Fatbiking the White Mountains
Cold freezing temperatures, hearing the snow cracking underneath your tires, frozen beards, quiet, beautiful nature and the challenge to keep going… this is what makes an adventure interesting and exiting.
It was a beautiful clear sunny day in Alaska when Kevin picked me up for our two day ride through the white mountains. When he arrived I have not even started packing, so I smashed everything together in 35 minutes.
We jumped into his pickup truck and drove about 40 miles out to milepost 28, on the Elliott Highway. It was still sunny with mild temperatures standing at 16°F (-9°C). We unloaded our bikes, loaded it up with gear, food and some accessories. We were ready to hit the trails.
Map of the White Mountains Trails:
I was so keen on getting onto the Fatbike and put it properly to the test, or lets rather say, put me to the test on the bike. I’ve done a few small rides but this was the first proper longer distance ride on trails, snow and cold temperatures. But like I said, it was still warm when we started but it slowly changed as we made our way towards the Borealis-LeFerve Cabin. Some parts the cold wind cut through our clothes like a knife through meat.
Kevin and I had a quick talk when the temperatures fell down to -23°F (-31°C), and this was without wind chill. I would say the wind was blowing about 20km/h to 30km/h, which put the feel temperatures down to between -40°C and -46°C. At this time we were riding in the dark, so it was cold. We decided not to stop and keep cycling until we reach our cabin, which was about 3hours away.
Back after some rest
After a long one month rest, I really felt this cycle. I have to be honest… I was tired! My body also got a shock and quickly needed to adjust to the cold. The last time I had a proper five to eight hour cycle the temperatures was around 33°C. So with a 60°C temperature difference, my legs were screaming.
We finally arrived at the cabin where we met our other companions. I was exhausted and where I normally love to talk, especially when meeting new people, I barely talked. I was trying to get my breath back and rest my legs.
Everyone ate their dinners as we stocked the stove with wood before jumping into our sleeping bags.
We woke up and Jay already got the fire started. The cabin was nice and warm again as everyone was getting ready to hit the road. Just before we were about to head out, I quickly went outside to snap a few photos. As I was working my way around the cabin when I stepped into snow and fell through into water with one of my feet. It soaked all the way through and was totally wet.
Luckily we were still at the cabin and had the chance to take it off and dry it next to the stove. Kevin, Jay and Morris all helped in getting my feet dry. Jay gave me a pair of wool socks and Kevin some vapor barrier. After about 45 minutes we were ready (again) and jumped onto the fatbikes, heading onto the windy trail.
It was quite chilly from the get go, especially with the roaring wind, which was luckily coming from the back. Except for the wind, it was another beautiful sunny day – not a cloud in sight. It looked like everyone was having fun on the bikes as we slowly made our way back towards Borealis-LeFerve Cabin.
Few more pics of the cycle:
As we cycled, we crossed a few overflows on the trail. At a certain point I was cycling in front and arrived at one of these overflows. On this cycle it was the first tie I ever encountered these, and I read it wrong. So, for the second time in one day I fell through the snow into water. I looked down and saw the water just beneath my knees and jump out of it as quickly as I could. The water just started to flow into my boots, but luckily did not reach my toes yet (or it felt like it, or was not completely drenched).
At this point we were about an hour and a half away from the Borealis Cabin and the others quickly told me to keep cycling and if it gets too cold walk or run to heat up my feet. What I did not realize at that stage was that the temperature already fell down to -25°F (-32°C), without windchill. It was not long (about 15 minutes) before my boots and pants were solidly frozen. From time to time I jumped off the bike to push to get some extra blood-flow to my feet.
Pics of Day 2:
We finally made it to the cabin, were Kevin already started a fire, after he cycled out in front to get things hot and ready. After Jay struggled with his Leatherman to get the laces loose, we finally got it off and it was time to wait.
It was nice to look around the cabin, where the previous people that stayed over, left a few supplies… Beer, pretzel things, bread, Bacardi and a few other small things. We decided to crack the few beers and enjoy it while we wait.
Although we lost about two hours drying my boots, stock and clothing, I think all of us enjoyed the rest at the cabin. We talked, cracked jokes and everyone tell some tales. It was good to hang around a bunch of awesome guys, hearing their stories and most important, learning from their experiences as true Alaskans (O, and Morris the Canadian).
This was exactly why I came here… to learn new things and this day was a perfect example of that (and no, I did not step into water on purpose) 🙂
On the way again
After the nice chill in the cabin we continued as the sun was starting to sink lower until it was gone. Although the cold cut into our bones, faces freezing up, the sound of the fat tires breaking through the snow and then it was only our four headlights shining onto the crisp white snowy trail, it was the perfect kind of peace and quiet I’m searching through life.
Its moments like these Im doing what I do… When everything is combined… Hard work, suffering, learning, enjoyment, highs, lows and most importantly….. smiles and making new friends