2019 Mt. Baker Hill Climb

I considered my ride in the 2018 Mt. Baker Hill Climb an adventure to be endured, not necessarily enjoyed during the adventure, yet another example of a favorite C.S. Lewis quote,

Adventures are never fun while you’re having them.

Going into the 2019 event with eyes wide open, I’ve been expecting a tough but enjoyable ride, even during the ride.  I’d been reimagining my Kona Dew as a fast road bike with gearing to tackle the hill at my pace, as well as thinking the Jones Bars would comfy cozy with lots of hand positions and a neat little pouch to keep snacks ready at hand.  My road bike has a triple chainring upfront, but the tiny rear cassette left me wanting for one more gear to shift into on the steepest part of switchbacks.  This time though, I was set with my Kona’s mountain bike gearing…that was until about 5 days before the ride when the Kona’s rear hub went to heck.  Not really Kona’s fault, I’ve been pushing this low/mid level bike pretty hard this season and the Joytech hub apparently had had enough. (later investigation revealed that the cone/locknut on the drive side of the hub were loose.  Cleaning, greasing and properly adjusted the rear hub is still going fine after hundreds of more miles)

Not wanting to impulse buy a new wheelset and fit it up in a matter of days, yet still wanting that slightly lower gearing, I turned to Amazon Prime and ordered a slightly bigger (2 teeth I think) rear cassette for my blue Raleigh road bike, the same road bike that I rode last year.  Not really the gearing I wanted, but it was the best that my road spec rear derailleur would handle.  So, Saturday afternoon, the day before the ride, my “bigger” rear cassette arrived in my mailbox.  I installed the new cassette and took a 2 mile shakedown cruise down a flat road and my bike was ready for the 2019 hill climb.  

Starting line

That was my bike, as for me, I have issues, several issues, but the issue relevant to this ride is that I over think things, leading to over preparing, which last year led to me wearing a well stuffed hydration pack filled with all kinds of things that I would likely never need.  Mind you, there are fast type riders who, but for a half yard of lycra would be naked, while I had packed; long riding tights in addition to the shorts I wore, a warm fleece pullover in addition to the lighter longsleeve pullover I wore, a goretex rain jacket in addition the the wind jacket I was wearing at the start of the ride…you get the picture.  But I also over prepped in the maintenance department; a full tool kit including cone wrenches, all necessary hex wrenches, spare spokes, spoke wrenches of course, patch kit, spare tube,and even a spare tire.  By the time I warmed up on the first hill and started shedding layers, I was strapping things on the outside of my pack.  Now, at the time I didn’t feel bad about all the extra stuff, because in my head I was determined to get all the way up to Artist Point and nothing was going to stop me, weather, mechanical, physical…Oh, yeah I also had a pretty complete first aid kit along also. And as it turned out…you can guess, I needed none of it whatsoever, but I knew I had it if I needed it. 😉  

This year though, having already completed the ride last year, I was determined to ride pack-less and free,  just take in the ride and enjoy whatever happened along the way.  I packed minimal tools in my under seat bag and my super light wind/water resistant shell along with my phone, snacks and a mini first aid kit in a small handlebar bag.  I was ready and my bike was ready.

CNN Coverage

I laid down early to get a full night sleep only to be awakened a short time later by thunder, lightning, wind and rain…dang, wished I’d over prepped like last year because I lay awake for at least an hour wondering where my rain riding gear was and wondering if they’d call the event due to lightening.   

Then it was morning, wet, misty sprinkles, but not outright raining and no lightning.  I took my real rain jacket in car with us up to the starting at Glacier, just incase it was outright raining there, but it wasn’t so I Ieft the jacket with my wife and I was pack-less as planned, and ready to ride.  


The view around every turn

The ride was wet, but not too wet, in fact as the ride progressed it was difficult to differentiate rain, from mist, from sweat.  I didn’t even bother wearing my light rain shell and I didn’t really feel coldness until the wind started hitting above the tree line, in the last few miles before the finish.  The ride was eerily quiet.  It was like walking in a snow storm, maybe the same quietness because I was, basically riding in a cloud.  It was also different from last year in that I didn’t really see many other riders along the way once I had left the valley floor and started up the big steady climb.  Visibility was pretty limited so there may have been more people ahead or behind me than I realized.  Lately I’ve done quite a few early morning solo training rides up the Galbraith Tower Rd. so I felt pretty at home just with myself huffing and puffing up towards Artists Point.

I think I can, I think I can.

Between Heather Meadows and the finish at Artists Point I did hear a funny whirring sound.  I was getting passed by an E-Bike and I was also wondering if he was classed as social, recreational, or competitive rider, then went back to my huffing and puffing. Approaching the last couple of turns I exchanged a few quick words with a rider who was passing me.  I remembered him from the starting line and here we were now nearing the finish, both wondering how many more turns were hidden in the clouds.  He passed me, and I heard the cowbell ring and some cheering for him at the finish before I even saw the finish line, but a few seconds later the bell was ringing for me and I was done.

Artist Point, the rain is not in Spain

Unlike last year when I rode back down the route to Glacier, enjoying the view and snapping pictures, this year I hit the bathroom, the hot coffee, and headed for the Baker Shuttle.  Other than being wet cold as I finished, physically I felt great, better than the 2019 ride.

Made it.

On the fueling side and just like this years Tour de Whatcom, I made my cashew date bars, had a small bottle of coconut water for electrolytes, as well as some real water water.  Another fueling note is that since this spring I’ve been on the trajectory towards a whole food plant based diet and in July made the switch completely.  Compared to last year I felt great, finished about 20 minutes quicker.  I don’t know what I can attribute directly to plant based nutrition, or what might be gearing, but I am the same weight as last year and have ridden a lot of the same rides over the summer as last year, so my feeling is that nutrition is helping, certainly not hurting.



Relive ‘Mt. Baker Hill Climb’