A Tale of Two Mountains

There has been a lot of excitement around here, between preparing for the ride and attending some really cool events this August. This will be brief, and I'd like to focus on two events for this blog: Ride Ranier and Ride the Hurricane. Both were awesome in different ways.

Ride Ranier is a wonderful little event organized by myself and Marsha Cutting that draws a bunch of folks in wheelchairs up to the Paradise area of Mount Ranier to explore some of the accessible trails this national park has to offer. Last year, it was attended by 9 different chair users and this year we got up to 11. The trails we explored were not long, but they were challenging. Lots of steep climbs that are a bit difficult for manual chairs without assistance. We were always rewarded with incredible views from these steep climbs and being up on that mountain with other chair users is always so special. Everyone seemed to have a great time and we are looking forward to getting back up on Mount Ranier in 2019.

 Enjoying a beautiful day on the mountain.

Enjoying a beautiful day on the mountain.

 Me and dad.

Me and dad.

Ride the Hurricane is a horse of a different color. This event is near and dear to my heart because it happens right here in my backyard on the road to Hurricane Ridge. Once a year, they close the entrance to Hurricane Ridge off to vehicles and allow thousands of cyclists to climb this 5200 foot mountain. For the past two years I have joined these cyclists and attempted to climb this beautiful mountain in my power chair. In 2017, I began the ride at the entrance gate to the Olympic National Park. From here it is a 12 mile ride to the summit with about 4000 feet of elevation gain. I was unsuccessful on my first attempt, making it a half a mile from the summit. I could hear the drums beating at the top and could see my destination, but the batteries would go no more. I was determined to reach the summit on my next attempt. On August 5 I had that opportunity.

 Optimistic at the bottom of the hill.

Optimistic at the bottom of the hill.

I thought a lot about my first failed attempt and how I could ever reach the top. My solution was additional batteries. I purchased a lithium-ion battery for the ride from Idaho to Port Angeles and figured this would be the perfect time to test it out. With this additional battery on my back I was super confident (perhaps overconfident) I would achieve my goal. One small problem was that we had the new battery but not the charger for it. I assumed the battery was shipped with a pretty decent charge and hoped for the best. We started 5 miles lower than the previous year making it a 17-mile climb with just under 5000 feet of elevation ahead of us. I keep saying we… I should take a moment here to mention my trusty companion, Josh Sutcliffe. I'm super lucky to have someone on my team who is in good enough shape to jump on a bike and do a 5000 foot climb and stay lighthearted about it the whole time. He's a great friend.

We began the climb and everything looked great. Our spirits were up, our confidence was high, and the mountain was beautiful. The additional 5 miles we added on, turned out to be one of the steeper sections of the climb. It really wiped out some battery power. We were undeterred when we made it to our usual starting spot and just kept climbing. We switched over to lithium after 7 miles so we could see how well the new battery performed. My other batteries had started to slow down a bit and when I switched over my speed went right back up to 7 mi./h, my max speed. Much to the chagrin of Josh, we were flying up that hill! This continued for the next 5 miles. Then the chair stopped. I'm assuming the problem was lack of charge on the new battery and not underperformance by my new investment. We switched back to my main batteries which got me another 3 miles and then I was out of juice.

 Chugging along.

Chugging along.

We made it 15 miles and over 4000 feet in elevation, but ultimately we were unsuccessful once again. We could've made it from our normal starting point and we may have made it the whole 17 miles had I had a fully charged back up battery. It was a humbling day. I so wanted to reach the summit, but alas I'll have to wait until next year. It's like my white whale and I'll be strategizing until next August on the best way to reach the top of that mountain.