Sunday, February 13, 2011

Heartbreak Ridge at night and in the snow!

Scott from Indy arrived at my house in the ICS Shuttle right at the scheduled time yesterday, at 1:30PM. We were quickly packed up and headed North for a day of Rattlesnake->Old Toll->Heartbreak Ridge. What a fantastic day in the woods it became. The parking lot at Kitsuma was packed to the gills and folks were complaining about how awful of shape that trail is in right now. Well that seals that, no prelude lap today. As we got started the weather was perfect: High 30's/Low 40's without a cloud in the sky.
The climb up through Ridgecrest and Rattlesnake went by quickly and I felt good about my efforts as I cleaned all of Rattlesnake. We took a quick detour to the peak
that Mike B had shown me just a week prior then pushed on towards Old Toll. We ran into a surly cast of characters:
at the intersection and after a quick breather we were all headed up the road. Well it took about 2.5 seconds and Scott and I were riding by ourselves again.
Old Toll Road is so much fun. The tread is constantly changing from smooth doubletrack to hell pave' to downright riding on all rock and back around again.
There are also tremendous views of the distant mountains looming to the right for the entire climb.

There are also dreadlocked hikers with dogs, hardcore runners, and occasionally another cyclist or two. Scott and I had different tempos for the climb so we yo-yo'd the entire way to the top. One item of note, there was much more snow up there than either of us had anticipated. Every time the trail went to the North side of the mountain we were riding on solid ice with a fresh coat of one inch of powder on top of it.

As we climbed the ice and snow got thicker and thicker and the temperature kept dropping. By the time we made it to the trailers I had become a bit concerned. The sun was just about to set and I already had on every bit of clothing I had with me.... and I was still cold.... and we had a high speed descent ahead of us. It was time to get down off that hill ASAP.
The stretch of trail between the trailers and the field hightened that since of concern as we were suddenly postholing through 5-8" of ice topped snow, slowly pushing our bikes just below the highest peak East of the Mississippi as the sun set and the temps dropped. I guess I was visibly cold at the field because Scott offered the only piece of extra clothing he had along to me. I gladly accepted the balaclava before we started the reason for climbing the 11 miles to that point, the Heartbreak Ridge descent.
more later.

We started the Heartbreak descent with caution for a couple of reasons. First Scott was expecting to pull his helmet light out of his bag at the top but what he found when he opened it up was his bar light. 'Dammit! I need to see on this trail' was his first reaction. Then, just after the right turn I nearly lost it. 'WooHoo! Just put your leg out if y'r goin down!' Scott yelled forward. OK, just because the Icycle was going on right then and folks else where were being heros, the same should not apply to two guys descending Heartbreak in the snow at night. We cautiosly picked our way down without any super-high-speeds or big moves, just smile inducing flowy descending all the way down. The temps were rising as we descended, too. That made me more comfortable, to say the least. Despite our cautions we both hit the deck once during the descent. Scott went down harder than I had ever witnessed. After the second climb his bars clipped a tree and the resulting crash I heard above the iPod that was blasting Black Keys in one ear. I stopped, looked back, and saw Scott laying flat on his stomach. 'Are you OK?' No answer. I dropped the bike and started towards him when he got up holding his wrist. A few moments later we were rolling again, he was fine. Then, at the very very bottom just before the camp I came into the final turn too hot. I lost it on the rootball and highsided. Luckily I had reduced my speed to almost zero just before it happened, and I was also OK.
The climb up Mill Creek Rd was no more tough than usual and we kept together until the big switchback. We regrouped at the pavement and were back at the ICS Shuttle moments later. Great ride Scott. Thanks for getting out there late in the day!