BQ Un-Meeting and Volcano High Pass Challenge

The Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting and the Volcano High Pass Challenge are just a little over a week away! These separate events will take place consecutively on Labor Day Weekend (Sept. 2-4). You can do one or the other, but of course, we hope you will join us for both!

The Volcano High Pass Challenge is a race or ride – as you desire – from Packwood at the foot of Mount Rainier to Carson on the Columbia River. The route climbs steeply out of the Cowlitz River Valley, then skirts the majestic volcano of Mount Adams, passes through quaint Trout Lake (with excellent huckleberry shakes), climbs another gravel pass, before dropping down toward the Columbia River in a vertiginous descent along Panther Creek. It’s one of the most scenic routes in the Cascades, with spectacular views of Mount Adams and stops at the beautiful Walupt and Takhlakh Lakes.

The distance is 170 km (105 miles), with half on gravel and half on pavement. Much of the pavement is during descents, so you’ll spend most of your time on gravel. The ride is unsupported, but our partners Branford Bike will be at Walupt Lake (after the first and biggest climb) with limited mechanical help, just in case. However, you’ll be riding outside of cell coverage, so please be prepared to ride on your own. The Challenge is an unsupported ride, so please no support cars…

The Volcano High Pass Challenge is open to everybody. We offer two options:

  1. One-day ride/race. Start at 5 a.m. on Saturday, September 2. These riders will get their time recorded at the finish.
  2. Start as you want. If you prefer to do the ride over several days, finishing on Saturday, you’ll be recorded as a finisher.

The start is at the Packwood Library. At each control, including the start, you take a photo of your bike:

  • Start: Sign at Packwood Library or Hotel Packwood.
  • Control 1: Walupt Lake: Sign for the campground.
  • Control 2: Takhlakh Lake: View of the lake with Mount Adams.
  • Control 3: Trout Lake: in front of general store with Sasquatch peering over the roof.
  • Control 4: Goose Lake: Photo with lake in background
  • Finish: Carson General Store

Record the time when the photo was taken. (Most digital cameras do this automatically.) At the finish, show us the photos, or, if you finish late, e-mail them.

The road conditions vary between smooth and somewhat rough gravel. I know of riders who have ridden on these roads on 35 mm tires, but I prefer 42s or wider. It’s a fun course, but as the name “Challenge” implies, it’s more strenuous than most “centuries”. Pace yourself and enjoy it!

The following day is the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting. As in the past, it’s a simple formula: Show up and enjoy a day of riding with like-minded cyclists. Start is at 9 a.m. at the Carson General Store. There are no fees, no registration, and no services. Simply show up and join us for the ride. There will be two rides:

  • To Trout Lake on the Volcano High Pass route, then circling the Weigle Hill and Buck Mountain on beautiful gravel roads. This route covers approximately 150 km (93 miles), almost all on gravel.
  • Calamity Peak. This is a paved course on one of the most amazing mountain roads in the Pacific Northwest. This is an out-and-back course, allowing you to shorten or extend the ride as you like. The distance is 70 – 90 km (43 – 56 miles), depending on where you turn around.

Everybody is welcome at both events. Please make sure your bike is in good condition – there will be no support and no sag wagon.

Riders organize their own accommodations. We have reserved a group tent site at the Wind River RV Park and Lodge in Carson, first come, first served, for $ 10 per night.

On Monday, many of us will ride to Portland, from where trains and other transportation are available… Start for the “Ride Back” is also at 9 a.m. at the Carson General Store.

I hope to see you there. Stay tuned for route sheets for these rides early next week…

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

Spirited rides that zig-zag across mountain ranges. Bicycle Quarterly magazine and its sister company, Compass Cycles, that turns our research into high-performance components for real-world riders.
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7 Responses to BQ Un-Meeting and Volcano High Pass Challenge

  1. Christian Bratina says:

    Would love to have a GPS route, not sure I can make it on time.

  2. Reed Kennedy says:

    Jan, will it be possible to drop camping gear off at the group site before Sunday’s rides, or should we plan to ride with our camping gear?

    Looking forward to joining for this! Especially convenient that Amtrak now allows a limited number of complete bikes aboard the Coast Starlight trains.

  3. Steve Skwarlo says:

    How do riders drop camping gear? Especially out of town riders traveling into Portland for example. Rental car useful? If self contained is required then what to take and recommend panniers etc. Even if I cannot make it this year the info will be generally useful, thanks! Steve

    • For the Un-Meeting, most riders simply bring their gear on their bikes, set up camp and ride the next day with just the things they need for the day. The Challenge is more complex, as it starts and ends in different places. Either carry your stuff and go minimalist, or send it ahead by USPS, UPS, etc.

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