Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St. Powtricks Day

Disclaimer: this post's name was coined by my friend Will. The interesting contents of this post is contained in a GoPro video taken by Will. My contribution is minimal, but I got Will's permission to use his materials.
Since Sunday, I have been thinking whether it would be worth blogging something about our ski trip. There was really nothing so unusual about it, 18" of fresh powder overnight happen quite often here, and hundreds of powderhounds descended (ascended?) on the mountain on Sunday. But in several ways the day was special for me: we were there early enough to be able to ski untracked areas, we were in a companion of experienced backcountry skiers, the clouds broke before noon to let the sun rays sparkle on the fresh snow, and the physical exertion associated with skiing steep terrain in really deep snow while trying to keep up with the group was huge.
When the untracked areas become sparse, we hiked up the Big Chief ridge, past the ski area boundary, to Outer Andromeda. While hiking up steep and narrow ridge in deep snow, I kept thinking that on my next trip to REI, I really have to get a beacon, probe and a shovel.

The way down from here is captured in Will's video. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In and out of town

I do not want to categorize people, but my feeling is that most runners prefer to run mostly alone, although the popularity of running events and trail races would suggest otherwise. Mountain bikers, on the other hand, are with rare exceptions social animals. Let me not even start about roadies. Every time I pull my commuter bike out of the garage, I noticed how my Ibis Mojo gets greener with envy (nuclear pesto getting greener!) and sank a little deeper on its underinflated tires. Something had to be done about that and I recruited social media for help: the Cascades Mountain Bikers Meetup seemed like a good start to help me overcome the activation barrier. Saturday being a gorgeous sunny warm day, a ride was called at Tolt MacDonald park. The group looked serious and the ride started with a  serious climb, but fortunately not too long. At the top of the ridge the real fun started: twisted singletrack, loamy soil, tons of slick roots, few interesting descents, but mostly, green mossy jungle of a rainforest.

Can you see those two riders in the middle of the photo? Often I rode at the tail of the group in one direction and the guys at the front were going by me in opposite direction, that's how those trails intertwined. The terrain was much like in BC and required a tall gear, lots of momentum, leaning in corners and using the tire side knobs to grab for traction. I had a deja vu - learning again how to mountain bike, the same as 2 years ago on Vancouver Island.

There was a little bit of an open fire road and a nice downhill back to the suspension bridge.

After 10 miles of trying to keep up with the fast group, constant manhandling the bike and standing up to power up short inclines with no time to shift, I was fried. The riders of this Meetup were a super nice bunch!

Sunday was supposed to be a ski day, but last minute duties changed the plans, but allowed us to spend couple of hours around downtown.

 Leaving the spiffy shopping centers, we walked towards the Pioneer and Occidental Squares, just to realize that on Sunday morning, this area apparently belongs to the Seattle's homeless and other street characters.

Shopping for fresh seafood at Pikes Place Market is always lots of fun. The fish is excellent and costs the same as our nearby Fisherman's Terminal. Whole foods or Safeway just don't come close in quality.

 This colorful guy did not seem to have too much fun, despite being surrounded by bicycles.

 But the Free Tibet supporters were enjoying themselves, under a very relaxed observation by the city Mountain Bike patrol.
 Cops, bikes, wet pavement and Starbucks. You don't need to see the sign below to know it is spring in Seattle!
 P.S. Due to time constraints, I did not get to visit the Seattle bike expo the past weekend. I will try to gather some information from coworkers who went and perhaps post a few links.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


"Snowlake Attempt Dos"
our first try to snowshoe to Snow Lake (Alpental at Snoqualmie) ended after couple of hours on the edge of a nasty looking avalanche chute. Last weekend, with a moderate avalanche forecast, we tried again. This time, we hiked high up on the eastern slope above the South Fork of Snoqualmie river, but the snowshoe track ended on the edge of badly churned slope. Not giving up so easily this time, we followed one set of snowshoe prints steeply down very deep snow to the river and tried to go up north on the western side. Finally, we reached the bottom of a very steep, almost tree-less slope, with recent signs of avalanche activity. Four skiers hiked up, but for us, on a Sunday afternoon, it was too late.

At least we saw where we need to go next time, there is the saddle on the horizon! We will get there on a sunny day when the snow is packed.

"Sudden Activity Decrease"
After Marketa's trail race where I tried to keep warm for half a day by hopping around the finish chute and calling out finishers' numbers, I went down with a bad sinus / ear infection, and it has been very slow crawling back up from the hole of inactivity. Of course, now running 6 miles is hard and I am sore the next day. With about six weeks before a planned 4-day mountain biking desert tour, I have zero miles in my knobbies and that makes me almost sad. More like mad! Despite numerous great trails in the proximity and me even signing up for some MTB Meetups, I don't seem to be able to scramble enough mental energy to plan a route, put the bike on the roof rack, drive to the trail head and PEDAL DAMN IT!
Then, there is the real S.A.D. (Seasonal affective disorder), I am still hoping the first winter in WA is too soon for that, but there are signs, just these little signs... spring is almost here.