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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Columbia River Gorge
    Posts
    3,583

    Very unpleasant and cold Mackenzie Pass ride.

    So here in Oregon, we have several mountain pass roads that are closed in winter due to snow. In the spring, they get plowed for one lane's width worth and are then allowed to thaw out. During the time when there is a single lane available but it's not clear enough for cars, these roads are open to bikes only. It's a very cool thing to climb these scenic and challenging roads without worrying about cars. My house spouse and I try to do one or two every spring.

    Mackenzie pass is a classic. This link shows the ride starting in Sisters OR and going west to Mackenzie Bridge, (towards Eugene) but it's not unusual for people to start at the Eugene end, ride up and over to Sisters, have lunch and ride back up and over. That was our original plan.

    We woke up Sunday AM to pouring rain. We waited until it warmed up (mid 50's temps at about 1000 feet elevation) and started out, it was still raining. At this point we had already bailed on our original plan and had decided to just summit and come back down. We were soaked through in no time, had most of the clothes we brought with us on and were comfortable. Unfortunately, we were climbing up to 5000 feet and well, it wasn't going to be 55 deg up there.

    At one point we had a discussion about turning back. "It will be colder at the top," and "It will be a long descent", and "I only have a helmet liner left to put on." But we continued on. The sun came out briefly when we were about 3/4 the way up, dried us out a bit and gave us hope for the return trip. I almost took my jacket off. Then, it clouded over again, got really cold and started to snow. By this time, we were close enough to the top that neither of us was going to turn back short of the summit. At the top we were soaked through, it was dumping snow, there were not views to be had, it was 37 deg and the wind was howling. We huddled in the (very nicely kept and well ventilated) outhouse and ate our snacks. We were already cold and we hadn't started descending yet.

    When we started down it was nearly impossible to see for the sleety snow stinging your eyes. My hands were numb within 10 min to the point of me having to look at them to make sure they were on the brakes and that I was actually squeezing the brakes. They were aching intensely but I could feel nothing else. This type of descending went on for awhile, then I started to shake. Not shiver. Clonic shakes so strong that I couldn't be anywhere but in my drops for fear of shaking right off my handlebars.

    In the end we made it down and neither of us crashed. We snuggled under the covers in our sprinter van with the dog for a full hour before we were both recovered and warm enough to do anything else. I'm glad we made it back safely and it makes for a good story but I NEVER want to be in that situation again.

    That being said, Mackenzie Pass is an amazing ride and you should do it if you're in the area at the right time. Just not when it's snowing, blowing and nearly freezing temps.
    Living life like there's no tomorrow.

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    2007 Look Dura Ace
    2010 Custom Tonic cross with discs, SRAM
    2012 Moots YBB 2 x 10 Shimano XTR
    2014 Soma B-Side SS

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Utah
    Posts
    548
    Oh wow, that sounds miserable and scary, so glad you made it down safely!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    2,045
    That sounds scary- dangerous. Very glad to hear you made it back safe and sound.
    2016 Specialized Ruby Comp disc - Ruby Expert ti 155
    2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker - Jett 143

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,645
    Oh man, that does NOT sound fun. So glad you both got back safe.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Posts
    10,952
    SO glad that both of you got through the experience without crashing or frost bite, definitely not fun!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Boise Idaho
    Posts
    1,192
    Whew, crazy. We have been making an effort to carry our emergency kit, regardless of the length of the ride but like you, I may have just kept riding. Glad you recovered quickly, hypothermia = no fun.
    Sky King
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