Nordic Skate Ski: Cub Creek TH - Rendezvous Pass - Mazama - Jack’s Loop - Mazama - MCT - Powers Plunge - Thompson Pass - Winthrop TH
Looking at the winter trail map for The Methow Valley, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would be possible to string all of the major systems together in a day. Over the years, I’d been on all of the trails independently, but putting it together would mean roughly doubling the longest ski I’d ever done in a day. Last winter’s ski from Cub Creek to Mazama and then to Winthrop at 65km was fun and not too painful, so extending the ski around Jack’s Loop before lunch and up to Thompson Pass after lunch seemed plausible.
I started at Cub Creek at 7:15am. The temperature was in the high teens starting the day and expected to get into the high twenties later on, so I split the difference with my wax. It didn’t feel super fast starting out with the snow creaking as I went, but I made it to Rendezvous Pass in about 1 hour and 8 minutes—about 10 minutes faster than last year. I was trying not to go too fast at the start, but was having too much fun and averaged 160bpm on the climb. I had first tracks of the day for much of the climb, which is always a great experience.
The descent into Rendezvous Basin was quick on freshly groomed trails until the grooming stopped near the bottom of the descent. Sick Joke Hill had been groomed the day before for the Tour of the Methow, but hadn’t been re-groomed, so it was skied out a bit and slick for keeping an edge. I was about 5 minutes faster than last year up the climb, with my heart back in the 160 range on average. Thankfully, the descent down Fawn Creek and Goat Creek was was quick and easy. I made it to the meadow just NE of the Mazama Store in 2 hours and 25 minutes and stopped for a quick snack and some water.
Base Camp, Upper River Run, and Jack’s Loop went pretty smoothly with a consistent, maintainable pace despite a noticeable headwind from the North on my way out. I was back in Mazama for lunch 4 hours after I’d started and just shy of 50km in at 11:15am. My legs felt a bit achy, but not terrible. Needless to say, I went to town at the Mazama Store for lunch, consuming a moderately obscene number of calories, refilling my water bottle and stocking up on Snickers.
An hour later, at about 12:15pm, I started down the MCT. While it had warmed up and was pretty sunny, the North wind kept the snow cool and pretty fast. I took it relatively easy, knowing how much was left, and kept my heart rate a bit lower while maintaining a little faster than 7-minute pace. I decided that Wolf Ridge warming hut would be a good place to take a break so that I’d warm back up before tackling the big climb at the end. Taking the boots off and drying my feet out a bit by the fire while refilling my water was awesome. I felt better at this point than I had just before lunch and was pretty sure I’d pull it off.
Climbing Powers Plunge and up past Patterson Lake to Chickadee Trailhead wasn’t as bad as I’d expected it to be—I made it in 41 minutes with an average heart rate of 148bpm. I rested up briefly in the Chickadee warming hut and then set off up Thompson Road. I decided to go up Meadowlark and down the road to give myself some plateaus on the climb and make the descent more straightforward. I kept feeling good all the way up to the pass, taking one short break part-way up the backside climb and making it from Chickadee in about 1 hour and 6 minutes, keeping the same heart rate average of 148.
From the top of the pass, it was in the bag! I zipped down the road, pulling my windbreaker back on along the way and retracing my steps to the top of Powers Plunge, then heading down the Lower Winthrop Trail. After crossing Twin Lakes Road, despite it being pretty flat, I hit a bit of a wall and stopped to eat my last granola bar and drink the last of my water. That was enough of a bump to get me out to the Winthrop trailhead at 5:30pm, just as the sky was turning pink and the moon was bright in the sky—a perfect way to finish it up. What a great adventure day!