Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve climb

Whitehorse is my kind of place in nearly every way. The mountain biking is amazing in the summer, and, if you can get around that fact that it's 0 degrees out, it's also amazing in the winter. Snowmobile trails form an elaborate web of possibilities for many dozens of miles in all directions. Walkers and skiers pack down hard singletrack trails all around town. Snow is light and dry and winter thaws are very rare, so nice trails tend to stay that way. And, if you're feeling up to it, you can ride away from town and climb ~3,000 feet to the top of a 5,000-foot-high mountain. Weeee!

Anthony and I set out late in the morning to climb Mount Mcintyre. I managed to show up for my Christmas snow biking vacation just in time for the first fresh snowfall here in weeks, but on the bright side, it "warmed" up, which means it's 0 to 15 degrees instead of -20. I'm kind of bummed I missed the bluebird clear skies those temperatures tend to bring, but even under flat lighting, the Interior is beautiful.

Above treeline, the wind was blowing steady at about 30 mph and the occasional gusts were beyond harsh. I had good wind layers on and, with the exception of my head, didn't feel the chill too badly, but the wind really was as cold as it looks. Brutal. The trail had drifted in quite a bit and the light was too flat to pick a good line in the sandy chop, so after much struggling and jumping on and off the bike, we finally resigned ourselves to the death-march push to the top.

At the top of the mountain, I realized another kink in my system. I had brought a really warm pair of pogies and only a thin pair of gloves. I quickly realized that I couldn't separate myself from my bike for more than five minutes before my fingers froze. The long, gradual slope of Mcintyre is deceiving, like those volcanoes in Hawaii. You can be more than 2,000 feet vertical below the peak and it still looks like it's just a quick skip to the top. But, elevation-wise, this is higher than any mountain I've climbed in Juneau yet. Pretty cool to be this high this far north, on Dec. 24.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all no frostbite!