Chilcotins Adventure 2016

Between June and September, RYDERS partnered with Tyax Adventures and held contests for three people to go on the trip of a lifetime to the South Chilcotin Mountains, an area filled with some of the world’s finest singletrack.

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Day 1 –

The morning fog is sitting low over Whistler’s largest body of water, Green Lake. Here we sit patiently with our bikes for the adventure that awaits—me and three lucky competition winners; Sam and Colin, English expats who now call North Vancouver home, and Makenzie, an ex-ski racer originally from Vermont who now lives in Oakland, California. As the fog lifts, a floatplane emerges, gliding across the water toward us.

tyax adventures float plane

Chris and Brent step out. Chris, the pilot, is about to embark on his 1000th-plus flight of the season and Brent, our guide, is a mountain bike power house who won Canada’s first MTB Championship, a regular participant of the BC Bike Race and someone who could almost call the Chilcotins a home away from home. Together they cram the rear of the plane with five bikes, our day packs (kitted out with the essentials for three days of biking in BC’s backcountry) and three cans of bear spray, because, well, you can never be too careful. Loaded with our gear and us the float plane, a 1962 de Hallivand Beaver, takes off and banks north towards Lorna Lake. The trip takes 35 minutes, flying above cloud cover and snow topped mountain peaks.

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We touch down 1400 metres higher than where we’d taken off and unload our gear, minding our steps on a frost bitten dock that has been shaded by a mountain pass to our east. As the plane leaves, we re-assemble our bikes, strap on our packs and instill our faith in Brent.

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Fall colours are beginning to show and we couldn’t have asked for better weather—bluebird with a light breeze to keep us cool and the bugs away. After a short climb we make our way across Big Creek Trail, which starts in the trees with some icy creek crossings before opening to a wide meadow encircled by mountains and strewn with trails waiting to be ridden by anyone brave enough to venture out here.

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We make a turn, and ride down Graveyard Creek, a valley rich in autumn colour and First Nations history. This is where the Tsilhqotin and St’at’imc Nations fought bravely to defend their respective territories, and the ground is pocked with the marked and unmarked graves of fallen warriors. A commemorative stone sits in the very middle, a tribute to those who fought here.
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Moving on, we ride past cougar prints in the mud—fortunately going the opposite direction—and make our way up to Elbow Pass, a climb that had us reaching for our energy bars. At the top, it’s all downhill to Bear Paw Camp, fun, flowy singletrack where we jump over and weave between deeply divoted trails created by horses. We roll into camp to be greeted by cold beers and a hot chicken curry, provided by Andrea from Tyax Adventures who regales us with stories of her life living solo in BC’s backcountry for weeks on end.

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Day 2 –

We wake to temperatures just below -5 C / 23 F, but warm coffee and hearty oatmeal soon takes our minds off the frosty reception of the day. We’re the last group of the year to come through for Tyax Adventures so we help Andrea pack up camp and roll out shortly after 10am.

A good number of sections on the trail are thick with boggy mud, but thanks to the frosty morning riding over them is a breeze, and doing so comes a satisfying, crunching sound of hard earth beneath our wheels, which otherwise would have swallowed them.

The ride is nice and cruisey with a mix of flowy singletrack and some toned down climbs and hike-a-bikes. There’s the odd creek crossing where our feet have to brave icy glacial waters, but the sublime riding and views soon take our minds off the fact we’ve temporarily lost feeling in our toes. Mid-day we stop on a moss-filled bank simply to take in the surroundings and stay silent for five minutes. The sound of the trees creaking in the wind, and the calls of the occasional grouse bring us all to a state nearing sleep.

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From here it’s a short ride to Spruce Lake, where we’re greeted by our hosts Brianna and her pooch, Junior Bacon Cheeseburger, and a warm fire along with similar comforts to the night before. With a couple of hours of daylight left, we walk to the lake and take a couple of boats out for some fishing. (Junior Bacon Cheeseburger, not wanting to feel left out, also came along.)

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Day 3 –

It’s our third and final day in the Chilcotins, and our ride ahead is anticipated to be short and fun. We start the day with a climb up Open Heart, a trail which overlooks Spruce Lake with some nice twists and turns and odd technical rock sections. At the top we spot Chris fly overhead and make his descent to pick up Brianna and JBC who, like Andrea, have packed up for the season.

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Our ride down is fun with gravity doing the majority of the work, and the ride ahead, although more cross-country-ish, would prove to be equally enjoyable. To our left is a steep bank of a mountainside, lined with trees saturated with the reds and oranges that typically come with fall, and on our right are the fast flowing waters of Gun Creek. Singletrack eventually turns into dirt roads, a sign that our journey is coming to an end. Brent radios ahead for a van to pick up our crew.

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We roll into Tyax Lodge—a massive log structure complete with a spa—that overlooks Tyaughton Lake, which itself is nestled in the rugged backcountry amidst the snow-topped mountains of the South Chilcotins. A floatplane works its way across the water from the northeast and parks at the dock. Dale, the pilot and owner of Tyax Adventures, jumps out to greet us, and tells us to grab a cold one up at the lodge before we fly back to Whistler. (We didn’t need much persuading.)

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We chill on the balcony, the sun on our faces, and reflecting on the awesome days we’ve had, raise and clink our glasses.

cheers

Cheers.