Artist Point, Mt. Baker ride report

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Writing after a long time. I have been doing some bike rides in the mountains since last seasons. During the ride, especially on those long climbs I go through a lot of emotions and always wanted to pen them down. For example my thoughts climbing Sunrise point in Mount rainier last year vs this season has been way different. Last year, it was the hardest climb I have done. But after doing many such climbs including Haleakala, this year, my goal was focused on climbing at a without spending much time in threshold heart rate. As some one said, cycling is all about progressive insanity, every year the goals move as I progress in my fitness to be a stronger in cycling.
Yesterday, I had an awesome ride to Artist Point in Mount Baker with High performance cycling group (HPC). We started the ride from Maple Falls in Whatacom county. It is a good 2 hour drive from my home, and for change I was driving the carpool with David from HPC.  We started to Pedal with couple more folks around 9.15 am. One other rider was supposed to join, but she started at 9.30 but caught us at the summit.
The ride to Artist point from Maple falls is 32 mile long, and the summit at ~5K feet elevation. So net you would have climbed about 4500 feet in total elevation. The main climb is from mile 22, and the road just goes up till the summit at an even grade of 5-6%. But as you start climbing, and go towards Mt. Baker Ski area, you get some stunning views of snow covered Mt. Shuksan. About 4 miles to the summit, you reach Heather meadows. This winter had snowed a lot so we could not see the meadows, it was covered by snow. There were folks still trying to ski around that area.   I was riding at a steady pace average 7-8 mph. Not the fastest climber in the pack, but steady pedaling took me to the top in about 15 minutes behind the fast guys. The last 2-3 miles had a quick switch backs and the grade went up to 8%, and the roads had snow walls on the side which made the ride spectacular. Artist point had snow depth ~8 inches and it is July.
We started the down hill, was being super cautious seeing the road condition. Unfortunately David hit a pot hole and went down pretty hard. I was behind them and I was cursing the pot hole as I crossed it and saw David was standing with other riders trying to figure out what has happened. Luckily he got away with some road rash, but the bike had some issues. We were able to ride back to Maple falls with the fast guys pulling us a descent but not at a super fast pace. We stopped for Ice cream at Glacier, I skipped the additional sugar load.  We finished the ride around 2.30 PM.  Looking at the final stats, even with a super cautious descent , I had a steady pace and completed the ride at 15mph. Lots to work on the climbing skills, need to work on improving core strength to hold the line on long climbs and also improve the power to weight ratio before next season.
If you plan to do this ride, definitely it is worth the effort  for its spectacular views. But be super careful on the descent, the road is nasty , it is not worth the risk to improve your average speed by descending fast.  Here are some photos from the ride. If you plan to do this ride sooner, you can get these amazing views. Strava ride stats : https://www.strava.com/activities/artist-point-ride-with-hpc-1076230924










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