was keen to go as well, even though he’s been running less than I have (he – like me – has a couple of screws in his leg from an old fibula break, and apparently one of them is coming unscrewed?!?  It’s often been said that Jared’s kamikaze skiing in rando races is absolutely crazy; now we know that indeed he’s got a loose screw!).  We blasted up on Monday night and ended up on one of the best front porches in the world:  Drew Hardesty’s cabin at the guides/ranger community across Lupine Meadows from the imposing form of Teewinot.  Drew had had a big day himself:  after a nice 25 mile walkabout and about the time he was settling into a nice evening with a book and a beer he got the call that there was a woman with a “sprained knee” that needed rescuing, so off he went.  It got too late to dispatch a helicopter, so three of them took turns piggybacking her out for about 4 hours.  Drew slept well that night. 

Our route was a sort-of circumnav of the meat of the Tetons:  Owen, Teewinot, the Grand, the Middle, the South, and Buck Peak via Cascade Canyon as our climb to Hurricane Pass, a rambling traverse through Alaska Basin to the west of the big peaks, and down the dramatic Death Canyon, with a possible finish to the loop on the valley trail that traverses the lower slopes of the Tetons from the Village to Mt Moran.  Here’s the route (without the valley trail highlited):

Though we anticipated that Cascade Canyon would be something steep and burly-ish like Garnet Canyon (that goes up to the Grand/Middle/South Tetons), it was remarkably low angle and very runnable all the way up to Hurricane Pass, with the big peaks truly soaring above us.  I got a bit of a sense of the cragginess and relief of the Cathedral Traverse, and was indubitably impressed:

rolling up Cascade Canyon
We hit Hurricane pass in a couple of hours and then rattled our way along the backside; again, all very runnable.  I have a habit of gawking around a bit while trail running and then crashing (I’ve crashed many more times running in the last year or two than I have in the last many years on a mountain bike) and this run was certainly conducive to plenty of rubbernecking, but I kept it together enough to keep myself upright (Jared spilled a bit of blood to ensure that it was truly a “real” outing!). Soon enough we hit static pass, where we chatted with a few of the many hikers/backpackers we saw out there.  One of the guys regaled us with his vast knowledge of the Tetons and all the places that they’d been, yet when he finally asked us where we started and we said Jenny Lake he said “huh?  Jenny Lake?  Haven’t heard of that one.”  Huh?  Jenny Lake, probably the most-visited site in the entire Grand Teton National Park?!  Ah well.  We know what we know, and don’t what we don’t. 
Jason showing that All American 800m form

nearing Hurricane Pass, with Jared embracing his inner Euro by cutting the switchbacks

Lots of brilliant flowers up in Alaska Basin

the coolest guys in the Tetons
We rolled down into Death Canyon, with it’s hugely dramatic walls on either side, periodically dancing past the backpackers wheezing their way up the hot, exposed trail on a 3-4 day trek to do what we had just done that morning.  It’s great to spend nights out in the wilderness, but it’s dang fun to blast out a lot of distance lightly and fastly. 

As we neared the bottom the question of finishing the loop with the 10 mile rolling traverse along the Valley Trail loomed large.  Jason and I had been surprised that Jared had gotten this far because he’d been talking about bailing pretty much ever since we left SLC, but  of course he’d done just fine, until he finally admitted at our potential bail point that his ankle was throbbing pretty hard.  We’d done 25 miles by that point - pretty much already matching the longest run I've ever done -  it was quite hot (blistering by Jackson standards), we’d had a nice time, I knew that continuing meant the difference between a bit of fatigue and couple of days of rest vs an effort that would take a week to recover from, so Jason graciously acquiesced to our desires and we used our thumbs instead of our feet to return to a refreshing dip in the outflow from Jenny Lake.  And then blasted home.  

The drive to recreation ratio was unusually poor by normal standards, but the quality of the outing definitely made up for it. 

Thanks again to Jason for the rallying cry, Jared for mounting up and driving, the mooses we saw for grudgingly moving out of the trail:

the bears we didn’t see for not scaring us, and Drew for his hospitality. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Idaho bike tour part 1

Ash and I try to do at least one bike tour a year, and while we had a great time last year in Colorado that definitely got us excited for more there, we decided to head back to the relative wilds of Idaho to take advantage of their slightly more remote areas and to connect with our old friend Michele and the rest of Team Martin and our other friends in the Sun Valley area.  So on July 3 we blasted up to Ketchum and got going the next morning.

Several years ago we did a great tour that focused on the area west and northwest of Ketchum in the Boise river mountains, and have long been looking doing something out to the east and north of Ketchum and Stanley since we knew there were big mountains, good rivers/creeks, and remote gravel roads in that area as well.  The Boise mountains trip was rife with great backcountry hot springs; we were able to hit one pretty much every day, and our late September/early October trip had cool enough temps that the hot springs were much appreciated.  However, the long-running heat wave in these parts has been affecting Idaho as well, and we didn’t care so much about being nicely stewed in hot springs this time around. 

The route: here it is in macro form, outlined on a state map:

And, in a nutshell:
Sun Valley-Copper Basin-Mackay-Salmon river-Panther Creek-Morgan Creek-Challis-Custer Parkway-Loon Creek-Pinyon Peak-Hwy 21-Stanley-Ketchum. 500+ miles, about 200 of which was paved, the rest dirt/gravel. 

People always ask “what bikes do you use for that?”  Last year I found a circa mid/late 90’s Fisher Gitchee Gumee steel framed and bomber “mountain bike” (very old school) that pretty much hadn’t been used since then and has made for a great around town/touring bike:

I used some cheap mtb tires with lugs on them and a center line of lugs that creates a pretty good rolling surface.  Because we knew that we might go several days without seeing a store, I elected to use a Bob trailer in lieu of the rack/panniers/handlebar bag combo (though I totally forgot to throw the trailer in the car!  Thanks to Bruce for loaning me his up in Ketchum and saving my day….)

We got Ash a very cool baby blue steel Bianchi fixy a few years ago and she didn’t really engage much with it, and after leaving her old bike with a new friend in Cuba we converted her fixy into a geared bike (a year or two after converting another old mountain bike into a single speed!). 
We replace the basket for a handlebar bag for touring, but I left it on for the pic because Ash loves her basket! 
It has road wheels, cyclocross-style cantilever brakes, a triple chainring with a pretty small/tight cassette, a riser mtb handlebar, and we found some 42c tires with small lugs that did fine on steep gravel roads but rolled fine without that annoying humming on pavement. 

Now, the details, if you are interested…..

From Ketchum we wheeled along the bike path that goes along Trail Creek with the many Sun Valley vacationers on their family rides, and soon enough the bike path ends then the pavement ends and we started churning up towards Trail Creek Pass (that goes over the northern end of the Pioneer Mountains) into the Big Lost river drainage. 

just outside of Ketchum

About halfway down to the main valley we veered south into the Copper Basin, which Ash had visited as a kid and had fond memories of a beautiful area.  Indeed, her memory was good, because it was glorious. 

From the primary gravel road we turned onto a secondary gravel road was an 18 mile horseshoe that went right to the base of the east side of the impressive Pioneers.  From there we climbed a pass called Antelope pass, and after another “bump” into yet another drainage did a long descent into the Lost River valley, which has highway 93 running through it from the east Idaho desert up to and along the Salmon via Mackay. 

We had an inkling that our great friends Heidi and Geoff were in the ‘hood on their return from a main Salmon trip and were staying at Heidi’s dad Dick Dahlgren's amazing place on the banks of the Big Lost, which is a world famous trout stream.  We called Geoff, but his phone was way buried since he was literally fishing all day and slaying some impressive hogs with a funky Japanese rod; the “tenkara” is feather weight and uses no reel; just a fixed length of line.  Leave it to one of the last telemark holdouts and singlespeed enthusiast to make a challenging activity that much more difficult and esoteric! 
note the lack of reel.  Geoff is so core! 

Fortunately Heidi was being the responsible parent and both had her phone and knew where her kids were, so we got the beta to get to her dad’s amazing place on the Big Lost.

Dick Dahlgren is a fascinating guy; in addition to being the father to the precocious Heidi (no small feat in itself!  Her ferocious competitiveness got her all the way to the US ski team) Back in the 70’s he was integral in the effort to keep the incredible Mono Lake (a huge saline lake near Mammoth, CA: from being decimated by the ever-thirstier Los Angeles, the result of which was both LA grudgingly helping to restore flows back into the lack (that they were stealing) and has lawsuits going today!  But after many years in Mammoth he and his wife packed up a rig and went in search of the ultimate place to fly fish, and bought some land on the Big Lost.  Since then he’s built and moved/rebuilt 4 beautiful buildings at one of the best spots on the one of the best fishing rivers in the west that sport his wood carvings and watercolor paintings on the walls. He’s recently completed the most recent structure:  a replica of a old miners’ cabin - using lodgepole pine logs that fell on in the small forest on his land – as a nice refuge from his refuge to write his novel! 

Dick D truly in his element

It was great to see Geoff and Heidi, and Dick’s wife Julie whipped up a fantastic lasagna for us that night.  We typically eat pretty well when we bike tour, but lasagna’s a tough one on the road!  And as a thunderstorm’s wind and rain pounded the cabins that night we were quite snuggled in and glad we weren’t battling to keep the megamid “tent” together…..

thanks Team Dahlgren!

Our original plan was to take a day off the bikes and hike up Mt Borah, Idaho’s highest peak, but Heidi and Geoff had done a bike tour out of Mackay that bypassed that option yet sounded great and tied right into our (very) loose schedule.  So we climbed Pass Creek, which took us up and over the south end of Borah’s Big Lost range, and upon reaching the pass we looked out to the east and saw yet another big mountain range: the Lemhis.  Huh?   The what mountains?  We had never even heard of them, yet only hours from our house lies a decent-sized range capped by the impressive Diamond Peak at over 12,000 feet!  And of course it clearly sports a lifetime’s worth of killer ski lines.  So much to do…..

The Lemhi valley is an austere one. Tucked between the Lost Rivers and the Lemhi range there ain’t a lot going on in there, and literally in an afternoon of riding, a night camping next to the headwaters of the Pahsimeroi river, and again riding the next morning we saw……no one. No cars, no people, no structures.  At one point was we spun down a 15 mile gradual descent with the craggy eastern faces of Borah and Leatherman peaks looming above and a vast sage plain below Ash asked:  “have we been transported to Mongolia?” 

Mongolia, Idaho

that is one optimistic - or desperate -  realtor!
But soon enough we hit Highway 93 that runs along the Salmon river to the town of Salmon, getting caught out in a shelter-less area by a decent thunderstorm complete with helmet-vent-intruding hail just before we hit town.  Twenty more miles and we were able to leave the highway and ride along the lonely road that goes down the river towards the Middle Fork take out and the main Salmon put in, so the only vehicles going by were the occasional river trippers. 

Our destination was the Panther Creek road, which not surprisingly runs along Panther Creek, which parallels its much-larger sister to the west, the Middle Fork.  Like the MFS, Panther bisects a one of those really big swaths of green you see on Idaho maps, and is a critical conduit for backcountry travelers in those parts because it goes over 65 miles through that particular green swath back to Highway 93.  Amazingly, it’s a 45 mile climb to the pass!  It only climbs 4500’ in those 45 miles, so it’s not consistently steep, but it’s a long grind nonetheless with not much of anything/anybody out there. 
cooling off in Panther Creek
From Challis – which is 50 miles from Stanley, yet culturally in another galaxy  - we caught another key conduit in the “Custer Parkway” that goes from Challis to the old mining boom town of Custer. I’m not sure how they came to apply the term “parkway” to a one lane gravel road that not only had some brutally steep sections up to an 8800' summit, but was also washed out in places, but it was fine riding (and it was built in less than a year in 1879!). 

On top of the first super mean climb under a blistering sun the only car we’d seen – an ancient, beat to shit Ford Tempo with incoherent license plates came wheezing back up the other side and sighed to a stop, and out hopped….what I can only describe as “hippies”.  It was pretty amazing: reams of hair, gallons of patchuli oil,  fully tie-dyed, the works.  And there seemed to be something like 7 of them in this car that “was gettin’ a little hot; it doesn’t really like hot climbs like this” along with a ton of stuff as well as a huge fluffy dog!     “We are looking for this place that has a bunch of opals; have you seen any?”  Huh?  Opals?  Of course that’s what you’re looking for, but no, sorry, haven’t seen any through my sweat-stung eyes.   So we weren’t much help, but despite this they reached into the depths of the Tiempo and amazingly pulled out an ice cold Henry Weinhard’s root beer and offered it up, which was much appreciated.  Thanks much, and good luck opal hunting! 

To be continued……

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Human Powered Vertical Mile

A couple of years ago I was in Korea for work and in lieu of yet another morning workout in the hotel gym I decided to do some laps on the back stairs of the hotel, using the elevator to go back down and sending it back up to the top when I hit the bottom (seeing a white guy blasting sweat directly out his pores charging repeatedly up the stairs out of the bowels of the hotel was something the room cleaners in the laundry room are still clucking about).   I clearly had forgotten how crushing doing stairs is; I got whipped!  But as I worked through the dizzying tedium of the staircase(which, admittedly, was about the same as the treadmill tedium; it wasn't necessarily a great trade) I started doing some mental calculations of how much I was climbing and how fast I was doing it.  And it reminded me of a question I came up with a long time ago:  is it possible for a human to climb a vertical mile in an hour?  And if so, what’s the best way to do so? 

Later - as I licked the wounds I inflicted on my hip flexors from my stairclimbing fest that seemed remarkably efficient at gaining vertical I did a bit of searching around on the interweb for notable human-powered climbs, and started with stairs.   I remembered that there has been a long-running race up the Empire State Building, and while that's obviously way less than 5280 feet, it's still notable and can provide a sense of someone's ability to elevate themselves in a hurry. Turns out that the "course" record is 9:33 by an Aussie pro cyclist named Paul Crake, who did the 1050 foot climb at a rate of 110’ per minute (unfortunately, he was later paralyzed in a cycling accident). In order to climb a vertical mile in an hour a person needs to climb 82 feet/minute, so he's clearly way faster than that, but could he go a bit slower but for 6 times as long?  It's unlikely we'll ever know, because it’s likely that there are no - to my knowledge – 5000+ foot staircases around (which is probably a good thing!)

That said, when I started talking about this with local enduro superhero Jared Campbell last fall, I was pleased (horrified?) to find a kindred soul who had not only put in as much/more thought into the concept of the vertical mile but had also actively pursued it.  Jared not only worked super hard on taking his time down on Grandeur Peak to an amazing 39 minutes (the current fastest strava time by former pro cyclist Burke Swindlehurst is 40:40 or so) which equates to a climbing rate of 84 feet/minute, so he’s in the ballpark.  And considering Jared is a past winner of the Hardrock 100, he is clearly no blow up too soon guy, so he could go farther for sure.   Additionally, Jared had not only also thought of the efficiency of climbing stairs, he had actually tested the theory on a stairmaster himself and had indeed been able to "climb" over 5280 feet in an hour.  So theoretically it could be done. 

Of course, no discussion about ridiculous outdoor endurance efforts can be done without bringing Europeans in; they of huge and accessible vertical relief in the Alps, incredible athletes, and apparently an unlimited capacity for outdoor-oriented competitions.   But in this case, of course, they don't care one whit:  a vertical "mile"?  Vas is das?   But I was discussing my philosphical question with Scott Markewitz, who told me that racing the vertical kilometer - or approximately 3300 feet - is new rage in Europe.  Of course it is! (shortly thereafter, La Sportiva introduced their lightweight trail runner called the "Vertical K"). And apparently there's a place in Switzerland  that holds the championships every October.  And this year the record - as has been done several times over the last few years - was broken, at......30:46, or a rate of an astounding 107 feet/minute, or 6400 feet/hour!   And something tells me that taking the ascent rate down 20 percent for twice as long would be no problem for these guys, if they so chose, and if the right route was presented. 

And of course, no discussion of EU outdoor endurance ridiculousness would be complete without mention of Killian Jornet.   As the NY Times put it in their excellent article: This guy is a perfect mountain endurance machine.  Last summer he came to the US for a variety of events and adventures, and one of them was to break the venerable car to car record on the Grand Teton, which he did (but this was actually broken shortly thereafter by an American).  The ascent is a little over 7000 feet, and he apparently did it in 94 or so minutes, which almost assuredly put him in the vertical mi/hr range.  And that waren't on no stairs nor down in the low/mid elevations!  It’s a decently-burly trail.

A nice guy I met at this year's rando nationals has geeked out on this stuff fortunately way more than I or even Jared have, but as a Canadian he too didn't really even consider the vertical mile, but focused a bit differently on the concept of which is the faster ascending mode: running or skinning on skis (running is) and the efficiencies associated with climbing angle with each (steeper the better for running, and a lot less - like 12-16 percent! - for skinning; take that you Wasatch steep skintrack putter-inners!). Here’s the site:  He mentions a fellow Canadian who has also done some extraordinary ascent rates, which interested me because it occurred to me that the Vancouver/Garibaldi/Whistler area might be a good venue due to big relief starting at oxygen-enriched sea level.  

Another venue that I had remembered from long ago is Mount Defiance in the Columbia River Gorge, just west of Hood River.  I remember long ago hearing that the Mazamas (the Portland version of the Mountaineers, Wasatch Mountain Club, Appalachian Mountain Club, etc:  all the clubs full of zipoffed greybeards in big boots and floppy hats) would climb Mt Hood to train for Mt. Defiance, a near-5000 foot climb.   I had done it once in approximately nineteen hundred and ninety-one,  and on our recent NW trip with a half-day to kill Ash and I decided to give it a go. 
a nice waterfall at the bottom of the hike; looks blessedly cool now!

 It's nice and steep, but too inconsistently-so near the top to make it a great venue (plus it's just shy of the magic mile!). 

Ash and I did it at a very respectable rate of 3000'/hour and had a nice time (though the summit is beyond anticlimatic; a road with a bunch of radio towers, a fact I forgot to mention to Ash, so it was a bit of a buzzkill).  
Not a real inspiring view on top of Mt Defiance! 
It's self-evident that a bicycle is a way more-efficient means for human-powered propulsion on the flats, but clearly the relative efficiency goes down as the grade steepens.  But how much?  And can a person go up a vertical mile in an hour on a bike? 

Mont Ventoux in Provence just happens to be a 5200' climb starting at something like 1000 feet, and the Tour de France visits it somehow almost every year.  The late Marco Pantani held the ascent record for some time before it was broken by third-place tour finisher Iban Mayo, followed by the likes of Lance, Jan Ullrich, Richard Virenque, and other famed climbers, all of whom have done it under an hour, and......have all been busted for drugs (Pantani was not, but it's a pretty safe bet that he was fairly well-jacked).   Tyler Hamilton has won the Mount Washington hillclimb a couple of times, climbing the ~4400 feet in just over 50 mins, or 90’/minute, and Tom Danielson – another US pro who’s been in the top of the EU peloton – has the course record of just under 50 mins, or a rate of 90’/minute This is a bit shy of 5280, but at a rate of 88 feet/minute it’s highly likely that these guys could have carried on at a slightly lower pace for 10 more minutes. 

It’d therefore be easy for me to say that my very unprofessional, unqualified theory is that yes, the vertical mile has been done in under an hour on a bike, but "not" without performance-enhancing drugs (the big climbs in the Tour De France have apparently gotten slower the last couple of years, despite continuous equipment improvements, which could be indicative of a lack of doping.  At least, that’s what the believers want to believe…)  But notably, the venerable and amazing Ned Overend was only 2:20 behind Tyler one year at a rate of 81 feet/minute (and was over 50 years old!), and we all want to think that Ned is clean…..

Me, I have climbed Grandeur's vertical K in 47 or so minutes and climbed Olympus in just over an hour, so my max is about 4000' an hour on trails.  I doubt I can get much faster than that, even if I tried (and I guess I do "try").  And I doubt I'll ever take it seriously enough to get on a stairmaster or seek out an asphalt climb to run up.   So my conclusion is that I certainly can't climb a vertical mile in an hour, but not only can it be done, it has, documented or no.

That is, if anybody cared!