Monday, April 18, 2016

North Cascades Highway 2016

Last weekend, I headed up to the North Cascades Highway for my annual Spring Pilgrimage.  Every Winter, the west side of the pass is closed at milepost 134 due to avalanche danger.  Each Spring, the road closure remains here while work being done to clear the pass all the way over both Rainy and Washington passes to Mazama and points beyond in Eastern Washington.

Looking back down the way I had come.
I had been checking the WSDOT Web, Twiiter, and Facebook pages for updates and the most recent news had them clearing the roads about 10-15 miles up from the road closure.  So I paced myself with this distance in mind.  To my surprise, the mile markers kept rolling by and as I was up to about 18 miles, my thoughts went from, “oh, it’s nice to get some good miles in” to “when will this end?” as the fatigue accumulated.  I can do shorter hill reps and repeat them multiple times, but this doesn’t really prepare the legs for an uphill effort of 15 miles.  Finally, the end was in sight, and I rode past the snow blowing equipment to the point that I could ride no further.

Looking further up the road.

Here, I took the few pictures posted here, ate a banana, added some layers, and started my descent.  As the road was closed to cars, I took full advantage and rode both up and down on the racing line, trying to shorten the distance by apexing the corners.  This is much more fun on the way down, and I didn’t change out of the biggest gear the first 10-12 miles of the descent.  With the road wet from runoff and the speeds high, it was quite cold initially, but losing altitude rapidly helps.  There is a short uphill on the return just at the end that always manages to make the legs feel fried, and this time was no different, but the road closure gate and parking lot soon appeared and the effort was over.  All that remained was to fill the stomach and legs.

The trusty carbon steed.
It was a great day out on the bike and I hope that I might be able to make it up one more time this season before they open the road.