Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Meltdown Has Begun

It appears the great spring melt-down has begun in the higher elevations, but the weather is still a risky mix at any given time. One of my favorite 60-mile MTB loops that I typically ride all winter has been rather impassable this year (lots of snow or blown in snow). Well maybe it was open quite a bit, but not during the times when I was up there staring at the wall of snow in my path.

The first two pics here are where the wall of snow existed, but some nice county chap must have cleared it with his monster tractor (thanks I say) because just a few weeks ago I ventured way up there again to find that the majority of my preferred route had been cleared allowing a fun ride through snow canyons.

But not all of it has been cleared...

Which means I had to ride a bit more pave than I desire (dirt is better anytime), but in the end it was still fun (I guess)...

I've been back several times over the last few weeks and have noticed the snow walls have diminished from canyon walls to small drifts. But the weather is still a terror up there at times...the first ride I started out in sunshine (ahh...great stuff), which progressed into a soaking downpour. I had time to pull out my rain jacket and tent it over me and part of the bike. Just as quickly as it started it ended. A bit higher up I was in a white-out of ice/snow-pellets (aka "graupel").

What next? Wind! Ouch was all I could say going home struggling to maintain forward momentum going downhill into the wind (30 miles of pedaling into a strong head-wind can make anyone wimper some).

After all the weather mishaps on my first trip up there this year I was back 3-days later smiling all the way because ironically nearly the same thing happened again. What should you take home from this lesson??? Always be prepared. I've had people pick up my pack with a grunt and ask what's in there? Survival...nothing more, nothing less.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Climb is Always On

It seems I have a terrible desire to climb long, steep hills on a bike...While suffering up many climbs I have thought about why I feel a need to do this kind of torturous thing to myself. It's so bad that there have been times I've gotten to the top of a long 12-20% grade just to turn around so I can climb it again. That is totally insane...What it wrong with me??? I have yet to answer this question that my internal voice asks everytime my legs are burning up a hill.

I still do stop and enjoy the good stuff along the way though - like here on the bridge over Asotin Creek (about 20 miles from home) I am in the classical "Largent" position (for those who don't know, Largent is a road-tourist type that can be found in the nap-position nearly anywhere). I typically stop here to refuel, enjoy the sounds from the creek, the warmth of the sun, and ponder on which of 4-rides I really want to suffer up from this point on. On this day I chose to head up the South Fork Asotin Creek (uhmm...very steep at the start) until I ran into sticky mud and snow (which was not very far up as you can see from the first steep point on the profile) then I venture back down and up Campbell grade (1000 feet up in about 1-mile, which means it's a tad steep). Total climbing this day was ~4300 feet.
A few days later I found myself riding up George Creek Grade and beyond. I turned around after I decided it was getting a tad late to keep going without any lights on the bike. At the bottom of the grade I turned the Ellsworth 650B around to climb up the hill again just to be sure I would finish off any excess energy I still had (4700 feet total climbing this day). I recovered by going to work and running my buns off for a few days at the always busy TriState Hospital Emergency Department (because that is where I work). In between some of these medium-lenth mountain-bike rides I typically make a few loops (2-6 usually depending time) at Hells Gate State Park. The middle of the profile below is 2-loops at Hells Gate that I did on my single-speed (2900 feet of climbing). I can hardly wait for the snow to melt so I can get back to doing more of those 8-10,000+ foot days! As always anyone is welcome to ride with me.