Friday, March 2, 2012

Rainy Pass Lodge to Rohn

The section of Rainy Pass Lodge to Rohn is the mountain section of the Ultra Sport. It is where you climb up and over the Alsaka Range cresting over Rainy Pass and descend down through a gorge winding up in the "AK. interior" and the Rohn checkpoint where you will find your food drop. This section can take 16 hours or 2 days, I been there for both. The conditions and weather can vary greatly from a crisp, cold, calm night blaring with Northern Lights able to see with no headlamp, to the mercy of mother nature; a socked in storm that will just about blow you over, wallowing around looking for trail, peeking around  for the half-way cabin that you heard about, to teaming up with others to just get'er done.
The pass to a rookie is very nerve racking. I remember my first time of reaching Rainy Lodge by myself. It was a cold, stormy night and I was exhausted from the prior section. Opening up the door of the cabin, Jeff and Rocky (veterans) were strategizing softly to themselves as they were resting on cots and said "hey if you want to join us we are leaving at midnight" and they added "you don't want to head out there in this storm by yourself not being here before and there is NO trail up the pass". I think they respected that I was actually there and took me under there wing per say a little bit, this was awesome cause these guys are experinced Alaskan's and competitive. All and all it was the start of a great relationship that we have today. Do you think as a rookie I was nervous at this point? It was negative temps, snowing and blowing in a full on storm. I took them up on there offering and we headed out pushing our bikes into the night barley able to see where we were going. As we trudged through the unconsolidated snow, overflow included, it was the first and only year we actually did not make it over Rainy Pass and took the long route of going around the range and something called Hell's Gate. It was an amazing experience and I learned tons from these guys as we traveled all the way to the finish together. The next year I did make it up and over Rainy Pass in clear blue skis, but not without any hitches. Pete and I were leading the race and we caught up with the trail breakers (snowmachines) on our decent of the pass. They were sitting in the trail trying to make way, it was very slow for them with all the downfall and loose snow, the trail was barly passable. So we bivyed out for several hours and multiple other racers caught up. As soon as there was enough of us we passed the trailbreakers and trenched out our on trail in a teamwork fashion.
To me this is what the Ultra Sport is all about. We have many experiences where we learn from each other as well as about ourselves. Working together, laughing, bitching, moving forward, and over coming obsacles is what will help you get to the finish. This is a very rewarding experience and one that can only be gained by traveling human powered on the Iditarod Trail in the dead of winter.
The stories of the Pass can go on forever but here are some of my photos of making it over the pass through the years.
Rainy Pass Lodge, the entrance to the mountains. 

These Ptarmigan's make a noise where it sounds as if they are laughing at you, not cool while your pushing...

Inside of half-way cabin, I have stopped here and rested by myself the past couple years, very relaxing...

Flat light and hollow willows makes for hard trail finding.

Leaving Rohn.



After the gorge going to Rohn.

Wonder if the burn has snow this year, this is after Rohn  going to  Bison camp.

Getting to the pass.

Going up the pass.

The top.

Rohn cabin checkpoint, this is it, in the middle of nowhere.


Trail breakers, taking a break.

Team work.

Pringles time! Cabin on top of pass.



The gorge, there are many ice bridges that direct you going back and fourth.

On the way to the pass.

Which one is it again....

Leaving Rainy Lodge.

Rohn




Halfway cabin

This would be a very expensive flight if you so choose...

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