Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cache Mountain or Bust!

High temps (FAI): 31-33F
Low temps (FAI): 6-9F
Mileage: 78.As temperatures in the Fairbanks area skyrocketed into the high 30s, 40s, and near 50F in some places in the hills this past week, I began biting my nails for this weekend, as I had a near 80-mile bike trip planned for an overnight. When it gets that warm, the snow begins to get soft and rot, creating a nearly impossible trail to float on. So on that note, I was prepared for what could have been a 15 hour per day excursion for the 39 miles out to Cache Mountain cabin and back in the Whites, a big 'training ride' for my race. BUT! I got lucky and temps cooled down just enough to make conditions favorable for solidly the third weekend in a row.The first 10 miles of the trail had been torn up by snowmachines and dog sleds the night before while the snow was soft, and then refroze to create rut-hazards for my tires. Luckily by the time I got to mile 16 at Moose Creek cabin, the trail stabilized and was in fantastic shape.
The temperatures quickly advanced into the 30s, esp up in the hills, so I ended up folding up my pants to make shorts out of them, pushing my sleeves up on a thin baselayer to create a short-sleeved shirt, and was riding with my hands out of my pogies. It was pretty uncomfortable, really. I think ideal conditions are +20 when all you need is a thin baselayer and can get by with pants. But, as I descended into the valleys, I had to cover up again as temperatures easily fluctuated 20 degrees between the hills and valleys. The trail between Moose Creek cabin (mile 16) and Crowberry (mile 26) was in awesome shape and very easy riding.
Everything was great and dandy til all of a sudden at mile 25, my front derailleur seemed to have stopped working, as I couldn't shift out of my little ring. I could not figure out what had happened, but stopped to take a look at things to find out that an impressive amount of ice had built up on my bike because of the moist snow. I wasn't able to fix the front derailleur until I got to the cabin where Bob helped me troubleshoot it. The photo above is some ice buildup after I punched a chunk of it off already.
Then, going down a big hill after Crowberry cabin (mile 26), I found out that one of my rear brake pads had completely disappeared (wonder when that happened???), so I was rolling without much stopping capability.

Then! My rear derailleur stopped working. The cabling had just been flushed and relubricated with something that was thought to be good for cold weather, but apparently that was not the case and it froze up.. I have never had my shifting completely stop working before, and by now have put hundreds of miles of winter riding in. Not so fun. I was pretty unhappy actually, because I still had about 12 miles to go just to get to the cabin and I was riding a singlespeed bike in a low gear, which meant I couldn't crank faster than 4 mph. On the bright side, at least my bike was stuck in a low gear and not a high one, because I was able to pedal everything. But still frustrating nonetheless.
Crossing Beaver Creek was exciting. With the recent warm temps I was a little sketched out by this as there was standing water in spots, but I was able to traverse across without encountering any liquid.
After that Beaver Creek crossing, I had to cross part of it again.
There were a few sections of overflow like this, too. Only one of them caught me offguard as I though I was being clever walking through the snow alongside it, to instead plunge my boot several inches into water. Good thing those overboots are waterproof!

Despite all of those mechanical issues, I still got to the cabin several hours before I ever expected to get there, feeling great. Bob was already out there as he started earlier in the morning.

Bruno showed up a couple hours later, having skiied with a pack for the first time, from the McKay Creek trailhead, and then Kate, Chris, Stephan, and Mike showed up a few hours after him. I was very thankful to see them, as I put my big meals on the sled Stefan hauled in via snowmachine. Oh yeah, and because they are awesome people, too!
Woke up to a beautiful morning.. cooler than the day before. And Stefan and Kate made us a delicious breakfast of eggs and bacon. Mmm!
Group shot outside of the cabin.
Bob the speedy skier! I have never seen anyone classic ski so efficiently before. He gave me a run for my money on my wheels.
The lack of snow this season has created some cruddy parts of the trail. Here are tussocks sticking up through the trail. There were some short sections which were worse than this. I started having rear shifting issues again.. but once I got up in the hills everything unfroze itself.
My cross back over Beaver Creek was successful, as I gained the guts to ride over it on the way back knowing there wasn't funky bubbly ice sitting in the trail. Brrrr it was cold down there. I was pretty motivated to get to the hill where the temp would warm up 20 degrees.
Another awesome weekend! Everyone did great on their traverse and were enjoyable company. I am very pleased with this ride and feeling more confident in troubleshooting mechanical issues which I am glad happened now so I know what to do. This was my favorite winter biking trip so far! Stephan also blogged his experience (in German) here.

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