TLDR version: we had a strong ride up, a cautious descent in pouring down rain, and the planned second trip up was unanimously vetoed.
Full version (with explanations or excuses, your choice): we arrived in Port Angeles Saturday evening to lovely weather with just enough picturesque clouds to hint that the next day’s forecast rain on Hurricane Ridge might actually materialize. Light scattered showers in the am, with heavier rain, possibly thunderstorms, after 11am.
Or so the forecast read.
Since we were planning to ascend twice, we got a pretty good start on the morning, though unlike RAMROD or STP, our alarm was not set for a time that began with a 3. That was nice. As we drove to the start, the rain started. Big, wet raindrops.
We started up the climb at 7:30, with a fair amount of our rain gear already on, rather than in the pockets and seatbags that we had so carefully packed them in. It was pretty balmy at the start, and given how much bicycling uphill warms you up, I was actually enjoying the rain–I would have been wet from sweating regardless. The rain felt refreshing to me, and made the air clean, cool, and damp, which is so much nicer to breathe than dusty, hot, and dry.
One of the great things about the Hurricane Ridge climb is the constantly evolving series of vistas–town, water, flowers, forests, hills, mountains. For example, a view from the ride:
Actually I jest. One, there was no way I was bringing out my phone or camera in the pouring down rain. Two, even though the blank whiteness of inside a cloud was all we could see at some viewpoints, there were a couple that had a really lovely impressionistic fading away of hill ridges receding into the mist.
The cloud bank that we rode up into also served to make a familiar climb new again. Without being able to see up the road, we’d get to a corner and exclaim “this section already?!?” One section towards the top that isn’t my favorite because you can see for a ways and it never feels to me like I am making much progress just flew by.
So yeah, I actually enjoyed doing the climb in the (earlier than forecasted) rain.
Then we got to go back down. Though the temperature at the start was a pleasant 60 degrees or so, it was low 40’s at the top. Between sweat and rain, I was thoroughly soaked. Luckily, much of what I was wearing was wool, which retains insulative capacity when wet–but still… I had a couple more layers that I put on, including the high-tech marvel of a free hotel shower-cap over my helmet–something I picked up from a certain Andy Hampsten who knows a little something about cycling in inclement weather.
But there was no way to get around the fact that the descent would be cold and wet. And despite our rain gear, it would be a bit colder and wetter than we had planned for.
We rode our brakes all the way down, going slower just so that the windchill factor would be less. We also stopped several times to restore feeling to our hands. And at the bottom, we were in agreement that there would not be a second ascent.
Actually, I should rephrase that, as a second ascent would have been welcome for the warmth it would provide. Rather, there would not be a second descent.
So, it feels a little silly to be wimping out in bad weather during our training to ride the Dolomites with Andy Hampsten, someone who has ridden through much worse than a little rain… But it was really quite wet out. And cold, with that heavy humidity that brings the chill right into your bones. And perhaps a 5,000′ climb still counts for something?
Plus, I figured that all the extra muscle engagement that I was doing on the descent to try to create some warmth was more work than I would usually get on this ride, so it was kinda like doing the climb more than just the once? Sure.
At any rate, after the fact I’m glad I did it. During the ride, I really did enjoy the climb, and now that I am warm again, the descent makes a good story and allows me to indulge in feeling a little badass for being out riding in such conditions at all. And it continues to be amazing to ride that road car-free. This year, the peaceful patter of raindrops was part of what made the ascent enjoyable–something you can’t enjoy in the same way when it’s constantly interrupted by the roar of the internal combustion engine.
Performance-wise, I felt pretty good on the ascent (seriously–I’ll take ascending in the cold and rain over ascending in sun and 90 degree heat any day.) The four times I’ve gone up that climb, my times have been very close to each other. This year was definitely the most weight I’ve ever carried up the climb, considering the amount of clothing I was wearing and its water-logged state (seriously, that was one amazingly heavy pile of laundry), so I’m pleased with having a time comparable to my summer-weather ascents. Despite fewer miles this year, I am at least hanging on to fitness, maybe even slightly improving? And I’ve got to figure a lot of character growth for riding up and down a mountain in the driving rain…
August in the Pacific Northwest. There’s nothing like it.