Words by Ambassador Delia Massey. Photos by Kinsey Smith.
What do you do when your Process 153 is in the shop for a few weeks, but it’s the perfect time of year for big alpine adventure rides? You throw some Minions on your Honzo and get ready for a wild ride! I usually choose my full suspension bike when I have hours of rocky singletrack ahead of me, but I found that my hardtail was more than up to the task and was actually the better choice for some sections.
Angel’s Staircase is one of the most scenic rides in Washington, passing through forests, around alpine lakes, and up and over mountain passes with sweeping views of the North Cascades. It’s also one of the most challenging and physically demanding rides in Washington, and it’s the second highest trail you can ride in the state, topping out at just over 8,000 feet elevation (Pyramid Mountain in Entiat is about 100 feet higher). The best time to go is late September/early October when the larches have changed color and it’s not blazing hot on the exposed sections. But, you have to time it just right because if you wait too long, you might get snowed out! After getting turned away by a mix of sleet and rain the weekend before, I saw that the third Saturday in September was going to be the perfect day. My Process was getting some service done at the Kona Bike Shop, so my Honzo was my trusty steed for the big day ahead.
We woke up at 4am to get to the trail by 9, and as I had predicted, the weather and conditions were perfect. Thanks to the rain the week before, the normally dusty trails were tacky, and while it was clear and sunny out, we never got too hot or too cold. With my pack full of snacks, water, and extra layers, and we set off up the seemingly endless climb. The Honzo is always an excellent choice for climbing, and I had to remind myself to slow down and wait for my fiancé. We passed the point of no return, Cooney Lake, and did the hike a bike section up to 8,000 feet. Hiking with my Honzo was actually quite nice because it’s much lighter than my Process! The rocky descent down the backside was admittedly a bit rough, but I rode most of it aside from the gnarlier switchbacks, and we eventually made it to Boiling Lake. One more big climb/hike (a moto rider cheerfully told us “it’s only four switchbacks!”) and after four very long switchbacks, we got the reward of the final descent down the Eagle Lake Trail. I’m not going to lie, my body felt a bit beat up after almost 25 miles of pretty rough trail and 6,000 feet elevation gain on a hardtail, but the Honzo handled it like a champ. As I stuffed pupusas in my face at our favorite post-ride spot in Wenatchee and reflected on our ride, I couldn’t stop smiling after another great day on the bike. I’m stoked for more big adventures on my hardtail this winter!