Friday, November 07, 2008

Why winter is more fun

Date: Nov. 7
Mileage: 37.0
November mileage: 227.2

Friday, again. Time to put in my long day for the week. I promised myself I'd ride hard up to Eaglecrest, push my bike for a while, and if the snow was good, spend the rest of the day playing. Six hours of daylight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., every one used well.

The weather was fabulous - 40 degrees, fog and snow flurries at sea level. But at 3,000 feet, temperatures were in the high 20s and skies were clearing. The thin snowpack has had a steady diet of rain over the past few days, and in its refrozen condition was in great shape for biking. The road itself was pretty chewed up by a SnowCat, but I could ride right on top of the frozen muskeg. I spent some time pushing my bike and descending (you know, carving turns) at midmountain before I ditched the bike and headed high. The clouds started to clear just as I was approaching the upper elevations. Most of these photos are from my long walk along the ridgeline.

The snow was still in great condition on the ridge - hardpacked and smooth. I only sank in a few inches on my feet. I should have dragged my bike up there. It would probably be a little like riding sand-dusted slickrock.

Some trees have harder lives than others.

Clouds still hovered low over every ridgeline but mine.

There was amazingly almost no wind up high, rare for a winter day. Even rarer in late fall. I stopped at this spot and ate a Hershey bar. You know what's even better than sitting in the sun, soaking up its warmth and eating chocolate? Earning it.

Back down the ridge, looking for a way to this peak. I have to be really careful with my winter hiking because I'm still traveling without an ice ax and crampons (I really must buy some), and in the shade the snow was as hard and slippery as ice. I couldn't go anywhere where a fall would be disastrous, and I couldn't find a way to the peak.

Oh well. I'll just make up my own peak, like Dr. Cook's famed "first ascent" of Mount Denali.

Back down after several hours, realizing that I may just run out of daylight before I get any more riding in.

Cool clouds on the horizon.

Coming down was amazing fun. This is the "slickrock" muskeg that I was riding at mid-mountain. I cut off the road when it started to get sloppy and weaved through a few trees before emerging in the open. I saw a group of young skiers and snowboarders walking up the road. When they saw me coming, they started yelling, "Hey, biker! Yeah biker!" The terrain started to get a little sketchy, but I didn't want to lose face. I let off the brakes and slalomed through a shallow gully, punching through a small berm and shooting onto the bare gravel of the road just below them. I kept accelerating down the road as they cheered me on. I felt great about having actually survived the move and even better about the brilliant way in which I showcased my unique form of snowriding. I am Downhill Snowbiker.

I love winter.