Sugarloaf Peak – with sunshine

Another fatbike/snowbike ride up to this peak – but this time in beaming sunshine.

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The warm weather meant that the roads didn’t have a lot of snow in the beginning and a sign said that the road was closed to vehicles. But, oddly, the snowmobiles were gone too, so I had the entire Entiat range to myself. Oh, it was delightful. Only the occasional sound of a bird, or snow falling off trees, added to the sound my stomping.  Yes, not much riding was had on the way up as the snow was very difficult to ride on. First, it was like velcro, offering immense rolling friction, then it was 4″ of fresh powder over ice, which was even difficult to walk on at times.

But, progress was made and eventually, after 4 hours, I had covered the 10 miles to Sugarloaf Peak.

Tiny ripples frozen in the snow.

Tiny ripples frozen in the snow.

Leaving pedal tracks in the 4, 5" of powder up on NF-6101.

Sugarloaf Peak in sight, I was leaving pedal tracks in the 4, 5″ of powder up on NF-6101.

From higher up, I could see that the Fish Lake SnoPark was void of snow. No wonder there weren’t any ‘bilers out. A bit of riding here and there lead to the final push up to the peak.

No snow at Lake Wenatchee.

No snow at Lake Wenatchee or Fish Lake.

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Made it.

A bit of looking around, eating, and photography lead to a doze/nap on a dry wooden bench. It was cold and a bit windy, but the warm clothes that I had brought were perfect for this and I enjoyed the view for half an hour.

My view from the bench: Stormy mountain the middle (far back), and Baldy mountain to its right.

My view from the bench: Stormy mountain the middle (far back), and Baldy mountain to its right.

Glacier Peak in the middle.

Glacier Peak in the middle.

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Mount Stuart and the Entchantment Peaks in the south.

Mount Stuart and the Enchantment Peaks to the south.

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Sugarloaf Peak lookout.

Sugarloaf Peak Lookout.

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Obligatory panorama shot.

Then, it was time to go back. I wasn’t sure how much would be rideable, but tried it immediately. I took a tumble riding over a small snow cornice at the top and was lucky that my bike landed besides me, instead on top of me. Brushed off the snow and then was able to ride down all that hard-earned elevation. Much better than last time when I had to push down from the top. What a ride: plowing through deep snow and only sliding out a handful of times. Delightful.

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Riding down from the top...

Riding down from the top… no pedaling required..

quickly lead to where I had been 2 hours before.

quickly lead to where I had been 2 hours before.

I mostly avoided riding in the rut that I had created on the hike up since it had gotten a little wobbly and hard. Sunshine, snow, downhill – all this brought me back to the car in 8 hours, during which I had covered a grand total of 21 miles and 4000 ft. el. It doesn’t seem like much, but I felt like I had been way out there on top of Sugarloaf Peak. And wondering what it’d be like to stay the night, or perhaps push on towards some of those mountains that I saw in the distance.

Perfect ending to a great day out with the bike.

Perfect ending to a great day out with the bike is to be coasting down after having pushed all this up.

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Sugarloaf Peak – all snowed in

I wanted to see if I could peakbag Sugarloaf. As I found out on my ride last weekend, the Fish Lake SnoPark is a bit too far away for doing this as a day trip for me, so the next best approach appeared to be from Deer Creek Road. There are a couple small parking lots plowed for vehicles along the 7520 Rd., and I parked right at the intersection. A lot of snowmobilers were going up and down in the first mile, so many actually that I almost thought of turning around; the stench of the engines was just awful.

But, after that initial busy-ness, I had the road all to myself for the next hour or so. It’s so peaceful to ride on a snowed-in road, and snow makes everything look so pretty and clean.

It was snowing all day and I almost chocked on a big fat snowflake. That was silly – it melted and I didn’t even have to cough. My thick woolie baselayer kept me warm enough, even though it was soaked and covered with snow. It seems to be the ticket down to 25 F while climbing at a snails pace.

Heading up the Entiat Summit Rd.

Heading up the Entiat Summit Rd.

Sugarloaf Peak! Almost there.

Sugarloaf Peak! Almost there.

I had to walk the last mile – the snow was getting soft and thick. A group of ‘bilers arrived just before me and wanted to take my picture. That’s the second time in 2 weeks; I seem to be quite the attraction out there on the trails. Many people would stop for a quick chat or gave me a thumbs up.

Sugarloaf Peak lookout.

Sugarloaf Peak lookout.

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The snowmobilers up at the top told me of all the views that one would have on a clear day. I need to come back here! After the obligatory peak shot and my last cookie, I spent 10 minutes in the outhouse trying to come up with the best way to switch up my clothing layers. In the end, I just put the fleece pullover over my wet woolie, and then the thin wet jacket, covered all with a windbreaker. For bikepacking, the wet baselayer on the bottom would have been a bad idea as my fleeze was damp after a while, too. I added a backlava and pulled the hood over that. Finally, big puffy mittens went on my ice cold hands and I was ready for the descent. After laughing and sliding for the first mile down, I let some more air out and was on my merry way. I’ve never heard of anyone riding with 2 psi, but that’s what my digital gauge tells me I have in the front and rear tires. It seems to do the trick. With still an hour before sunset, the ride down was incredible. All the hard work going up paid off: coasting, riding bumps, sliding, pedalling some, watching snow-covered trees go by – all the while enjoying toasty toes and warm fingers.

Back down the Entiat Summit Road.

Back down the Entiat Summit Road.

21 miles, 4000 ft. el., GPX track

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Fish Lake SnoPark excursion

There are a lot of SnoParks in Washington. This weekend, I explored the trails starting at the Fish Lake SnoPark near Lake Wenatcheee. It was cloudy and foggy all day – not the best for pictures, but it was still a fun outing. I met sled dog teams near the beginning – a first for me. The dogs are totally quiet when they run, and they were excited to be running. Their blue eyes looked like they just came out of “Dune”.

The first sled dog team that I encountered - ever - near Fish Lake SnoPark.

The first sled dog team that I encountered – ever – near Fish Lake SnoPark.

Sled dog teams 2 and 3.

Sled dog teams 2 and 3.

I decided to ride up the Faultline trail and then head out towards Sugar Loaf Peak. At one intersection, a couple guys on snowmobiles were taking a break and asked about my bike – I let them ride it – and in return they offered to let me take a snowmobile for a ride. I accepted. First time riding a snowmobile for me! So, off I went about a hundred yards and then decided to turn around. However, that didn’t really happen as snowmobiles do not turn around easily, and my manuvering and heaving the beast just got it more into the ditch. After a while, the two guys came over and just gassed it. It went right over a brush and out of the ditch. Whoof. That was fun.

I headed onwards and had my lunch break after a while. Looking at the clock, I was only 1/2 way along the bottom trail, 7D, towards the turn-off for Sugar Loaf Peak, so I turned around. Maybe I’ll go for that destination another time.

20150110_135934small 20150110_152316smallIt was a pretty good ride. The trails were semi-busy. A group would pass me every 20 minutes or so, and wave or count-down which position in the group they were in. Nice. But overall a bit too busy for me with regards to the exhaust fumes which lingered in the still air for a long time.

32 miles, 4000 ft. el., GPX track

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Snow ride to Cayuse Pass

My idea to welcome the New Year was with a fatbike ride to look at Mt. Rainier. The weather was cooperating (not cloudy), so I headed out at 6:10a for the 2 hour drive to the Highway 410 area. The density of cars increased the closer I got to Chrystal Mountain ski resort, but instead of following up to the resort, I parked below near the Mt. Rainier National Park entrance. About an hour after sunrise, I set the bike wheels in motion to see what would be rideable along the 410 Highway and perhaps the Sunrise Rd.

The Mt. Rainier entrance was decorated by a headless snowman.

The Mt. Rainier entrance was decorated by a headless snowman.

After all the teaching preparations for the upcoming quarter, my mind was spinning faster than my wheels. Frozen waterfalls graced the rock wall along one side of the road. With time, I found a rut left behind by a wheeled vehicle to ride in, and made fairly steady progress.
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I was the first person out there, but after a while I heard a snowmobile approaching from behind. It was nice to chat for a while with the avid backcountry skier, but I quickly cooled off and continued at my sluggish pace to stay warm.
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It’s quite techy to climb a 5% road covered in semi-slippery snow. The snow was a on the edge of being rideable for me. I let air out of my tires 3 times, each time gaining valuable traction. I learned some new skills that helped when the wheel started to slip and I was still getting bogged down in spite of the very low tire pressure:
1: go easier (not harder) on the pedals
2: gently shift your weight over the rear wheel
3: pedal smoother than humanly possible
4: hone your instinct of where snow is slightly more compacted
5: ride in a straight line at 3 mph in said 8″ rut for miles on-end

It was fun, despite what it may sound like. A few times I thought that I was done for and would have to turn around, but a bit of walking through a soft section and more rideable snow was found again. I surprised myself and laughed as I was riding a bike where it really didn’t seem possible at first glance.

After gaining a bit of elevation, a break in the trees made the whole trip worthwhile. It’s the early morning of Jan. 1, 2015, and I see this. Not a bad way to start the new year.

Mt. Rainer from the 410 highway up to Cayuse Pass.

Mt. Rainer from the 410 highway up to Cayuse Pass.

A few pictures later, I was on my way again, constantly surprised that the snow, despite getting deeper, was still rideable.
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The higher I got, the warmer and sunnier it became – time to take off the thermal pants. Towards the top, it was only 50% riding. But still, riding a fatbike, up here? In winter? Conditions were as perfect as they probably ever get here.
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As it was getting time for me to turn around, the road started to level out and the snow was getting too fluffy and deep to ride. I had just reached Cayuse Pass. I didn’t think that I would make it here. Ah ha: there is Naches Peak! The only sound I heard was snow falling off tree branches. Amazing.

Snowbike ride the top of Cayuse Pass, just past the intersection with the snowed-in highway 123.

Naches Peak comes into view at the top of Cayuse Pass, just past the intersection with the snowed-in highway 123.

Gratuitous Dillinger 5 shot:

Dillinger 5 on the front.

Now it was really time to turn around and see if this white stuff is any easier to ride down. And it was! I rode everything, no pushing required. I couldn’t believe my luck.

Back down Highway 410 we go.

Back down Highway 410 we go.

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I quickly made it back to the White River/Sunrise Rd. and had to stop to chat with all the hikers/snowshoers/skiers that were heading up. “Those are the biggest tires I have ever seen.” was the exclamation from almost everyone I met.

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Route stats: 20 miles, 2500 ft. elevation gain. GPX track.

Cayuse Pass snowbike trip.

Cayuse Pass snowbike trip.

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