Mashing snow on S. Cle Elum Ridge

Nothing like getting out after these last 2 days and riding my fatbike on deep snow. Too deep, occasionally, as it would turn out. The day started a little off as I got my car stuck in snow at the Evergreen (Woods&Steele) SnoPark at 9 am, with noone else around. I was trying to get the chains on when a snowmobiler, Fred, drove up in his 4×4. Together with his buddy, whose name I forgot, we got the chains on my car by shoveling snow and rocking the car back and forth. I was very glad that they helped me. They also gave me a nice map of snowmobile trails in the area that is published by the Cle Elum Chamber of Commerce.

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Fred suggested that I ride the loop below, which I did indeed do. We would have chatted more, but I excused myself as I was freezing in my shorts at 25 F.

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Snow-ride along South Cle Elum Ridge, starting at Woods&Steele (Evergreen) SnoPark. 30 miles, 5500 ft. elevation gain. Click for link to RidewithGPS.

I was the first out on the snow and the traction was great. It decently steep the first 3 miles, but a lot was rideable until it got even steeper and the snow had been churned by the ‘bilers passing me. Everyone was waving – good vibes out there. I could see for a few miles, but clouds were rolling in as the temperature was rising to ~25 F.

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About 2/3rd of the way up, I met a cross-country skier coming down. The first time meeting someone without a motor! We chatted briefly and then continued on our ways.

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At the first junction, I took a left onto the Cle Elum Ridge Rd. The descent had me quickly putting a few clothes back on and get my big mittens out. On the next downhill, I slipped and landed in the snow pretty quickly. There seemed to be tracks underneath the snow and it was making steering difficult. One place was particularly steep, about 29% slope according to my GPS, and I just let ‘er rip. Put my weight somewhat over my front (!) tire and hoped that that would improve the steering control. My gamble paid off and I didn’t turn into a snowman.

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The snow was pretty soft, but air could still be let out of the tires. Soon it was lunch time, which meant stomping the snow down in a few spots – I want to bring a sitting pad with me for those occasions.

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The rest of the way down to the Taneum Junction was most enjoyable. A bit slippery and tricky in places, to be sure.

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Afterwards, I got to “walk” up 3.5 miles on NF-33. I say “walk” hesitantly, as the snow was just horrible. I was leaving huge foot prints in the soft and slippery snow. I suspected that the snowmobiles had beated the snow to this consistency – it was your standard buttery mashed potatoes fare.

As it got dark, the temperature dropped to about 20F, but no stars were visible. Between pushing and riding, I finished the 9 miles of NF-33 in 4 hours.  4 hours of doing what? Thinking about parties – what makes a good vs. a bad one – thinking about coordinate systems – how axes are defined in terms of other axes in a geometrical arrangement. I let every last bit of air (almost:) out of the tires and was able to _ride_ easier than I could walk in the end.

By now, it was 6:30 pm, and there were still 3 miles and 1000 ft. of climbing back up to the S. Cle Elum ridge ahead of me. I figured that this would take about 2 hours at my going rate. But, what do you know, the snow had firmed up! My legs didn’t complain and after taking off my clothes, I rode up in only an hour. All ills from the NF-33 had been erased. At the top, I took a short brake to put all, and I mean all, my clothes back on for the 4.5 miles and 2300 ft. descent. I figured that going down might take me an hour, as the snow was pretty badly  ‘moguled’ in places.

But, I got luck again: Corduroy! I couldn’t believe it – freshly groomed trail. That was the first time I saw what grooming can do.

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So beautiful – flying down the snow super highway at 20 mph and in 20 F, I did have to stop every few minutes to let my nose and eyes thaw.

I was wondering what kind of machine could do such a magic act – and so quickly. When at the bottom, I ran into the groomer. The machine was huge but quiet and not stinky.

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2 Responses to Mashing snow on S. Cle Elum Ridge

  1. Glad you are riding in a winter wonderland! Lee

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