In NZ the most deluxe and exotic mountain bike trips are done by helicopter. In Canada they are done by Float plane – in this case by a 1962 de Havilland Beaver . We had rolled out of our tents to a bluebird day and stuffed our packs with sandwiches. We had a mission planned that involved flying to the far corner of a map we had. The route involved 4 large mountain passes and huge amounts of singletrack glued together with a modicum of knowledge gained from hearsay of others. Mark and I were so excited we had a nap in the sunshine on the wharf while waiting for the float plane to arrive.
Turned out we were asleep on the wrong wharf… but a quick rearrange had us sorted
4 boys and 4 bikes were soon packed into the Beaver. A quick taxi down the lake before a rip roaring takeoff gave us fine views of the camp beside Lake Tyaughton. Most float plane biking trips head for Spruce Lake, or if you are more adventurous they drop you at Hummingbird Lake. The pilot confirmed that we wanted to go to Lorna Lake – more than twice as far as Hummingbird and then asked us what route we were taking. We started rattling off pass names, starting with Lorna Pass and Deer Pass and the pilot said that if we took those passes and then followed Gun Creek down from Hummingbird Lake that it would take us 6 to 8 hours if we were fit. We then mentioned that we were also planning on heading up and over Windy Pass and then following the Cinnabar trail up and over the El Dorado ridge before getting back to camp. He reckoned we were up for a big day out. We confirmed we were and that we had packed a lot of sandwiches. Appropriately he found ACDC – Highway to Hell and piped it through the headphones to get us amped for our day out.
A quick circle above Lake Lorna (1930m) gave us a good look around before a buttery smooth landing. Float planes are great! Taxiing along to a rickety makeshift wharf the pilot cut the engine, opened the door, jumped out onto the float and was able to jump nimbly onto the wharf and secure the plane. Very impressive! We were quickly out, unloaded and waving goodbye to the Beaver, with a nagging feeling that we had been abandoned in the middle of nowhere – which was pretty close to the truth!
We rolled off down the valley, in search of a vaguely explained way to cross the river flowing out of Lorna Lake. A little route finding and backtracking soon had us shuffling across some very flexy trees above the river and heading straight into the first pass of the day.
The climb was 100% ridable for about 5% of the time. The other 95% was 100% walkable.
The first sandwiches were consumed on the top of Lorna Pass (2250m) and we were soon flying down through the wildflowers. Long snakes of singletrack put huge smiles on our faces and took us down from the pass to the valley floor where the kilometers quickly flew beneath our tyres as we cranked our way down beside the headwaters of Tyaughton Creek. We quickly passed one of the horse treking camps (1700m) and hung a right up a valley towards Deer Pass (2300m). It was a couple of hours of riding and walking to get to our second lunch stop at the top.
A quick digestion nap at Deer Pass and we were once again flying through meadows of wildflowers on ribbons of singletrack. There were big fat marmots scurrying off the trail, whistling like mad as we swooped past.
After a couple of kilometers we dropped out of the meadows into forest and ripped down some awesome loose steep and dusty trails. Mark managed to catch a stump with some spokes and was soon up and riding with the remaining 28 spokes holding his wheel in some semblance of round. We dropped into the valley floor and sidled around Trigger Lake (1550m). Some fun singletrack lead us further down the valley and around the very picturesque Hummingbird Lake (1500m).
More fun valley singletrack sidled above Gun Creek until we started climbing towards Cowboy Camp past the trails that led to Spruce Lake. We were starting to feel the 2 passes we had come over and the hours on the bike, but it was a beautiful day and there was more singletrack to be had. We had a confusing conversation with a lost horse trekking guide who had no idea where she was and told us we were in a completely different valley to what we thought we were. 5 minutes further down the track we met our float plane pilot riding a mountain bike towards us saying “Hi – I’m your pilot today”. Kind of surreal, but he was looking for his lost horse guide and on the right track to finding her so we duly embarked on the climb towards Windy Pass (2200m) in beautiful light as the sun got lower in the sky.
Windy Pass was lunch number 3 or 5… after a quick discussion of which trail we should follow we were dropping from Windy Pass down to El Dorado creek (1700m), where we startled a number of marmots who whistled down their burrows before popping up to inspect the visitors and whistle to their mates about it all.
The kilometers were starting to take the toll on the group and the 500m climb to the El Dorado ridge had us strung out along the trail. Being a lovely evening lounging in the sunshine was not a big hardship however.
Sitting on the pass was very tranquil as the sun set over the mountains that we had crossed that morning. The thought of another 10 km of downhill singletrack without light was a little disconcerting however.
Descending from the pass was one of the most fun bits of trail of the day with long loose swooping switchbacks flowing down the mountainside. With the fading light the singletrack soon became a slightly lighter ribbon to follow while not really being able to see details. Dropping off step downs and popping off roots through clouds of dust in the dimmer and dimmer light was very entertaining. We eventually exited on a forestry road in almost complete darkness and floundered for a while. Finding promising singletracks and then backtracking when we decided they were heading in the wrong direction. It took about 30 minutes before we steered ourselves onto the right track where we rode another few kilometers downhill and popped out onto the road back to the camp. The last few torturous kilometers of road undulated back towards the camp with some of the group needing a bit of a tow to get up the hills. We arrived back at the lodge at 9.20 PM knowing that the kitchens shut at 9.30… and stumbled through the door after 11 hours of riding. I am sure the sight of 4 dirty, sweaty and disheveled lads deliriously raving about being feed would have given the waitress a start at 9.20 on a very quiet Sunday evening but we somehow managed to arrange 4 burgers and fries to appear whilst summoning pitchers of beer from the bar. A very awesome day of riding! 60km or so of awesome singletrack while ascending about 2500m and descending about 3500m. Definitely a great day out on the bike with mates that will stay imprinted on my mind.
After 4 days of stonking trails in Pemberton we hightailed it over to Taughton Lake in the Chilcotin area to camp. They have a little campground just beyond the big flash lodge and spa there… which is also conveniently located for getting onto a float plane.
After a restful evening of camping we were awoken to the sound of a de Havilland Beaver first taxiing and then a roaring to takeoff down the lake beside us. It was a sound we got very used to. It was a long weekend and there were a lot of mountain bikers flying out to lakes in the mountains.
First day was good ole standard ride out, up a valley (Taylor Creek), over a pass or two (Camel and the up onto the ridge above Cinnabar creek) and down some singletrack (Cinnabar trail) to get back to camp.
A hut we found well up Taylor Creek.
From here it was further up, over barren high passes (Camel Pass) before dropping into meadows.
Then up further onto the top of a ridge before dropping along and finding some super fun singletrack on Cinnabar trail to drop back to camp.
I used to ride all the time here in NZ with Charlie. All the out the back of beyond fun type of missions! Charlie went to Canada a little while back, which made me kinda sad because I missed the motivation of his suggestions for missions, but every cloud has a silver lining. Now that Charlie lives in North Vancouver I have someone in Canada to show me all the trails that I would love to ride!
So. August 2013. 3 weeks off work. Me, my bike and a simple plan to ride my bike a lot!
I landed about 2pm and by 5pm was out and riding some North Shore trails with Charlie. Up Fromme and onto sweet trails such as 7th Secret, Leppard, Crinkum Crankum, Kirkford, Ceder Trail, Upper Griffen, Lower Griffen, Griffen Switchbacks etc. Great way to blow some jetlag type cobwebs and get a taste of the shore.
I jumped ship for Whistler the next morning leaving Charlie to be a wage slave. I spent 3 days checking out the valley trails, bumping into other kiwis and watching Crankworx. Half a day of lift accessed trails on a DH bike was enough park for me and I bailed back to Vancouver.
Back staying with Charlie and Veronica there were more people arriving. First Barny and Fenella who were also on holiday from NZ. We did some more riding on Fromme exploring trails getting a bit lost and thoroughly enjoying ourselves before exploring supermarkets and bottles stores. There is lots of tasty craft beer in Canada and it is cheaper than craft beer here in NZ! Yes I know that there is a bunch of USA beer there… but it is available in Canada.
After introducing Dugall to Fromme as well we headed for Mt Cypress to soak in a bit more North Shore riding. Fromme is very close to town and the trails, while difficult are well groomed. Many many trail fairy hours have gone into armoring with rock and wood and making the trails sustainable. Cypress is a different story. It is a bit harder to get to and so we were able to find trails there that were a lot more “raw”. They had loam and sketchy steep moves and rock slab rolls. Very seriously fun trails in there!
Back to Fromme for a day while Mark arrived. More fun riding on trails like Espresso and Ladies Only.
With Mark now on board we were off to Squamish. Nothing much of a town, but far out are there some trails to be found there! Had a very fun day doing all sorts of trails, ending with a couple of shuttles up to some gnarly downhill tracks. First run was ok, second I was starting to get a bit tired (8th day straight of riding) and blew a dusty corner on the lower part of the trail. Brushed myself off and kept going, but should have taken note. Blasting along through a fast section while following our local guide I popped off a rock and managed to clip my bar on a rock while in the air. I crashed pretty hard onto rocks and roots… jumped up thinking I had got off pretty lightly and then noticed my right ring finger was at a pretty strange angle. Crap! Now lets see. Does not hurt like it is broken, so I guess it must just be dislocated?? I grabbed it, pulled on the finger and it popped back into place. Hand was working again and did not feel too bad so I rode out the last 5 min of trail to the car. For some reason I have no photos of this…
Anyway I found ice while the guys did another run, where Jeremy our local man managed to badly tweak his ankle by hitting something wrong, hyper-extending his ankle and then being ejected off the bike.
Next day the finger was sore, but I could still mostly grip a handlebar… so it was more Squamish riding. We found all sorts of fun.
From Squamish we bailed to Pemberton for 4 days. Even smaller town, but much nicer vibe than the town in Squamish. The mountains around Pemberton have many great trails. We hit up trails like Gravatrout, Cream Puff, Jack the Ripper and PhD. There were a bunch of others as well… but I cannot remember all the names!
The big features of many of these trails is the big granite rock slabs that you end up rolling down. The trails tend to seek out these rock slabs and they are rather heart poundingly good fun! A track called PhD seemed to be made almost entirely out of these rock rolls.
Anyway. That is enough photos for one post. After 4 days in Pemby we trucked off over the hills to the Chilcoatins. Home of the float plane bike trips. I will write this up in my next post.
A bunch of people headed up to Forest Lodge at the bottom of Mt Cheeseman for Mels birthday. On the Saturday Mel, Emily, Heather and I headed over Dracophyllum Flat to the Broken River access road, and then up the track to Camp Saddle.
At Camp Saddle there are fantastic views of the ski fields and valley. Seats are lowered and protection adorned before scuttling across the top of the scree to find a nice line down the hill.
Then it is the scree riding. The steep slope does mess with your head, but once you point your bike down and get both feet on the pedals it is easy to control your speed as the bike sinks into the soft scree
The scree takes you down to the Edge track which is a super fun way to get back down the hill
After the Edge track is the Luge track, which is always very big grin inducing, as is the downhill at the start of Dracophyllum Flat. A most excellent days riding!
I spent the weekend up in Wellington with my mate Russ. Seeing as I left my camera at home I don’t have any photos of it.
There was a whole bunch of riding done and a whole bunch of craft beer consumed. With those 2 things being my 2 favourite pastimes it was a great weekend!
Really good to see all the Wellington track that people have been building. The capital city really is blessed with a multitude of trails right on the city doorstep. For a more indepth report have a look at Russ’s blog.
Its been a while since I went up Blowhard. I remember it being pretty damn good fun last time and so when an evening mission was planned to go ride it I was keen. Away and out of town and battling the cross winds on the plains to get out to Oxford. A quick stop for essentials such as beer and chocolate and we were soon getting on our bikes at the bottom of the track.
No such thing as a warm up, we were soon sweating our way up the track on a perfectly warm and windless summer evening. Definitely a stark contrast to the Mt Grey gale we rode on Sunday! The track up follows a ridge and has endless steep pinches followed by rideable flat or slightly down sections. As you climb the steeps get steeper and rockier until you end up having to walk, but even these ups are interspaced with fun little downhills and plenty of riding up the hill.
Once you get up to the ridge there are many open sections and again it steps up and down as you climb towards Mt Richardson. There were fantastic views out over the plains, Lees Valley and the other foothills. With the sun low in the sky we kept moving towards the top.
A couple of hours and we were on the top watching the sun set over the Southern Alps. Food in mouths and lights were put on the bikes.
The trails on the way up look like plenty of fun going the other way and we were all keen to hit them up and have some fun! Along the top ridge there are some fast wide open sections interspaced with tight forest sections and rocky/rooty trails. We were soon zooming down the trails only really needing the lights for the forest sections. The tracks are super fun to descend with twisting chutes that act like berms to throw you around the corners.
Once we had traversed the top ridge and started dropping back down towards the van the fun started in earnest. The trail is chunky and rocky and has been water eroded over time leading to very amusing corners with chutes and lots of rocks and ledges to pop off. Further down the trail turns into a choss pile of steep rocky loose baby heads which had Laurence giggling uncontrollably at me managing to stay upright on a bike which was heading every which way and all over the trail underneath me. We made it down somehow managing to keep just within the limit of out of control and loving every second of it.
Some fast 4wd track sections soon had us back at the van finding the beer and food. Blowhard is a fantastically fun piece of trail that does not get ridden anywhere near as much as it should!
On another note, my new Mavic Alpine XLs have now been on a couple of rides and I am finding them good. Stiff on the bike and very comfortable to walk in. There is some pressure on the top of my foot just in front of the ankle from the metal buckle where the velcro strap folds back, but I think this is likely to disappear as the shoe wears in. I have only had short walks carrying the bike so far but I think they are feeling promising for a much longer walk. I will report back once I have done a carry of over an hour up a hill. At least the Blowhard track managed to get a bunch of mud and dirt on them. The white colour is on the way to being covered up!
Finding shoes that are good for both riding my bike as well as walking up hills has been a bit of a challenge for the last few years. I had a pair of trusty Lake 165s that did well for a few years before the stitching went and while they were ok with a good grippy vibram sole, a reasonably comfortable upper for walking and a stiff enough sole that did not flex on the pedals I wanted something better.
I tried a pair of the Pearl Izumi X-Alps. They certainly look like they are built for what I want but I have been pretty disappointed with them. The upper fabric tears easily, the heel cup design gives me terrible blisters every time I walk up a hill and the soles are too flexy and give me sore feet on long downhills. Also having a ratchet on the side of the shoe is a silly idea if using the shoe for walking or blasting down technical trails. I hit the ratchet on a rock on about my 4th ride and busted it off the side of the shoe. A bit of ingenuity had it reattached but things like slippery rocky river crossing bash the ratchets into the side of my foot.
I was looking at the Shimano MT71 shoes, or even the Shimano MT91 boots, but did not want something as big and clunky as a boot, and the shoe did not look aggressive enough for my taste.
I finally decided on getting a pair of the 2012 Mavic Alpine XL shoes. While they look a bit gay with all the white on them at least they have a decent amount of tread on the sole and look like they were designed to be good on the bike and walking up hills.
I have had them out for one decent ride, but have not yet walked up a hill carrying my bike. First impressions of them are good. The sole seems stiff when clipped into the pedals but comfortable walking around. The cleat is recessed enough that it does not touch the ground on the flat. The heel cup holds onto my heel very well and I am unable to get my heel to rise out of the cup which is great. There seems to be plenty of room to wiggle my toes in the toe box while the lace and strap system holds the shoe fast on my foot. My foot has no “float” inside the shoe unlike some other shoes I have.
I do intend to wander up a hill in them sometime soon and I will report back with my findings, but so far I am impressed with them!
Ok, first ride/walk impressions here https://mountainbikingzane.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/evening-blowhard/