“Only that day dawns to which we are awake” - Thoreau

I bought a house in Vancouver last year, and a bike ski bike to Loowit (Mt. St. Helens) from my front door has been a goal of mine for about a year. With a clear weather window on a weekday in March, I figured this would be my shot. I rigged my skis and boots on my backpack, loaded up some food and hit the road around 3 am. 

The Loowit winter trailhead, Marble Mountain Sno-park, is around 55 miles from my house. The morning bike was cold and quiet, with almost no traffic as I labored my way north through Clark County. The skis yanked at my back, but time flew as I focused on the task at hand. The rolling hills led to quite a bit of subtle elevation gain, but I kept my effort measured as the long day loomed.

Sunrise almost 4 hours after I started

The temperatures hovered around 35 degrees, but the roads were dry and my choice of cycling bibs underneath my skimo skinsuit with a thin baselayer was a great choice for the day. After a stop in Cougar for a gatorade, I crawled up the last 12 miles to the trailhead. My progress was slow, and I ate and drank and tried to stay focused in each moment. 

I made it to the trailhead around 8:30 after 54 miles of cycling and 4,000+ ft of elevation gain. I transitioned as quickly as I could, glad to get the skis and boots off my back and onto my feet. With my bike stashed, I took off with a renewed sense of purpose up the trail. Just as I left the trees into the sunshine, I realized I left my phone in my bike bag. I skied back to my bike with an even more renewed sense of purpose. This extra few hundred feet would end up putting me over 12,000’ of gain for the day so it wasn’t all bad. I got my phone, and I was excited to finally be skiing and enjoying the day. 

I tried as hard as I could to push the pace like I would on a typical mountain climb. I only had 750 ml of water/gatorade mix with me, so I was motivated to move quickly. I also wanted to make sure I made it home in time for dinner. I wasn’t feeling that great, but I continued to snack and kept pushing as hard as I could without totally blowing myself up.

The snow was already beginning to soften as I passed 5,000’, and I was able to skin up to 7500’ before taking my skis off for the final push. There were around 50 other people on the mountain on this great day, and everyone was having a great time. It was a good crowd without being overwhelming. The weather was just about perfect, and I was enjoying myself even as I skied hard enough to feel dizzy. 

The best summit landscape I could muster with freezing fingers

Once I crested the final ridge, the wind picked up and I started to get pretty cold. As the other parties headed straight for the crater rim, I traversed over to the high point. I was lucky enough to find myself alone on the top. I say lucky because I looked like a total idiot, with my bike helmet smashed on top of my beanie. I could barely feel my hands so I just wanted to get down as quickly as possible. 

The snow up top was a nice wind buff, firm but fun to ski. It quickly transitioned to corn snow and I had a great time ripping down the mountain on my skinny race skis. I made it back to my bike with a roundtrip ski time of around 4 hours, 15 minutes.

I wasn’t looking forward to the bike home, but this was the road I chose. I shouldered my skis onto my back and hit the road. After the long descent into Cougar it was a grind on rolling roads that wound ever closer to the city. The quiet, idyllic roads I had ridden in the morning were clogged with congestion, but the weather was perfect and I had a brew of gatorade and red bull in my water bottle that helped me push get under back home in under 15 hours. 

Ready to ski down in style

I felt revitalized a couple hours into the ride home, other than my back killing me from the awkward position of the skis on my backpack. This just proves again a lesson I’ve learned many times: if you feel bad, just keep eating and drinking and keep going. I rode hard on some of the busier roads, eager to get away from the thick vehicle traffic. I lost energy the closer I got to Vancouver, and  slowly rolled up to my driveway as my vert for the day topped 12,000’. Once I got home, I had my fiancee Natalie take my picture. I had decided I was never going to ride with my skis on my back again (we’ll see how I feel about it after my back isn’t so sore!). 

Throughout the day, I felt good 50% of the time, terrible 20% of the time, pretty good 25% of the time, and transcendent 5% of the time. On a long day like this I can let go of all my cares in the world and focus on the task at hand. The pain and difficulty is a part of the experience, and I knew I just needed to stay positive and keep moving. I also enjoy the true sense of place I feel when I spend the whole day traveling under my own power. These are some of the only times in my life I feel truly present and connected with the larger world. And, in a sense, it is times like these when I’m truly awake. And as I rode closer and closer back to home, the thoughts of real life flooded back into my brain and I was back to normal. But for just a little while, things were different. 

The Stats: 

Total Distance: 119 miles (108.5 bike, 10.5 ski)
Total Elevation Gain: 12,200 Feet (6,200 bike, 6,000 ski)
Total Stoke: 11 out of 10
Total Time Elapsed: 14 hours 45 minutes (10:30 cycling/transitions/snack stops, 4:15 skiing - pretty sure that’s an FKT from my house but not 100% sure)

The Gear:

Skimo race ski setup
CiloGear 30/30 pack
Range Bars
Cycling bibs, skimo race suit
Gatorade, Redbull, Tylenol

A great day in the books