17 brave souls started this year, and by clothing pictured you can tell the weather wasn't starting easy. It snowed overnight more to the north, and was -8C for much of the way to Water Valley, with a stiff headwind and blowing snow. The last few km into town it "warmed up" to about -6C. Here's a shot courtesy of Trev where you can feel the balmy conditions.
There's also one record setting first. Geoff Clarke, to the left and zipping up, hammered it out on a 46x16 single speed. Manly. The Water Valley saloon provided for a long lunch stop. It's never particularly warm in there, but unlike Nepal it was warmer than the ambient temperature. They aren't used to group orders of size on Saturday. We were down a few riders by then who had to make it home for time constraints of life, but Dallas randomly joined, observing that he likely put too much vodka in his bottles to keep them thawed - then ordered a beer. When we emerged it was several degrees warmer, and we were now heading up, west, and in the trees. Heavenly.
My observation however was "the good thing is it's warm, the bad thing is it's warm". Road was muck. We were sinking in, moving slow, and derailleurs were suffering, some even imploding. The group split as we tried to ride frozen ice lines. Dallas, Geoff, Cesar, Kate and Jay were on the front mission. Rest of us were in "keep everyone moving" mode, either by mechanical attention, moral support, concrete like ice-mud picking, or pushing. Unfortunately we were out of cell service, and by the time 3:30 hit, we were still 70k away from my surprise. Cindy and Ashley were sag wagon extraordinaire, with soup, coke, treats, and I managed to put the 4 bike hitch rack on this morning solo, not the easiest thing. They exercised their patience at the top of Wildcat Hill and wondered what the heck was going on. I told the surprise to only a few who contemplated turning back, as we were now closer to salvation (and extraction by sag vehicle with rack) by going forward. Trev's derailleur bit it, so we rigged him up single speed. He did very well on the Harold Creek climb, but couldn't go fast enough to expend energy on the downs and got cold/hypothermic. Andrea and Ryan got picked up when their issues continued to compound by a friendly guy in a giant Dodge Ram for extraction to Cochrane. Jeff waited at the Forestry Trunk road intersection and gave a status update of what was ahead and behind, while I picked at ice mud in my cassette for 20 minutes to try to have more than two useable gears. The innovation of the day was peeing on your cassette then spinning it right away so it wouldn't re-freeze. Amazing.
Our thinned out group eventually made it to the paintball place near Waiparous. We ate cookies, Coke, Twix, hot dogs like they were going out of style. Shortly thereafter the super-sag was coming toward us with Trev and Jay picked up. I ate 3 small bowls of soup and grabbed a Coke and banana for the road.
South it was Shawn, Craig, Thomas, Jared and I, and we got to riding bikes like this was supposed to be. Bunnin had somewhere along the way dropped any signs of fatigue, and got us right up to 40km/h with pulls of excessive duration. When Jared got picked up we continued on like that, taking a small breather before the climb for this - one foothill ridge left to cross. 8pm, only enough sun to make it to Cochrane, and cool temps. Cindy and Ashley had waited at the top, just over the crest so climbing riders couldn't see until they were there, for hours.
I rolled through Cochrane and declined the extractions. Beautiful evening, wide shoulder so I could be 20 feet from cars, had my blinky, and no wind. It was pleasurable. Funny thing was, as I paced throughout the day, it was easy and I didn't feel spent.
After leaving home at 7:30 and Cadence at 8:45, I returned to the Defender at 10:02pm, and home and in the shower by 10:30. Here's the Strava capture of the ride. We skipped a few km on the way out to stay on pavement over gravel, and to get to lunch faster in that north headwind, and on the way home I did 1A for shoulder width preference instead of the south of river route. Big day of adventure. 3 finished from what I can gather now, and not all of those made the Wildcat hill… so it was a day of attrition.