Big Views from the Big Hill

I suppose not many people plan a trip from Seattle to the Entiat mountains during a weekday, just because the European medium-range weather forecast looks good, even though the US weather model is forecasting very high winds. Luckily, the US model converged to the European model just the day before, so the weather question was settled.

Starting the drive at 3.30 am, I was riding by 8.30 am. Trouble is, this was supposed to be a 3.30 hour drive. Where did the time go?

The ride destination was Big Hill and the cabin there, which can be reached via 2 ways: either from the Ardenvoir side or from Lake Chelan. I thought that the views might be better climbing up from Lake Chelan’s Twentyfive Mile Creek SnoPark, opposite of Manson where I rode last month.

And I got really lucky: freshly groomed trail – this will be my day! The first view of Lake Chelan came quickly – I am sure this is the scenic way.

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Not surprisingly, as 9 am came and went, no snowmobiles passed by – which is typically the time when I get passed by them. The road enters a forest a bit higher and passes by a campground.

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The weather forecast seemed to hold true, as it was sunny now, but I could see clouds building in the distance – which were supposed to dissipate again in the late afternoon.

Across the lake is Cooper mountain, but I am not sure where it is exactly.

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I had only taken about 1.5 liters of water, but no stove. My idea was to see if I could melt water with my body heat simply by adding snow to the reservoir. When I was down to only 0.5 liters, I stuffed snow in the bladder. It was an ice-water mixture. Hopefully it will melt soon – as I was rather hot in the sun when the wind died down. After many grand vistas along mile-long switchbacks, the road leveled off. Did I reach the ridge?

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While I could see a nice descent coming up, the only ascent seemed a bit hideous going up the next ridge to the left! I was hoping that that wouldn’t be true.

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But, first there was a grand view of Lake Chelan to the right. Wow. Snowbiking is miraculous.

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But, yes, the road went up the ridge – luckily only part-ways before bypassing the peak on the right. I was sure glad the groomer was doing such a great job on this section.

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I thought for sure, that I would ride along the ridge now, but as ridge-line roads have it, they are never flat.

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Plenty more pushing up to a hut which I had forgotten about, just as I was looking for a lunch spot.

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It took some effort to yank the frozen door open.

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Inside where all the goodies one could hope for in a mountain hotel, and I plopped myself down on a bench.

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It could have been a pretty warm place with the sunshine, but unfortunately the window on the right was missing, and only -mostly- covered with tarp. The snow still hadn’t melted in my hydration bladder, so I propped it up next to some logs where the sun shone in though the sky-window. After checking text messages and eating some chips, I was getting rather cold inside and quickly packed up, and bundled up for the mile-long descent that I saw on the Google elevation profile. Yep, 4G up here! The directions said 1.5 hours to Big Hill by bike, or 2.5 hours by foot. I figured I’d probably be around 2 hours, which would be correct.

Impressive stormy clouds were hovering just south over the 4-mile ridge and beyond at Sugarloaf Pk / Miners Ridge areas.

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Suddenly, I bonked hard. I could barely push my bike up a slight incline. Would this be the end of the trip? Then, I remembered that I had packed a Coke (non-diet) and slowly drank the extremely bubbly beverage. At high altitude, sparkly beverages seem to be much foamier than at sea level.  Much to my delight, the sugar, caffein and phosphoric acid nourished me much more than such junk should, and I was able to continue after what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was only 5 minutes.

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In the distance, I saw what could be called ‘a big hill’, but it still seemed quite far away.

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It turns out, the Big Hill was just beyond the first mountain on the right, not in the far back. I could see from here a road cut through the side of the mountain, but it would turn out to be the summer road; in winter the snowmobile trail is a fall-line going straight up at 35%. But, I did not know that at this time, and happily pedaled along the nicely groomed road.

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Then I started to wonder, did snowmobiles randomly go up this mountain instead of following the road to the left, or is that my route? That can’t be my route!

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But, it was.

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While it was pretty steep, the real problem was the ice on the groomed trail covered in snow. Try as I did, I kept sliding down. So, I had to push up in the soft shoulder where at least I didn’t slide down – but it took a lot more work to push the bike up through the snow.

Pheew!

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My goal was to make it to the top of this ‘hill’, and then turn around. This pushing is ridiculous even for me. And reaching the top, I could see the fall-line trail madness continuing. I am done!

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But wait, not so fast. The next hill is “Big Hill”! I can do one more of these, and this one doesn’t look as steep, nor as long. Destination reached, I completely forgot about the pain getting here, and the fact that there was supposed to be a cabin up here.

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A wee-bit snowed in, but I think one could dig the door out quickly with a small shovel.

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The inside looked baren and clean, but troubling was the lack of firewood for the stove inside. But, maybe the sun shining through the window would have warmed this ice cave up a bit?

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Time to geek out with my camera.

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On turning around, I noticed that it was 4.30 pm. Sunset would be in one hour already! What a long day this will be be. But, first I get to enjoy the downhill-fruit of my pushing. Oh what fun rolling down the snowy, icy trail in complete control on the Johnny 5 tires!

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A little bit later, I met the groomer. Not that I thought the trail needed much, if any, grooming! He hasn’t put down the grooming attachment and was digging up the trail with the wide tracks. Luckily, there was a smooth path left in the middle. I was wondering which way the groomer had gone up. It turns out he had come up from the Ardenvoir side, and would now likely follow me down to the 25 Mile Creek side.

I was worried that he might catch up and pass me on the next climb (there was no room to pass), and then I’d be stuck behind him on the downhill, which would be 10 miles long. The groomer is quiet, sometimes you can’t hear the machine until you suddenly see it coming around a corner.

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Back at the yurt, I got ready for the long downhill: put on my warm clothes, ate an Egg-McMuffin, and put shoe warmers in. I still had some ice-water mixture left in the hydration bladder; enough to make it home.

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Just as I was ready to leave the yurt, the groomer passed by! Oh no, did I miss my chance to beat him to the downhill race?  But, as I looked out the door, I saw that he turned up to the Junior Pt. campground / viewpoint. I think I’ve got myself a 2 min head start!

I raced down and as I was pushing up the last hill, I kept looking back to check if I’d make it to the top before him.

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He came up quickly to where I was walking, but I also was able to keep moving and made it to the top before him. A 10 mile, 4000 ft. descent under dark, starry skies, brought me back to the car by 7.30 pm. 11 hours of quality fatbike time.

 

This entry was posted in fatbike, snowbike, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Big Views from the Big Hill

  1. Good story Martin. Looks mighty cold for this desert rat. Lee

  2. Igor Tatarinov says:

    Awesome adventure. That road climb is tough even in the summer. But not as scenic. The cabin is great for staying overnight and riding Pyramid mt the next day!

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