Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Sea to Sky Fat Country....

In a typical month of March I spend my week-ends charging slopes waist deep in the endless terrain B.C.'s Sea to sky cooridor has to offer. The strange winter we've been experiencing on the West coast has left the door open to explore new back-country opportunities. It's been hard to find the motivation to ski / board the icy and boilerplate conditions we have at all elevations in the Sea to Sky corridor. It has however raised a question.... "Can you ride Fat Bikes in the alpine where we typically ski"? The answer isn't a simple yes or no. The daytime temperatures have proven to be critical. Any softening of the surface has proven to slow the ride to a snails pace so very early starts have been critical. Destination consideration has also been a critical part of the answer. What makes good alpine Fat Biking terrain? We've been finding out!          

The alarm went off at 3:30am on a cold and clear Saturday morning. The idea was to beat the mid day warming and hopefully be through the crux of our traverse before noon. After an hour into the ride we had daytime light and our 1700m climb to the alpine was underway.          

The pace was steady but slow on dirt with the rolling resistance of the big 45Nrth Flow and Dunder Beists. They were still waiting to be in their arctic element.          

 It was a glorious morning as we looked back at Squamish's Tantalus Range!

We found snowmobile packed ice and snow on the road after 3 hours. 

The old-growth Doug Firs in this area are true West Coast giants.... 

As we arrived in the subalpine we turned on our avalanche beacons and made sure shovels and probed were handy. Regardless of the Avalanche forecast reporting "LOW" at all elevations we were entering complex terrain that needed to be respected.                

We had finally arrived in the alpine ready to unleash our Norco Sasquatch Fat Bikes!  

Mount Garibaldi and the Black Tusk dominated the skyline on the other side of the valley....  

This is a special area we regularly ride in the summer months that looks a lot different in March.

We dropped in to a juicy 400m flowy descent!  

The next few hours we traversed a beautiful section of the coast mountains and found a nice piece of single-track that would guide us to Whistler Village. We had completed a 40km alpine loop in 10 hours! Our car was conveniently parked at the Whistler Brewing Co. where we spent the evening sampling some tasty local brews and celebrating our winter Fat Bike traverse!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Big wheels keep on rollin....*

I awoke at 2:00am and received a text that read "Who's idea was this anyway?" Fifteen minutes later we were loaded up and pulled into the 24hour Tim Horton's looking for some fuel. I asked for a breakfast sandwich and the woman on the speaker said "We don't serve breakfast until 4:00am". You learn something everyday I guess. 
At the trailhead 30 minutes later we went through the list. Fat Bikes.... check, High power lights....  check, Avalanche Beacon, Shovel, Probe.... check, Crampons, Rope and various glacier travel equipment.... check, Water rescue throw bags.... check, Enough time in the day.... not sure?
Most of the items on this list were a first for all three us when setting off on a bicycle ride.  

After a couple of hours pedalling on dirt we found ourselves on some very ridable crusty snow conditions.      
An hour later we were greeted by a beautiful alpine sunrise. The weather looked to be shaping up for a good day out.*

The next couple of hours we rolled along and basked in our glory of this mission even though we were barely a quarter into it. The previous days worries were all melting (or freezing) away. The mountain conditions in terms of snow type and temperatures had to be exactly right in order to travel efficiently to cover such a great distance. They were turning out to be just right!   

We all wondered "was this really happening?"**

45NRTH tires were our crampons....  

After 6 hours the glacier travel portion of the ride presented itself.... It looked amazing.*

Other mountain travellers track's provided us with a straightforward route.*

There was some very steep pushing that required alpine boot crampons.*

And lot's of high alpine glacier riding. Learning to ride with crampons on platform pedals was interesting....*

There were some sketchy ice and dirt sections as we transitioned between glaciers....

We got some spectacular views of some familiar friends....*

And enjoyed some riding on the terminus of a very large glacier....*

At about 4:00pm the weather took a very quick and unexpected turn for the worse and we found ourselves navigating crevasses with fat bikes in a whiteout. The snow was flying....*

At 6:00 darkness fell and the camera went into the pack. We spend the next few hours navigating familiar terrain with our bike lights and arrived safely at my front door in Squamish. We just pulled off a massive alpine traverse in our unbelievable backyard. 15 hours and 58km later we revelled in what we just accomplished. Another glorious day in B.C.'s  Sea to Sky backcountry!