Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rainy Pass

From all indications, Mike is heading for Rainy Pass this evening. He is rounding the corner to head up "Pass Creek" as I am writing this, about 3 miles from the pass.

I did notice that two points came in at Puntilla with the same location. That means he was there for at least ten minutes, likely gathering trail beta from the lodge. Imagine the conversation:

"Hi, how's the trail looking over the pass?"

"Come on in...."

"Uhh, I can't... can we talk out here?"

It seems like racers aren't having too much trouble with Rainy Pass and the Dalzell gorge, though we still haven't heard a solid report from Rohn. We will know how Mike fares tomorrow, though he will likely keep moving for another two or so hours (based on previous nights), so he may reach the pass tonight.

The other big observation is that overall speed dropped quite a bit today, mostly after Puntilla. I made a few estimates between points (by drawing an approximate trail in TopoFusion) and came up with 1.8 to 2.0 mph for some large stretches. Slow going. Possibly due to softer trail conditions or perhaps just steepening grade.

From once again by Eric Parsons:

Rainy pass is one of the few weakness that allows winter travel through the 400+mile long range of steep and heavily glaciated peaks which contains some of the highest mountains in North America including Denali (20,320’ and Mt Foraker 17,400’). From Puntilla Lake the route ascends above tree line into the broad Happy River valley which can experience severe winds, ground blizzards and has been the source of many near epic’s for both racers and mushers alike. Hooking to the North out of the main valley, the trail snakes its way up a side valley crossing many streams (with possible open water) leading to the pass. Finally at the pass at an elevation of 3,160’ the trail quickly descends like no one’s business careening down a narrow trail with overhanging branches down the backside of the Alaska Range, after a few miles the trail drops steeply into the infamous Dazell Gorge. While the gorge is feared by mushers, it is one of the most incredible, and fun sections of trail before the flat river travel in the Interior. In the gorge trail breakers usually construct bridges made from alder branches which ice up from the flowing water beneath and form a somewhat stable crossing. Leaving the gorge the trail spits you out on the typically glare ice surface of the Tatilina River for the last pull into Rohn.

And finally, a picture of Happy Valley, heading towards Rainy Pass.


  1. I last saw mike yesterday at about 3pm. he was about 5 miles north of finger lake and looking strong. he said he wasn't feeling great but he sure looked to be in a lot better shape than i was. good to hear he's made it up toward the pass. i guess it sounds like he's now further along than the weather let him go last year.

  2. Thanks for the info Geoff. Bummer about the ankle--you were putting out a great pace.

    I just checked this morning and Mike made it to the top of the pass last night. The last point was 10:17pm right at the top.

    Great news.

  3. i'm so jealous of mike. i would give just about anything to have spent last night at the top of rainy pass.... would have been even happier to spend it at Buffalo Camp, but here in anchorage, that just aint cool.