This year, I got into RAMROD (though it should more correctly be named “Ride on the Eastside of Mount Rainier in One Day because the roads are washed out” – I guess ROTEMROD isn’t terribly catchy…), which features (among other things) a climb up Sunrise. Sunrise being a small visitor center on the east flank of Mount Rainier, a great place to visit, so much nicer (and sometimes less crowded) than Paradise on the south side. If you look at the page on the climb, you’ll see that it’s about 3000 feet of climbing, which is something I haven’t done yet.
So, given that I’m off this week between jobs, I spent the night at my ski place in Skykomish, and rode up Stevens Pass, which is very similar to Sunrise. I started at the Skykomish city park on the north side of the river, headed across the tracks to ride old cascade road to where it met highway 2, and then up and up to the summit. The weather was bright sunny, and about 45 degree at the start.
The first 6 miles is a warmup. There are a few bridges where you need to look for a break in traffic, and a bit where there’s not a lot of shoulder. There are also some steep parts and some flat parts (and one pseudo-flat part…). Given how often I’ve driven this route (easily in the hundreds of times), I was struck by how different it is at 11 MPH. You’re near the river for the bulk of the time, and the sound of rushing water is never far away. It’s really pretty and the light traffic didn’t really detract from the experience.
Things start getting steep at Deception falls (a nice stop when you’re in the area), and once you get to Glacier, you leave the river and the railroad behind and just climb. The shoulders from there on all the way up are great, and the road is two lanes the whole way, so there are few traffic worries (though the large trucks laboring up the hill at 25 MPH do get your attention).
I settled in and did the remainder of the climb at around 7.5 MPH, with my HR somewhere in the 130s, which was fairly comfortable from a HR perspective but not really from a leg perspective. Though the temp was in the mid 40s, I had to take of my jacket off to stay cool enough, even in the shade. The last mile or so was enhanced with a nice 10 MPH headwind coming from the east.
At the top, I sat down on the 6-pack chair next to the granite peaks lodge (that Stevens bought someplace surplus, since they don’t have any 6-person lifts), and rested while looking around. If you were willing to do some hiking, you could still ski skyline top to bottom with only a couple of bare spots.
Average speed: 9.3 MPH
Average HR: 137 BPM
Elevation Gain: 3175 feet
Average speed: 7.7 MPH
Average HR: 142 BPM
Elevation Gain: 2680 feet
After 20 minutes of rest, I put on my jacket and headed down. I did the steep part in 19 minutes, at an average speed of 31 MPH (would have been faster, but I had to slow down for hairpin because the pavement is really torn up). The total descent took 36 minutes, averaging 26 MPH.
Overall it was a nice ride. I’d definitely recommend a weekday rather than a weekend.