Monday, February 22, 2010

PNP Ride

No, were not talking PNP bipolar transistors here. Many readers have no doubt done the 4NaaP ride in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, which stands for 4 Notches and a Pass. It's a New England classic loop consisting of Kinsman, Franconia, Crawford, Bear and Kancamagus. Faced with abysmal off-road conditions and warming temps to mess up the roads locally, I figured Saturday would be a great day to kick off the climbing season. I sought to do a pass-notch-pass ride. I posted profiles of my favorite climbs many times here. Can you ID these climbs?

The day before, I did a fairly punishing ski workout at Windblown. Met up with Skogs there, did some laps around the bottom, and a couple climbs up Barrett Mtn. What was not groomed was unskiable. Hard as granite. Much of what was groomed was groomed when the snow was still too wet from the warm day before. It was frozen granular. Not fun stuff to skate on. The trail called Open Slope, which is essentially an alpine run right up the 500ft fall line of Barrett Mountain, skied nicely however. It faces north, and they took one pass up it with the groomer. It was still powdery. Climbing it twice saved the day. Took about 8.3 minutes each time, right on the cusp of hurling the whole way up. Once was enough for Skogs. The first time up, we went down the equally steep narrow trails on the south side. I failed to find any edge on the crusty corduroy at one point and had no choice but to lay it down. At least I bailed in a semi-controlled fashion and didn't jamb a thumb back again. Needless to say, I went back down Open Slope after my second climb. I had enough after 2hrs. I had hoped to get in more of a distance workout there, but conditions weren't conducive for it. I scored about 3200ft of climbing though.

So that left me with ragged legs for Saturday's mini-hillfest. The temperature was 31F at the Lincoln visitor center starting out. This was perfect, as snow melt would be minimal yet it wouldn't be too cold. Plan was to climb Gonzo Pass (1800ft gain, Rt 118), Kinsman Notch (1000ft gain, Rt 112 west), and Kancamagus Pass (2200ft gain, Rt 112 east) all as out and backs. I started with Gonzo. It didn't take long before my wind shell had to come off. I realized the descent would be no picnic. Frost heaves were unreal, and heavily shaded bits were double tracks through ice and slush. I set up a steady, very comfortable tempo pace and reached the summit in 45 minutes. When I drill this climb, I do it in 40 minutes from the visitor center (9 miles), so I was quite pleased how easy a 45 minute pace felt. I headed back down toasty warm and did not bother to put my wind shell back on. It took almost as long to get back down through the frost heave mine field as it did to climb the beast. This is one of my favorite climbs in the Whites. I think the MTBC (mean time between cars) was at least five minutes. Very quiet.

From Gonzo looking towards Kanc

Back at the junction with Rt 112, I turned left to hit Kinsman Notch next. This road was smooth, 100% dry and clean. The only negative was a brutal headwind coming through here. I think the 4mi climb took me about 24 minutes. The half mile of 12% was nothing. I don't climb this one very often, and I was still anticipating the steep part when I suddenly realized I was already heading down the other side. I love it when that happens. Despite some pretty high intensity on skis the day before, my legs felt great.

Kinsman looking toward the Presidentials

I put the hi-viz wind shell back on up here. It wasn't so much that the windchill was potentially in single digits, it was I wanted the visibility when I got back down into Lincoln. Winter break in Mass meant hordes of texting punks between Lincoln and Loon Mtn Ski Area. Once I got past the Alpine area, the traffic dropped 90%. I continued again at steady tempo pace, never pushing myself. The temp must have broken above freezing, as there were now wet spots on the road. There really wasn't much snow here. There is more at my house 100 miles to the south and 2500ft lower in elevation. At Kancamagus Pass, a sightseer had to ask me "don't you get cold?" I was actually roasting in my wind shell. I wore AmFib tights, AmFib booties (which suck getting on and off), and fairly light layers on up top. The internal engine provides more than enough necessary warming. Skiing and biking all winter usually means 35F this time of year feels like short sleeve weather anyway. The 14 mile descent back to the car was nice, although I had to fight that pesky headwind the whole way. That was good for another 5400ft of climbing.

Kancamagus looking west towards Gonzo

These two days started to catch up with me on Sunday. I decided big hills should not be in the plan. It was a nice day out, I wanted to ski again, but didn't want to risk Windblown. Cathy had never been to Weston before, and she thought it would be cool to ski some place without mountains (she's a beginner classic skier). So we went down in the afternoon to catch peak slushiness and misbehaving kids. I quickly surmised I must have forgotten my legs, as there surely was nothing going on down there. They were dead. I struggled to make it over "Mt Weston" without herringboning it. I skied eight laps of the Tuesday night sprint course, good for 20km and just over 1000ft of climbing. Nearly 10,000ft of climbing over a February weekend is a real treat. Looks like the weather moving in this week could dampen riding for a while. That can only mean skiing will improve. Either way, I win.

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