The Pass That Wasn’t - Part One

Eric and company had suggested that if I took Hatchers pass I would avoid all of the traffic around Wasilla. They said it would be a beautiful and worthwhile shortcut, albeit a little difficult. Pen and paper in hand, Eric (of Revelate Designs fame) proceeded to draw me out a nice little map. It seemed doable and always up for an adventure, off I went.

It would take me two days to get to Fishhook road leading out of Palmer and heading up to the pass. Cycling in the snow with a bike that weighed more than 100 pounds was a challenge to say the least. I had stopped at the bike shop in Palmer to double check that this was possible, and lets just say the looks we're not encouraging at all. I proceeded anyway.

It was early afternoon, which up here meant that darkness was not far away. The ride was windy and hilly with the sunset light bouncing off the snow peaks. On my right was the little Sustina river, normally raging in the summer but now silenced by a thick sheet of ice covered with four to six feet of snow. They had gotten lots of snow up here which should have been a warning sign for me. Onward I went.

Legs tired and lungs burning I was cursed with fading light and mile markers that were not in my favor. Imagine driving up to your favorite overlook where there is no place to get out on either side of the road. No choice but to keep going and hope for the best. The stretch to the top was at mile marker 19 and I was at marker 11 when I saw what was surely some type of park building in the distance. Brown roofs are always a dead giveaway.

I rolled up to the small building which was a rest stop in summer time. The problem now is it wasn't summer, it was winter, and that meant the snow berm on the side of the road more than eight feet tall. The entire parking area was engulfed in snow that looked to be anywhere from four to six feet deep, depending on what type of structure was encased in the white stuff. What was looking good was the overhang of the building was on the lee side of the wind, meaning no snow and a safe place to camp. The problem was simply how to get there?

The building was no more than 50 feet from the road, but how was I going to get myself and my gear through all that snow. I stripped the bike of its bags and began to work the bike up and over the roadside berm. Some of it was firm while some caused me to plunge waist deep. I got the bike over and now repeated the proceeds for bags, body exhausted, sweating up a storm, and that was just to get off the road. I still had 45 more feet of snow to work through.

The task was tedious and painful. A full days ride had left me beaten down, but I knew there was no choice, I had to make this work. It took me almost an hour to get all of my gear and my bike over to the out building. When I was finally done, I collapsed in a pile of exhaustion. All of this work just to camp, how was I ever going to do the pass...

To be continued....


This post appeared on Glenn's blog, The Traveling Vagabond. You can read more of this stories, essays, and thoughts there, as well as see more of his photography.

This post filed under topics: Bikepacking Explore Fatbike Glenn Charles Snow Biking Sponsored Riders Touring

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Glenn Charles

Glenn Charles

Glenn Charles spent his first 40 years living what he thought was the American Dream; he now says he’s living life. Traveling by bike and kayak, he finds new ways to explore the world, meet new people and grow as a person. As he travels 50,000+ miles by human power, he hopes to inspire others to reconnect with nature and lead simpler, happier lives.


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bsimon | February 11th, 2013

I have wondered before why winter bikepackers don’t carry snowshoes for such situations.

cmherron | February 11th, 2013

100lbs!  yikes!

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | February 11th, 2013

bsimon - I have seen it a few times where a fatbiker packs snowshoes for a very long expedition, but not very often. I think that is because it is very difficult to push a bike while wearing snowshoes. Think of what it is like pushing a bike without snowshoes on your feet. You still have pedal strikes and such. Now imagine that same push with 8 x 14” ‘boards’ on your feet. That said..for the specific scenario Glenn faced, it might have made sense. Just put them on for getting off trail and around camp (if off trail).

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Fattie L. | February 11th, 2013

I believe Kurt Refsnider brought a pair along for the tour divide.  Oddly the only picture I can find of him with them features him walking and the snowshoes strapped to the handlebars.  Maybe they didn’t come in handy.

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Chris p | February 12th, 2013

Hatcher (there’s no ‘s’) pass is ridiculously beautiful in the winter or summer.  The road is a bear to ride even in the summer.  Steep and sustained.  Unprotected switchbacks on the backside.  That said, still probably a nicer way to go than through Wasilla.  It would take a herculean effort on a 100lb bike in the winter.  Huge props.

P.S.  are Glenn’s updates semi real time?

Kid Riemer

Kid Riemer | February 13th, 2013

Chris p - Glenn’s posts aren’t full-on real time, but you can pay closer attention at his site.

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