Although it is only 35 miles between Winterlake lodge and Puntilla, it took us 15 hours. I didn't even recognize the trail from the year before, it was so torn up from the Irondog (snowmobile race) the previous week. We pretty much pushed our bikes the entire way. The happy steps were brutal going up. It was so steep and slippery, and really difficult getting the bike up without sliding back down.
We finally reached Puntilla around 6 pm. After a can of yummy ravioli, I claimed one of the two beds in the back of the little log cabin and slept for another 3 hours.
While sleeping, a whole bunch of other racers had arrived in Puntilla. When I got out of bed to wake Eric up, there were people everywhere. Someone was sleeping underneath a bed, while someone else was laying down on a make-shift bed out of chairs. I guess I was lucky to get a real bed where it was quite. Sean Grady was up at the same time as us, and took of just a little bit ahead of us. Getting ready seems like a long process. Retrieving your strewn out clothes, filling camelbaks and thermoses, getting dressed, and putting everything back on the bike while trying to eat and drink always takes longer than it should. At 1 am we were finally out the door and on our way to Rohn.
It was windy outside, and Sean's tire tracks had already been blown over by snow. We made our way across the lake, pushing our bikes, trying to follow the reflective markers along the "trail". After a while we could see 2 zig-zagging tire tracks and footprints ahead of us. After a couple of hours, we say 2 headlamps moving around. We kept hiking until we caught up with Sean and Phil Hofstetter who were searching for a hard packed trail and trail markers. It was really difficult trying to find a packed trail and we had to post-hole our way forward most of the time.
Sean Grady's picture of me and Eric pushing through some alder bushes in the dark
When we finally go to the turn-off for Rainy Pass (10 miles from Puntilla) it was already day-light. We stopped and had a little snack before continuing on.
Eric taking a little breather while eating a muffin.
Phil was having some problems with blisters and decided to stop to take care of his feet on the way up to Rainy Pass. It was a hard push, and I was working hard to follow in Eric and Sean's footsteps. At one point we got to a stream of open water. I was so glad we had brought the Neos. I was a little nervous they would leak, it would have probably been a good idea to try them out before the race...
Me carrying my heavy bike across open water on Rainy Pass.
I think it took us about 12 or 13 hours to reach the summit. The going down was only slightly easier than up, as we still had to push through alder bushes, do some trail finding, and cross water here and there. At one point we heard the loud sound of avalanches, luckily they weren't near us. This is when my bonking began. I started having trouble eating, and my brain seemed really slow. Eric started asking me questions, and I just starred at him with a blank look on my face. I wasn't sure I could make it all the way to Rohn without bivying in the snow. When we finally reached the river, I was really hoping it was going to be ridable. We were all getting tired of pushing our bikes. We were able to pedal the last 5 miles to Rohn, which we reached 20 hrs after leaving Puntilla.
The Rohn Cabin