Category Archives: MTB

Roughing it in the Chilcotins

Once again I wasn’t paying attention and Alan mentioned something about Mountain Biking and a floatplane. OF course we’re in, I probably muttered and returned to my schedule, drawing and spreadsheet infested screens.

Some months later, after generally ignoring the reams of incredible organisation on the part of Leanne I was being asked questions about “what backpack are you taking” and “silk or cotton liner”.

I had no idea what I was in for until about 4 days before when I glanced at the elevation profile and a map. Oh wow… thats kinda in the middle of nowhere.

So off we went in a convoy of soft roaders barnacled with bikes, north past Whistler, past Pemberton, through Lillooet and down one of the most spectacular drives North West into the Chilcotins Range. Its a long drive so we camped the night and had dinner at the amazingly posh for the middle of fucking nowhere Tyax Lodge. It was kinda weird eating haute cuisine and sloshing back Negronis, then climbing into my tent.

Before we knew it we were taking the wheels off our bikes and jamming them into an ancient beast of a Beaver floatplane. It was my first radial engined experience and it was marvelous. I called shotgun so got the best view in the house whilst quizzing Peter the pilot about where the hell we were going. We were at max capacity so we took the long way round, the plane banking wide arcs through the valleys to gain the height we needed. From up there we could see the mountains and passes we would have to navigate to get back to the cars. It was kinda intimidating, and very exciting.

Landing on Lorna lake was unreal. An oft overused term, but unreal in the sense that the lake was, as Liam put it “Jesus that thing looks like melted blue slurpie“, that vivid ultra aqua blue that couldn’t be real. But the real hit you square in the face when Peter cast off and the echo of the plane over the valley gave way to the alpine wind.

I had elected to take an easier first day, so the boys left to go bog hopping and I waited about an hour for the plane to return with the ladies. An hour of siting wondering how they got all those bits of dock in the plane mixed with thoughts of being used as a grizzly slurpie sherbert dibdab stick. Yeah, bears were quite a thing out there. Like, a real thing. More on that later…

“Big Andrew” the ladies and I immediately got into climbing the pass behind Lorna. A lot of this trip was what the North Americans refer to as hike a bike; pushing the bike. This sometimes turns into carrying the bike because the terrain is too steep or too narrow to comfortably push. The push was worth the flowers, butterflies and grass bordered singletrack which broke out to a scene that I can really only describe as cowboy come real.

I had it in my mind that we would be slopped out some freeze dried rations and pointed at some hastily erected tent in a clearing. Nope. Freewheel to a stop and the greeting was charcuterie plates and sweet tea; hot showers and campaign style tents, with timber floors and actual beds, surrounding a log cabin hosted by you own chef.

In the rotation of “who’s next in the shower” the supply horses arrived and I was sure we were in some parallel universe. I don’t get phased, I’m pretty jaded at the best of times but this was a peak moment of – I can’t believe how lucky I am to be here. And the luck didn’t stop there. The horses and their bulky plastic panniers were at the end of their supply run and headed back the direction we were going. Now, you see, I’m a lazy mountain-biker. My ego doesn’t need to be boulstered by having told people I carried all my dirty underpants over a mountain range, so having otherwise empty pack horses carry them was a massive bonus.

The day following we did encounter one of the more bitey scratchy mountain dwellers with thoughts of “don’t even think about running because you’ll reenact that Leonardo Decaprio scene in The Revenant”. We gathered for a while at uphill the entrance to a clearing, waited for quite some time then, flanked by our bikes, we sidled past with bear spray locked and loaded. Think about how ouchy an encounter with a cat can be and multiply that by the weight of a small soviet era car.

The rest of that day was more beautiful singletrack, lake lunch and back to the next camp. We did hear that Amy had a misshap and hurt her shoulder. Our Andrew (Spragg) got his sweaty gear back on and raced back to the other group and Big Andrew to assist with getting everyone back. They were back pretty speedily and soon we were relaxing with amazing food, hot showers and comfy beds.

The next day Amy was taken back to Tyax Lake by the plane with a pulled shoulder and most of the group took the Valley Route back. Oskar Alan and I were soon hike a biking and failing to keep the insane pace that Spragg could hold. That man can climb like a bastard! We had decided to take the ridgeline route back, which meant climbing up a whole mountain, traversing along the top, above the tree line and then riding down the other side to Tyax. It was a special day and the end to a very memorable adventure.