Monday, June 7, 2010

Highwood Pass

After our 110K ride on Friday it was time to pack up and hit the road!  The Boyfriend and I were joining Kelly and her husband camping that weekend.  The plan was to camp about 45 km west of Longview out in Kananaskis, on the south side of Highwood Pass.

At an elevation of 2206 metres, Highwood Pass is the highest point in Canada that can be reached by paved highway.  The highway is also closed from November/December through the middle of June.  The closure is for the elk, big horn sheep, deer and moose that do their spring grazing during that time.  The closure is only to motorized vehicles only though, and it is a popular route for cycling just before the pass opens to vehicles.

Last year I was supposed to ride the Pass the weekend before it opened but a massive snow storm blew into town.  Then I went out to ride it last July and 13 miles in my chain broke.  Fail!

We drove out to our campsite after work on Friday, the Boy and I set up our tent and Kelly and her hubs set up their trailer.  After getting a campfire going it was time to chow down on smokies and S’mores for a little post/pre-ride fuel.  After a fun night around the fire it was time to get some rest.  We woke up in the morning to some breakfast sandwiches with ham, cheese, egg, tomato and cucumber on a bun with some bacon on the side.  It was gourmet camping!  After breakfast some friends from Calgary arrived, we loaded up our bikes and hit the road to start our ride.  There were a ton of cars just outside the gates – there would be a bunch of cyclists on the pass!  DSCN3777You might be able to spot the gate faintly there, and right after the gate the road starts to climb, up and up.  And it keeps climbing for about 40K with only the odd bit of flat or downhill in between.  The plan was to ride for about 2 hours or 60K.

Riding on a highway completely closed to traffic was a pretty amazing experience.  It felt almost…private!  The scenery was fantastic.DSCN3792DSCN3787Also fantastic?  How my legs were feeling!  The day before my legs were screaming on any little hill.  Today I was climbing and feeling strong with no hint of the 110K that had happened the day before.  Part way up the hill Kelly and I looked at each other and decided we wanted to try and go a bit further to reach the summit.DSCN3798From there the ride turned epic!  At the 30K mark we rode through an ice pellet storm.  Thankfully it didn’t last long, but those little pellet/hail things really stung when they hit!  Plus I haven’t mentioned that we were riding into the wind as we went uphill.  Oh, and we had really only brought enough nutrition for a 2 hour ride.  As we kept forging on, surely the summit was right around the next corner, right?

I thought we would only have a couple of kilometres left, but then the bonk started.  My legs felt instantly weaker.  My arms were getting shaky.  All I could think of was my desire to eat something and that sounded a lot better than pedalling forward.  We stopped at the entrance to Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.  I had four Honey Stinger chews in my bento box.  I scarfed them down.  After that I only had half a bottle of Infinit left.  We were just over two hours into our ride and Kelly had as much nutrition with her as I did.DSCN3801We stopped at the sign, checked out the map and tried to figure out how far we were from the summit.  At that moment some guys on mountain bikes rode down past us.  They told us we had about 30 minutes left to go.  Um…yeah…I did not have 30 minutes of climbing left in my legs.  We decided to head down.  When I got home and mapped the ride I think we were only about 4K…at the most…off of the summit.  Sigh…DSCN3804Oh well, time to descend!  We figured we’d fly down as hopefully that headwind would turn into a tail wind.  It was also a great opportunity to practice descending (thanks Ally for those great tips!).  The ride down was a blast!  We even saw a few deer.DSCN3805Strangely enough the tail wind didn’t last too long and we battled a cross wind and a head wind on the way back.  Despite that, what took over 2 hours to climb took just over 1 hour to descend.  All in all, 71K ridden, about 730 meters of climbing.  Despite the bonk it felt like a really successful ride and it was so much fun!

Thanks to everyone for a fun weekend of camping and some amazing riding.  I couldn’t have asked for more!

15 comments:

Marlene said...

Sounds like a fun weekend. Definitely gourmet camping! Great job tackling the ride... that is an insane amount of climbing. Too cool having the wide open road to yourselves.

Nikki said...

Yeah there's something cool about being on a road with no cars. I even kind of feel that way during running events. Good job.

Julie said...

The Highwood Pass is such a good ride. I remember when I decided to turn around before the summit, and found out during my next ride that it was literally 200m away...Hahahahaha!!

Then, on another ride, the summit sign had been knocked over and I went bombing down the other side -- thinking too late, "Oh $hit, I'm going down the other side and now I have to climb back up." Hahahahahahaha!!

There is something about that highway that is magical and peaceful -- maybe it is the elevation or something, but it has a special place in my heart. :)

Oh yeah, and one time I saw a cougar scurry across the highway!!

Your camping/biking trip was awesome! I find the winds there just as you described too -- headwinds both ways. Weird.

Wes said...

EPIC!! and successful! You didn't chase that deer down and eat it? :-)

ShirleyPerly said...

Yeah, tailwinds never last as long as you think they would. What a treat to ride on a rode that's close to traffic. We had one nearby me that was closed for a while but just opened up :-(

J said...

Absolutely breathtaking!! Looks like a fun place to ride!

Beth said...

Absolutely amazing pictures!! You are going to be so darn strong and ready for IM Canada!! :)

Badgergirl said...

Looks like an amazing ride! Nice job!

Petraruns said...

Really succesful riding there girl! Can't believe you felt so strong after riding 110 the day before - nice work!

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lindsay said...

i definitely would have relished the return down the mountain! yikes. normally in pictures you can't see hills as much as in real life... but i can see the inclines here! nuts :)

k said...

Riding on a closed highway really would be cool...

I agree- it woulds like you'll be going into IM Canada with some really strong training behind you!

k said...

(and by "it woulds like" i'm pretty sure i mean it sounds like...)

Nicole said...

Oh I love this ride!!! We did it the weekend before the highway opened to traffic last year and it was amazing!!
We won't be able to do it this year since we are racing in Wasa this weekend.

Alisa said...

That is awesome that you get to ride on a closed hwy! Also, holy scenery. It still looks chilly though, I dunno about you but I am READY for summer.

Crazy climbing chica--I am in awe!