Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Into the Alaska Range

Photo: Trail near Finger Lake, February 2008.

Seriously rough trail conditions out there. Mike seems to be taking it all in stride, and moved steadily through the day to a spot about five miles north of Finger Lake, where he stopped for the night at about 9:30 p.m. Alaska time. He's about 135 miles into his 1,100-mile journey.

This would mean he rode about 45 miles Tuesday, which, given the trail conditions, is pretty impressive. There were reports of driving wind and rain, slushy surfaces and sinkholes. It takes an amazing amount of patience, and not a small level of skill, to hold a straight line on soft and ragged snow trails. Add the amount of weight Mike's trying to drag through there, and it's not surprising that many of his average speeds between points later in the day didn't break 2 mph.

Beyond Finger Lake, the trail climbs slowly but steadily into the foothills of the Alaska Range. Mike's at about 1,200 feet elevation right now. Rainy Pass, mile 165, tops out at 3,200 feet, but there are an infuriatingly large number of steep drops followed by climbs between those two points. And trail conditions aren't expected to get better. 25 mph winds gusting to 40 blew in most of the trail in open areas. The reported rain will help the trail set up a bit if the temperature drops below freezing — but it hasn't yet. Plus, rain on top of snow can leave behind unseen hazards. The drop into the Happy River Gorge, known as the Happy River Steps, has been described as a "frozen waterslide."

Temperatures in the region remained in the low-30s with light snow, but at least the wind has let up a bit.

Track Mike here.


  1. To be able to get regular updates for something like this is awesome. I am truly humbled by those that partake in this trek. I am curious as to what Mike is hinting toward as his next journey.

  2. Agreed Jill, steady Spot dots= in the groove, even if bad conditions.

    You can see Mike’s dots collect on top of each other at one location, when you zoom in you can see Mike must have been methodically climbing/pushing up a steep river bank and gaining elev, soon as he was up the bank his dots spread back out to a steady pace.

  3. Marshal,

    I remember that climb out of the bank where you can see Mike's SPOT dots cluster together. It was so steep and icy that I couldn't push my bike up it. I had to kick steps into the snow and drag my 65-pound bike upward from behind, using the pedal and handlebar as something of an anchor while I kicked new steps.

    I can't even fathom how Mike can hoist 145 pounds out of that gorge. I would imagine he'd have to portage some of it, but maybe the trail is a little different this year. Changes every year.