I wish I could say I rode my bike way out into the mountains with my skis attached because gasoline for my car is so expensive. That might be more rational than the real reasoning. Actually, there really is no reasoning this one. It's just stubborn pride and tradition now. The other day I completed my 6th annual bicycle-to-the-mountains-then-climb-a-peak-then-ski-down adventure. I biked and then "bagged" the peak- I guess I call it a "bike to bag," but that sounds funny without explanation. The first time I did this kind of madness was in 2003 when I first moved to Bishop. I was hungry for skiing, starving for ski partners, and completely without a vehicle. I had a bike and excess energy, so I put it all together and skied a local peak. I've since collected a good band of ski partners and own a reliable car, but I still head out once a year on this bicycle adventure.
Here's my rig, photographed early in my 2007 Bike-to-Bag on Point Powell.
For a variety of reasons, I left the house this time around at 2am with a headlamp and a full moon to help me along. I rode my bicycle about 20 miles and up just over 3000 vertical feet, before breakfast and before it got light out. It's pretty relaxing actually to pedal along in the dark. There is nothing to see, little to hear, less to talk to, virtually nothing to think about. Just tool along with only occasional thoughts as to how silly this all is. I did see some little glowy eyes cross the road at one point, that was kinda scary. In past years the ride hasn't always been so uneventful. One year, in pitch black dark with my light turned off, riding along, I nearly ran into a jogger going the other way. I screamed. Like, a totally involuntary scream of terror. Like I've never done before or since. Another time I did my bike to bag peak on the first day of fishing season. That bike ride was far from lonely. All morning long, from 3am on to the end of the road I was passed by a nearly constant stream of vehicles-fishermen and fisherwomen gunning for their "secret" spots for daybreak. That same year had been a big winter and one of the lakes was frozen over with more than 4 feet of ice. Intrepid fisherpeople had bored through the ice and were pulling fish out one after the other. I just skied on by. Anyway, my bike ride this year was much more relaxed. Not a single vehicle passed me.
The Uphill Part
I parked my bike and switched clothes, shoes and gears into ski mode. I ski much more than I ride my bike, so the ski portion felt much more comfortable. It did take six hours (after the bike part) to reach the top of my peak. Along the way I slid along lakes, traversed open slopes and wove through rocks.
Approaching the Feather Couloir. It's much shorter than I thought, really only 600 vf in the chute itself.
It went well and the six hours seemed to fly right by.
I choose peaks for this annual mission that I have never been to before. This may be a non-sustainable goal, as the peaks I haven't done get further and further away from home. Feather Peak, the bike to bag peak for 2008 is about 7 miles from the trailhead and marked a sort of personal milestone. The guidebook to backcountry skiing in the High Sierra lists something like 40 different peaks and it's kind of notorious for providing sand-bagged information. Pretty serious peaks are listed as taking "a few hours". Other peaks are listed in the "how long does it take" category variously as "half day", "full day" or "multi-day". Feather Peak is the first peak I've skied in one day that is listed as being a multi-day trip. It probably would have been more comfortable to go out for an extra day or two, but it worked out ok.
The Highest Part
I had heard through the grapevine that the summit of Feather Peak had been bombed from an airplane with fire retardant liquid. Sure enough, as I approached the mountain, a big red stain showed up. At the top the months old fluid showed virtually no sign of dissipating. What a whacky thing; it must have been some major screw up as the peak is miles from the nearest tree, much less flammable forest.
The view from the top! Not a great picture, but gives an idea of snow conditions and orientation. You can also see more of the red stain in the foreground.
There's some speculation as to why: the pilot claims he had some kind of trouble, but to those in the know that seems a bit weak. My sources say it was a CDF plane (now Calfire?) and that the material can be scrubbed off with water. Any mitigation measures now though will involve lots of imported water and high angle window-washing style techniques. I have yet to confirm it, but I have a hunch that someone with a reasonably powered telescope on a clear day could see the stain from the White Mountain foothills northeast of Bishop. Anyway, it's all red up there and might be for quite a while longer.
The Downhill Part
Looking down the top of the ski run, notice the ice to the right, not enough snow to cover the old ice.
I bombed back down the couloir, across the lakes, through the trees and the bowls and back to the bicycle. I packed up, glided the first few miles down and then finished the bike ride through the flats of Round Valley and the green meadows and cows and calves. Back home I napped and watched movies for the rest of the day.