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

    Very unpleasant and cold Mackenzie Pass ride.

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    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.

    http://gorgebikefitter.com/


    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
    2,048
    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
    10,957
    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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  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Montreal, QC
    Posts
    774
    Wow. Talk about a thrill of a lifetime! NOT!!!!

    Seriously, glad you got back to safety and warmth.

    I remember when we did the Pike Peaks (in car) in July. We left it was something like 23c at the bottom and when we got to the top, it was something like 3c. Just below freezing point. It was soooo cold. And when we drove back down, rain (which was more like a slush) had started. By the time we got back to sea level, it was sunny and hot! Gotta love the mountains!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Columbia River Gorge
    Posts
    3,583
    Thanks for the kind words. No, it wasn't fun but I also never felt like I was truly in danger. I was very cold but I knew if the descent was clean we'd be back to the van soon and the van has a furnace and warm dog inside. The biggest danger was crashing from poor bike handling due to the shaking, so I just kept my focus and speed under control, hands in the drops at all times. If we had a mechanical, it would have gotten ugly. But we were lucky that way.
    Living life like there's no tomorrow.

    http://gorgebikefitter.com/


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

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
    Posts
    5,856
    Cold can be manageable, rain can be manageable, but for me cold+rain = stay indoors.

    I recently took a first-aid course taught by some local EMTs. About half the class focused on bicycle-related injuries. One thing they mentioned was that you could develop hypothermia in relatively warm temperatures if your clothes are wet. They recommended keeping a mylar blanket in our bike bags. I already do that for non-summer rides, and I recall someone else here once mentioning that they have one, also.

    I'm glad your ride turned out okay.

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

    Gone but not forgotten:
    - Silver Trek 2000 road bike
    - Two awesome and worn out Juliana saddles

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Concord, MA
    Posts
    13,144
    As with NY, I would not have even started, given the forecast. You are lucky, Wahine.
    I had hypothermia from getting caught in a downpour when it was about 60 out and I only had a wind jacket, not a rain jacket. I didn't stop shaking for about 3 hours after I finished the ride, even after stripping off the wet clothes in the car, wrapping myself in a towel with the heat blasting, taking a hot shower, drinking tea, and sitting in front of a fire. This was about ten years ago, and I still remember the feeling quite clearly.
    2015 Trek Silque SSL
    Specialized Oura

    2011 Guru Praemio
    Specialized Oura

 

 

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