Winter Wonderland: Mt. Teneriffe Bike n' Shoe

Note: Those who just want to see the full photos slideshow can do so right here.

I have a friend who is fond of saying that the Seattle weathermen should simply report the forecast in percentages of grey: Monday will be 50% grey with skies darkening on Tuesday to 80% grey. After all, while we all know Eskimos have dozens of words for snow, a lesser-known fact is that Seattlelites have dozens of synonyms for dreary. Naturally, those of us in the Pacific Northwest don't let any of the questionable weather stop us from playing outside, but that's not to say we don't love a bright blue cloudless day. A crisp winter day with bright sunshine and clear skies is not only something to smile at, it's something to cherish. And I'll remember yesterday for quite some time.

I'm not sure whether or not Thom expected anyone to actually do it, but when he taunted the BBTC Listserve with word that therocky forest road leading up Mt. Teneriffe had been plowed, it didn't take long for Ross and I to agree to do it. The weather was shaping up to be dry and cold throughout the early portion of the week so, after a number of emails on Sunday night, we decided to meet in North Bend on Tuesday morning with our bikes and snowshoes. Ross hadn't ever climbed Mt. Teneriffe before, nor had he done any prior snowshoeing, but he was game for renting a pair from REI and, well, I know he can climb like a mountain goat when he wants to. Nevertheless, when I sent him a detailed numerical description of how steep the path was -- it averages close to 850 feet of gain per mile -- he commented that his airplane doesn't even ascend that steeply. Yeah, climbing Mt. Teneriffe is no picnic.

We met at the Mt. Si Trailhead at 11:30am and after a mile warmup on the road leading to Mt. Teneriffe, we hit the dirt and began our climb. The gate at the bottom of the Mt. Teneriffe road is at an elevation of 950 feet and our ultimate destination was at 4,788. The first half mile of the forest road was a bit icy, but otherwise not a problem and we pedaled quite easily for a while. It wasn't long before the dry patchy road grew snow-covered but the going was still quite easy thanks to the gradient being rather gentle and the frigid sub-zero temps creating a hard crusty layer of snow and ice that offered surprisingly good traction.

Our destination... Mount Teneriffe. As seen from Mt. Si Road.

Alas, as we pedaled past the 1900-foot mark, the road kicks up at an unrelenting angle. It's a challenge to pedal this section in dry times, but here the snow was not only getting deeper, but it was starting to soften in the sunlight... as snow has a habit of doing. So we spent the better part of the next two hours pushing our bikes. Oh, I'd throw a leg over it every now and then and pedal for a whopping 10 to 20 yards, but it was seldom worth the effort.

Ross was battling a pretty fierce chest and sinus infection over the past few weeks and eventually fell behind a bit. He says he was even close to turning around and heading back down the mountain but he didn't want to just ditch me so he kept on in hopes that I eventually stopped to wait for him. I did. At the 4,000 foot mark there was an absolutely fantastic viewpoint looking clear over the valley to Mt. Rainier. You could even see Rattlesnake Lake, Tiger Mountain and Puget Sound in the distance. The sky was an incredibly deep blue and the sun was high in the sky and basking me in warmth. Ross eventually caught up and wanted to turn around but I knew from the map that we were getting close and that the trail should level off shortly. I convinced him to keep on keepin' on for just a bit longer.

Sure enough we were able to actually ride a bit of the road for a while and eventually came to a flat point where the snow had simply gotten too deep to continue on with the bikes. Since we made it this far it wasn't hard to convince Ross to put those rented snowshoes of his to use. So we ditched the bikes -- there aren't many places I would consider leaving a $6k mountain bike unattended, but atop a snow-covered mountain is one of them -- and continued on foot. It was 3:00pm now and I wanted to be back on the bikes and heading down the mountain by 4pm (we had lights, but really didn't want to use them) so the decision was made to snowshoe till 3:30 then turn around.

My bike at 4,000 feet with a killer view of Mount Rainier.

We made quick work of the remainder of the forest road and eventually came to the trail that leads to the summit. Judging by the slight indentations in the snow, nobody had shoe'd there way through here since priot to the last snowfall several days earlier. I broke trail for the first quarter mile or so, then after taking some photos, gave way to Ross so he could feel how fun breaking trail in snowshoes is. There wasn't any time to push on to the summit, but we did make it to the saddle below the peak and had absolutely awe-inspiring views to Mt. Baker to the north on one side of the ridge and due south to Mt. Rainier from the other. The quiet solitude atop the snow-covered mountain, the beautiful vistas and bright blue skies made it all worth it. I can't say I enjoyed spending several hours pushing my bike up a snow-covered trail, but it was no doubt worth it in the end.

The trek back down to the bikes was over too quickly and we were back on the bikes and headed off the mountain before 4pm, just as I hoped we'd be. We each crashed once during the slip n' slide descent. Although I never actually hit the ground during my spill, I did unknowingly dislodge my camera from its holster and descend all the way down the mountain without it. Ross's spill left him with a bent wheel and dinged up bike rack, but he was none the worse for it.

Me snowshoeing back across the saddle on Mount Teneriffe.

The temperature plummeted during the descent as the sun dropped behind the western mountains and the cold from my bike's brake levers nearly froze my fingertips -- if I was to ever build a snow-bike I would be sure to wrap the brake levers in bar tape. We quickly racked the snow-covered bikes, got dressed, and headed to the Snoqualmie Taproom for an early dinner.

Ross must have enjoyed the scenery and/or the post-ride beer a good deal because he volunteered to drive back down from Everett the next day and hike back up the mountain with me to find my camera. Would you believe we found it? We did. We met at the trailhead at 10am and promptly started climbing. We found it at about the 3,600 foot mark, roughly 4.5 miles up the trail. And would you believe it still worked? Gotta hand it to the Canon Powershot A630 and rechargeable Sony AA batteries -- the camera spent the night in a pile of snow in sub-freezing temperatures and powered right up and worked fine the second I found it. Karma was on Ross's side though as he not only found the button that fell off his cycling boot the day earlier, but I bought him lunch at, you guessed it, the Snoqualmie Taproom.

Kristin and I will be going snowshoeing with friends this coming weekend, and this time I'm going to hold a bit tighter to my camera and leave the bike at home.

Link to photos.

1 comment:

Brandon said...


Wow I am so jealous!! I wish I could have accompanied you on that amazing epic slog! Unfortunately I am all laid up after my second surgery inside a month!! I did get my CCP100 registration in and I have 6 months to heal and train to get my finishers hat this year!! Let me know when you hear if you got in!!