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Winter Blitzkreig- 33 hours, 150 mile overnighter

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Winter Blitzkreig- 33 hours, 150 mile overnighter

Old 12-16-05, 11:29 PM
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Puget Sound has been sitting under a large mass of stagnant high pressure. The forecast continued for below freezing temps in the lowlands, but clear skies, so I packed up the Long Haul Trucker for a quick blitzkreig to snow country.

One of my goals was to dial in my winter bike camping ensemble. I haven't done any bike snow camping for over a dozen years (moved away from the UP of MI) and have always preferred to do winter trips on skis anyway, but having winter snowbike camping skills definetly come in handy . Since Katrina, I've been dialing in my system to be able to evacuate a metropolitian area under my own power, and be able to leave at any time under any conditions.

Thursday AM, I rolled out of Seattle under 27 degrees and a little frost and ice on the trails north of town, rolled 50 miles in 4 1/2 hours, then got on the 'Mountain Loop Highway' a one way road, closed partway in the winter as well. The mountain loop was my choice because the road closure keeps traffic down.Traffic peters out past Granite Falls, essentially becomming an abandoned road out to the sticks.

By 4:30 I had found a little shelter in a closed down campground, a frozen concrete slab in a picnic shelter. Score! No need to stomp down a camping platform in the snow...

I ate dinner in the dark, and hit the sack by 8. 12 hours later, I was sitting in my sleeping bag, eating oatmeal in the morning light, looking out at 10 degrees and clear skies. One more cup of coffee, and I was on the road by 9:30 friday. I rode 2 hours up the highway, to my destination, the Big Four Ice Caves, about 75 miles out from Seattle. Ate some lunch, fed the bluejays apple chunks, and turned the bike around.

I had an open schedule, but once I got on the bike, the motors kicked in and wound up back in seattle by 6:30 Friday night.. BLITZKREIG!

Road conditions, dry and gritty giving way to %95 full road ice in the shade, with enough grit and snowcrust to get sufficient traction. ran conti travel contacts 700x37s. Had to remember to hydrate, and keeping a sodium and electrolytes flow is still crucial ,even in the winter. Slept plenty warm, woke up relaxed this morning. approx 150 miles, with 17 or 18 hours on the bike, 12 hours in the sack, and a few hours cooking and pitching/breaking camp.

Two pics, both pretty far up the Mountain Loop highway from today.
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Last edited by Bekologist; 12-16-05 at 11:37 PM. Reason: pics
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Old 12-17-05, 12:11 AM
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Amazing trip! Thanks for sharing...
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Old 12-17-05, 06:52 AM
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What sort of sleeping gear are you using, Bek?
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Old 12-17-05, 08:11 AM
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On this trip I brought an almost 4 pound -5 down winter sleeping bag, a 3 1/2 pound single wall mountain tent, a 3/4 thermarest guidelight, and a couple of sit pads that line my back panniers as additional insulation. Additionally layering clothes underneath for insulation from the frozen ground.

I brought my trangia stove, and next time, the alcohol stove will get left behind in snow weather; a white gas stove is much more efficient for melting snow for water. The tent picture shows a candle lantern in use as a clothes dryer/ tent heater. That's a hanging coffee cup holder in the right of the tent picture.

In the bike picture, here's the bike fully loaded. All gear is inside the panniers.
Front left: sleeping bag.
Front right: tent body, sleeping pad, first aid kid, ground cloth, TP and trowel.
Back left: clothes and some accessories.
Back right: food, cooking gear and accessories. I kept a water bladder in my panniers to keep it from freezing.

Handlebar bag, whatever.


I wore 2 thin wool LS undershirts, a wool SS bike jersey and my Ibex softshell jacket on top, and wool bike shorts under wool tights, a windstopper helmet liner.

Riding fast down the MTN Loop I put on the pertex windbreaker and some wool gloves, otherwise I was perfectly comfortable in subfreezing temps dressed like this. At camp I added a primoloft hooded parka, and a powerstretch union suit with dropseat underneath pertex pants.

And a picture of my winter camping secret weapon, Outdoor Research mukluks.

I've got my bike shoes on inside of them in the picture. You can wear them around camp with wool socks for booties as well, they have a closed cell foam insole that is also removable. I don't wear them on the bike, but could by simply cutting an SPD slot, or using toeclips.
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Last edited by Bekologist; 12-17-05 at 12:04 PM.
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Old 12-17-05, 11:53 AM
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What route do you take from Seattle to Granite Falls ? I used to ride up there a lot and have been thinking of going again. In the past I would take the BG trail from Seattle to Woodinville, take highway 9 to Snohomish, then take a back road from Snohomish and through Machias that would eventually come out on the Granite Falls highway. Since the last time I biked up there both highway 9 and the Granite Falls highway have been widened and become much busier, and seem very bicycle unfriendly.
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Old 12-17-05, 11:59 AM
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Woot! You are my hero, Bekologist!!!
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Old 12-17-05, 01:10 PM
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Hem, hem. <whisper>
What about the sanitary arrangements? </whisper>
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Old 12-17-05, 01:31 PM
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does a bear do it in the woods? burn the TP, and find a good hidden tree well, off the path, in a brush thicket, you're only adding to nature. I brought the trowel (always!) but when the grounds frozen there's little option but to leave the dookie steaming! sorry for the graphic language
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Old 12-17-05, 05:35 PM
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Sounds like a good ride in a beautiful area!!
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Old 12-17-05, 05:38 PM
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Wow...Too cool ! Literally
Great stuff....
Thanks for taking the time to share !
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Old 12-17-05, 07:47 PM
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Bek, fantastic! Three questions:

(1) did you have any issues due to snowed in shoulders on busy fast speed roads, if any?
(2) did you use your stove inside the tent? You mention eating oatmeal while in your sleeping bag.
(3) do you have a strategy for recognizing hypothermia? i.e. at which point do you turn all your efforts to getting the body temp up if you feel getting cold.
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Old 12-17-05, 08:06 PM
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To anwser jakub and PM seattle's questions above;

I planned my winter trip to conclude on a one way road that dead ends in the mountains, ensuring less and less traffic until it became 1 car an hour or less. A lot of the busier stretches were on bike trails, roads with adequate shoulder, or little used back roads. I still yielded the entire road AND shoulder to dump trucks and loggers when necessary by slacking it off into the ice and grit on the sides - very little "VC lane hogging" in the winter! At any time, if the roads had become closed in with snowbanks without adequate shoulder AND heavy traffic, I would have found an alternate route or been prepared to scrub the trip.

I'd say a trip to into national forest lands onto sparsely used roads plowed for winter recreationalists would be good choices for winter tours.

2) never use a stove inside a tent, I don't care how foul it is outside. I don't even recommend cooking in the vestibule, one stove flare up and your main shelter and maybe your sleeping bag is toast and you are left in a bad, bad way, staring old man winter right in the face.

You can cook right outside the door though, and digging a snow kitchen right there is handy for storing all the stove goodies, etc as well as block the wind. I only burn a candle lantern inside the tent. I try to cook while I'm in my sleeping bag in the morning, not at night.

3) hypothermia is a definite worry; and the best way to combat that is be very aware of your conditions. I've been winter camping for 25 years, have given myself hypo as a kid several times, and have plenty of experience as a both a mountain rescue volunteer and backcountry ski patroller at Mount Rainier Nat'l Park, so speak from experience... be ready to stop quick to add layers, but if you are still chilling out, you need to immediately stop, seek shelter, and brew up. Depending on conditions, you may want to tent up for the night, it's going to be dark in a few hours regardless.

I added a bunch of winter camping tips to the 'winter touring' thread if anyone wants a bunch more tips gleaned from years of sleeping in snowbanks and calling it fun...

these pics are totally off biking topic, but wanted to share... here's a picture of some men desperately trying to avoid hypothermia while staying stylish on the summit of Mount Saint Helens, Mother's Day 2003...you can't do that anymore!

and a pic of me trying to not get hypothermia dangling from the bottom hatch of a Chinook twin rotor chopper on mountain rescue training ops above Mount Rainier.
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Old 12-17-05, 08:54 PM
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Thanks Bek.

Is that you on skiis wearing a corsette? Just kidding .

About point #3. You mention adding layers as a first precaution upon feeling chilled, a more drastic measure being brewing something warm. If you are feeling chilled because you stopped cycling for some reason, i.e. a flat tire, and feel your base layer is moist with sweat (so you're not cold just because it is extremelly cold outside, but due to moisture), would you simply add another layer, would you change, or would you do something else?

Once again, thanks for the insights.
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Old 12-17-05, 09:00 PM
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A quick slip into a big puffy overparka and pertex pants if a roadside repair was warranted. Also, try wearing wool (at least as your base layer) to minimize the wet sweat death chill. You should never have to change out of your initial layers of winter clothes unless you have fallen thru the ice into a river.
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Old 12-17-05, 09:16 PM
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Cool cool... you say wool for base is better than some wicking polyester? I only winter commute here in London, ON and as you probably gather am interested in vetnuring out further, but am somewhat chicken. I wear a wicki poly short sleave undershirt, a long sleve wicking shirt, both fairly thin, and a nylon bicycle shell (supposedly it's wicking). This takes me to -15 Celsius, comfortably. But, I always find it difficult to stay dry no matter how much I control it with the zippers, to the point where I decided it's simply too much hassle. I don't believe super exotic materials would help me, but have been shocked before how much gear affects your comfort level, still, I've got zippers all over the jacket, I have air flow through there.
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Old 12-17-05, 09:50 PM
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Bek:

Did you happen to notice if the motel just before you get to Verlot ranger station is open ? I believe it is called the Mountain View. You have me thinking I ought to take an overnighter up there myself, but I don't have the equipment for winter camping. Might be nice to go up and stay in the motel if it's open this time of year and take a ride up the valley the next day to where the snow plow stops.
By the way, what kind of tires are you using ?
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Old 12-17-05, 10:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Bek
You should never have to change out of your initial layers of winter clothes unless you have fallen thru the ice into a river.
Ohh how I wish it were true!
I'm a sweater (and I don't mean cardigan).
Even in 10F, I can't shed enough heat not to have my trunk/head dampen my base layer - even if it only consists of a poly-tshirt covered by a windbreaker.

Basically in winter, I don't stop. If I keep moving, I keep warm.
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Old 12-17-05, 10:44 PM
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PM, The mountain view restaurant, store and motel is always open, as far as I can tell...it's one of those places you pop into the restaurant, and the waitress goes and opens up a room for you... The Verlot ranger station goes to winter mode on Dec 19, and the road gets gated past Silverton real soon too, I watched the workers dry the primer coat on the gate with blowtorches Friday AM. You should be able to get to about 3 miles shy of the Big four by bike, to where they gate the road. Oh, I was running continental Travel Contact 700x37s. Nice touring tire.

to bikepacker, speaking from decades of sleeping in snowbanks, you need to get your clothing system dialed in so you never have to think about changing your base layers.... lighten up your activity layers, I wore 3 thin wool t shirts under a wool soft shell, essentially, and never changed out of a thing.
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Old 12-17-05, 10:49 PM
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I wore 3 thin wool t shirts under a wool soft shell, essentially, and never changed out of a thing.
You could stick me on Io, and if I were cycling, I'd still break a sweat with that "kit".

For me, the secret is having dry/warm clothes to slip into when I stop for more then 10 mins - and minimal (except for hands/feet) on the bike.
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Old 12-17-05, 10:55 PM
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you'd never make it biking to the north pole with that kind of clothing setup

whatever works best and keeps you comfy, warm is the winner in the winter.
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Old 12-18-05, 02:07 PM
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Sweet mother of Wolfowitz....


I love you people.

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Old 12-18-05, 04:50 PM
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What a great trip report! Thanks Bek!
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Old 12-18-05, 11:59 PM
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Fantastic! Thanks for sharing your awesome trip with us.

I have similar mukluks (only mine are blue), and they are just the thing for stomping around in dry snow. I agree with you on the stove, too; for snow melting, you pretty much have to burn white gas. I do love my alcohol stove in warmer weather, though. I use a homemade one made from two V8 cans -- just right for one person and weighs less than an ounce.

Anyway, sounds/looks like you really know what you're doing. Rock on!
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Old 12-24-05, 09:32 PM
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Crazy stuff, thanks for that report. I already get cold/painfull hands when i touch anything metal/wet at 10 Celsius, but you trip account made me want to go 'f**k it i am 'gonna be a Blitzkrieg Road warrior in mad temps too!!' ha ha. Nice one. I guess your background, training and know how helps lots but your account also really illustrates how important good gear can be in these situations.

Account also reminded me of this Elite Swedish Army unit that got disbanded only quite recently. They rode around on (modified?) Kronan style bikes in Swedish winter wheather and were crazy fit (like Navy Seal fit). It was awesome to see them bike in to (simulated) action on their Bikes, they even carried Bazookas and Mortars on their riggs! Talk about Blitzkrieg.
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