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Sep
07

The Chilcotins – hike-a-bike

The only sound is the tinging of my disc brakes as they cool down, below me I hear, "helooooooooooo Mr. Bear" as Duncan hollers to the local residents of the woods in an effort to avoid a bear / mountain bike confrontation.  We are screaming down the singletrack to the trail end where earlier on the drive in, we had seen two young grizzlies!

At the trail head

We had started early leaving Whister at 6.30 to drive North through Pemberton and over the Hurley, a graded , unpaved road to Goldbridge on the shores of Carpenter Lake; a short drive up to Tyax and the trail head means we are on our bikes riding a little after 9.00am.

Just after clearing the tree line above Taylor cabin

We begin to climb, each at their own pace, I arrive at Taylor cabin after an hour and a half of slogging upwards, during which time I see two hikers who advise me of a large grizzly they have seen ahead.  Duncan leading up the trail sees the bear. It’s a biggy. They both go their separate ways. By the time I am heading through the area, Mr. Bear is probably just watching through the trees.

As we leave the cabin we head up above the tree line and the views begin to open up, we are going to hike-a-bike up to a ridge line then along before beginning the descent that makes this sort of ride worthwhile.

As I crest the ridge the full panorama of snowcapped peaks opens up, lush green wooded valleys break up the mountain tops of the BC coastal range.

From here we shoulder our bikes. Despite the weight, the Patriot has climbed well enough but I can feel the extra burden of a six inch travel bike. On a ride like this I can’t help wanting a lighter cross country bike.

Despite this area being made famous by the exploits of the freeriding boys in the Collective DVD the trails here are perfectly suited to light x country bikes. The singletrack trails in these parts are smooooooooooth, buff and never ending. 

We stop to eat and take in the 360 view. 

To the North the drier arid rock strewn slopes of the Chilcotins, to the East the Shulaps, to the South and West the BC Coastal range; although we are on a short ride today this place has some epic rides just waiting to be done. 

The trail system initially went in years ago when the only way to access the area was on foot or with horses.  These days mountain bikers flock to the area, staying up at Spruce and Warner Lakes to enjoy the delights of Deer Pass,  Gun Creek, Windy Pass and the Taylor Basin, accessing the area by Heli or Dale’s float plane flying from Tyax lodge on Tyaughton Lake.

Trials bike and Quad riders use the area too and before you point an accusing finger at these guys for ripping up the trails, these are the guys that take chainsaws in with them to clear the trails of windfall trees from the winter storms.  These are the trails that you and I ride.  Without our petrol propelled friends we would be dismounting and clambering over trees and branches getting frustrated that our flow on perfect trails was being interrupted by the deadwood left by previous winter seasons storms.

We push on up along the ridge line, narrow in places with near sheer drops that Kira and Duncan speculate would be skiable in winter, huge couloir bowls. 

I look on and listen as they discuss entry points and where they would put their first turns in. 

If I didnt’ know better, I would dismiss this as idle chit chat but both are Ski patrollers in Whistler in winter, skiing for their living. I do however, look down and tell them they are both stark raving bonkers or words to that effect.

As we reach the end of the ridge we look back to where we have come from. 

This appears to be one of the few places where the trek between the peaks of the ridges isn’t as bad as perhaps it looks.

Our descent begins with a huge loose scree slope.

We hit the grass line and traverse the slope towards the tree line.

Grip is sketchy at the best of times until we reach the first shrub sized trees marking the beginning of the singletrack, less than a foot wide, dirt interpsaced with the odd root or rock. It’s time to let the brakes off and the wheels roll as the trail twists and turns downwards to Tyaughton Lake.

Rarely being able to see more than a few yards ahead, the bike flicks right and left beneath me.  I am up on the pedals, crouching down with the seat lowered, the trail opens momenatrily.  I build speed quickly grabbing a finger full of the Hopes as the trail disappears out of sight to the right.  I slow and feel the tyres dig in as I lean the bike keeping my body weight  centralised above the top tube, a hairpin approaches and I lock the rear wheel and weight the pedals so the rear wheel steers around the bend, kicking up a dust cloud.  I feel guilty for riding in such a way. Skids are for kids, but it’s the quickest way round the bend without losing too much speed in an effort to keep pace with the others.

I outbrake myself into another hairpin, carrying way too much speed. I keep the bike upright giving the tyres the opportunity of dealing with the braking forces rather than adding to their workload by cornering; I come to a near stop at the top of the low berm, turn and point the bars down the trail, release the brakes, and quickly gather the speed I lost, but the other are out of sight now, although I can still hear the shouts and hollers, I stop for a moment and we are back were this article started, Duncan ahead, acting as the bear probe. He’s ridden this trail before and knows what to expect. For me, this is another trail to consider when having the debate with myself as to the best trail I have ever ridden!

The day stops short of being an epic, sometimes an overused phrase when describing a day out on the bikes. We were out for a little over 5 hours; Duncan navigated us up, down and along the trails that we would not have found in a month of Sundays without him. The area is strewn with dead end trails that when followed can lead to a day that would truly warrant the "epic" word

As we hit the paved road, Carpenter Lake lies below and the horses run in the meadows alongside the roadside.  I take a slug from a cold can of Kokanee with an old friend in the back of the truck and a new friend driving, this is my "Collective" moment.

Huge thanks to Duncan for driving and trail blazing.