Sunday, August 28, 2016

2016_08_21 Puyallup Cyclopaths' "Rainiering" Ride - the long version

Author:  Mike Hassur

It usually doesn’t take me this long to create a blog post after a ride – particularly one as noteworthy as last Sunday’s “Rainiering” Ride.  This last week was a busy one (I worked three days even though I am “allegedly” retired, and I began to catch up on some of the work around our house that I have been ignoring all summer).  Anyway, I’ve finally gotten around to writing about one of the most memorable rides that I have ever done.

Sometime last winter, we were talking about “Everesting” (i.e. doing a ride in which you did an amount of climbing that equaled the height of Mt. Everest – 29,029’).  No one (except maybe Leon) was giving it any serious consideration, but it was interesting just to talk about it.  Craig Hill, then, suggested that we should consider doing something more realistic and that had a more local flavor to it.  We would call it “Rainiering”, and the ride would involve 14,411’ of climbing.  Rob Critchfield added to the idea by suggesting that we include every climb on Mt. Rainier in the ride (i.e. Sunrise, Cayuse Pass north and south, Chinook Pass, Backbone Ridge east and west, and both sides of the climb to Paradise).

These ideas always sound exciting and eminently “doable” in the winter.  As summer approached and the reality of what we had proposed started to sink in, I started to give the logistics of the ride some serious thought.  For example, the afternoon traffic could be a significant problem in two places on the ride: the climb to Sunrise and the climb to Paradise from the west side (Nisqually Entrance).  In addition, we found out in the Spring of 2016 that there was significant road work being done between Longmire and Paradise which could impact our ride.  It was with these thoughts in mind that we settled on the following route:

·         Leg #1 (~56 miles):  Grove of the Patriarchs' Parking Lot --> up Cayuse Pass (south side) --> up Chinook Pass --> down Chinook Pass and  Cayuse Pass (north side) to Sunrise turnoff --> up Sunrise and back down --> up Cayuse Pass (north side) --> down Cayuse Pass (south side) and back to our vehicles

·         Leg #2 (~40 miles):  Grove of the Patriarchs' Parking Lot --> up Backbone Ridge (east side) --> down Backbone Ridge (west side) --> up to Reflection Lake and on up to Paradise --> retrace our steps back to the vehicles

·         Leg #3 (~35 miles):  Grove of the Patriarchs' Parking Lot --> up White Pass (all the way or at least until we get to 14,411') --> retrace our path back to the vehicles 

The ideas being that we would get Sunrise out of the way early (when there might be less traffic) and that we would substitute White Pass for the climb from the Nisqually Entrance to Paradise due to the road conditions.  Also, on the last leg of the ride, it was pretty much downhill back to the vehicles if someone “bonked” which would not be the case on the climb up the west side to Paradise.

We had a fairly small group for this ride: Dwaine Trummert, Les Becker, Adam Abrams, and me.  Other people were interested in going, but fate had taken its toll on our group (Leon injured knee, John Winter building a new house, Rob Critchfield recuperating from gall bladder surgery, Aaron Gerry doing an Ironman Triathlon the same weekend as the ride, Connor Collins away at college, Scott Larsen just had a new addition to the family, Mario Rivas had other obligations, Craig Hill (the guy who came up with this idea) recuperating from a bike crash, etc.).  I had no qualms about the guys that we had going on this ride, but I was a little worried none-the-less.  I had already “Rainiered” once at The Climb, but I was alone and able to do it on my own terms.  This time would be different.  I would be part of a group (which I usually love) and that worried me in two ways:

1.       Pace:  these guys were really strong riders.  I didn’t want to hold them back; and, conversely, I didn’t want to have to go at a pace that would jeopardize my main goal which was to finish the ride.
2.       Rest stops: when I “Rainiered” on The Climb, I stopped for 5-10 minutes after every 2,000’ of climbing (about every 1 hour and 30 minutes) to rest and eat and drink.  It was very regimented, and it seemed to work well for me.  I was concerned that on this ride people may not want to stop on a regular basis to rest, etc.

Originally, the ride was scheduled for Saturday, August 20th.  As that date drew near, it was clear that the weather was going to be a factor on that day:  a high of 95 degrees was predicted.  The following day, Sunday; on the other hand, had a predicted high of about 80 degrees.  The ride was going to be tough enough without having to deal with extreme heat.  I emailed the guys who were going on the ride a few days beforehand and asked if they might be willing to do the ride on Sunday rather than Saturday.  To my great relief, everyone agreed that Sunday would be just fine – whew!!

Sunday came, everyone arrived on time, and we were heading out of the Grove of the Patriarchs’ parking lot at 6:40 AM.  The morning was cool (we were all wearing long sleeves), and the ride up the south side of Cayuse Pass went smoothly.  We made a decision at the top of Cayuse to head to the climb to Sunrise, do it, and then do Chinook Pass on our way back.  The idea being to minimize our exposure to traffic on the climb to Sunrise. 

We headed down the north side of Cayuse Pass, took the turnoff to the Sunrise Climb, made our way past the Ranger Station, and found – THAT WE HAD NOT BEATEN THE TRAFFIC!!  Every trailhead parking lot was full, and a ton of vehicles were heading up to Sunrise – drat!!  We made our way up to the Sunrise Visitor Center – Les and Adam visiting their way up the climb ahead, and Dwaine and I enjoying a more leisurely pace behind them.  I would tell Dwaine to go ahead at his own pace and that I would just proceed at my pace.  His reply was always “I find this pace more efficient and more to my liking”.  Here is my interpretation of Dwaine’s response:  he was being a good guy and a putting someone else’s feelings (mine) ahead of his own.  He could have easily ridden at a faster pace with Les and Adam, but he didn’t want to leave me behind.  He did this on every climb of the day, and he has done it other times as well (last year’s Vancouver to Whistler race and last year’s Hurricane Ridge climb - just to name a couple).  It was very thoughtful of Dwaine, and our conversations certainly made the many climbs of this day more enjoyable for me.

Mike and Adam:  Sunrise Lookout Point

After making our way up the Sunrise Climb, it was a fun descent (Adam’s first time down Sunrise).  We stopped when we returned to Hwy 410.  I had stashed some extra bottles of PowerAde for myself and Adam at this junction (Dwaine and Les had stashed extra bottles a little further up the road).  I drank plenty of PowerAde, ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich, and we were off.

We made our way up the north side of Cayuse Pass and on up to Chinook Pass.  It went pretty smoothly, but I was still worried about issues #1 and #2 above.  From there, it was downhill all the way back to our vehicles where we got rid of our long sleeved shirts, refilled our water bottles, ate, drank, and rested a bit.

Next up were the climbs to Backbone Ridge and on up to Paradise.  We made our way up the east side of Backbone Ridge smoothly and uneventfully.  It was during this climb that I made a decision.  Instead of heading up White Pass at the end of our ride, I would go back up Backbone Ridge.  My reasoning was that White Pass would be in full sun later in the afternoon and prone to significant traffic, while the east side of Backbone Ridge would be in the shade and have less traffic as less people would be heading INTO the park at that time of the day.

After Backbone Ridge, we headed up through Stevens’ Canyon to Reflection Lake.  This climb can be very hot and grueling at midday.  In our case (since we had chosen a cooler day), it was warm but not bad.  Once again, Les and Adam were ahead with Dwaine and me trailing.  We regrouped at Reflection Lake.  Our stop there was a nice one which gave me a chance to drink plenty and to devour another peanut butter and honey sandwich.

From there, we headed up toward Paradise.  About 2-3 miles below Paradise, the traffic from the west side entrance (Nisqually) merges with the traffic from the east side entrance (Grove of the Patriarchs).  It was from this point on up to Paradise that we realized that our decision not to include the climb from the western (Nisqually) entrance was a good one.  THERE WAS A LOT OF TRAFFIC, AND MOST OF IT WAS FROM THE NISQUALLY ENTRANCE!!. 

Les, Mike, and Adam at Paradise
We made it to Paradise where we stopped, refilled water bottles, ate, and rested for a few minutes.  From there, it was all downhill to the base of the west side of Backbone Ridge.  We had tailwinds on the descent through Steven’s Canyon.  This descent is fast enough as it is.  The tail winds made it a little unnerving – at least for me.  After arriving at the western base of Backbone Ridge, we made our way up uneventfully and down the east side to our vehicles where we restocked.  It was at this juncture that I told Les and Adam that I was going back up Backbone Ridge rather than heading up White Pass (I had already discussed this with Dwaine earlier as we headed toward Paradise).  To my surprise, Les and Adam were fine with heading back up Backbone Ridge. 

We headed back up the east side of Backbone Ridge; and, as I had hoped, it was shady and cool and had minimal traffic.  We reached the top and headed down the west side.  When we reached the bottom of the descent, we turned around and headed back up.  When we - once again - reached the top of Backbone Ridge, we were still approximately 500’ short of our goal; so we decided to descend the west side of Backbone Ridge one more time and to head back up.  

This time, when we got back up to Backbone Ridge, we had achieved our goal of 14,411’ of climbing.  We celebrated by taking pictures of our Garmin computers which showed the mileage and elevation gain to that point and taking pictures of our group.

14,411 feet of climbing...

From there it was all downhill to our vehicles.  At ride’s end, we had covered 130 miles and done just under 14,500 feet of climbing!! 

This was an epic ride.  I really appreciated the opportunity to do it and the guys with whom I did it.  Les, Dwaine, and Adam could have done this ride faster if they wanted.  They chose not to so that we could all finish together.  I would like to thank them for a great ride and a wonderful memory.

To see all the photos associated with this ride, click on the following link:

1 comment:

  1. Going into the ride I didn't realize how long and physically demanding this would be. But sure enjoyed the experience and the guys.