Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cataract Creek exploration

The "hit list" that I have developed for biking is fairly extensive. A long break from work gave me a chance to check out a couple of items on that hit list that are in a similar area. With snow in the forecast, it seemed like it was either now, or next season before my tires would touch those trails. 

A summer's worth of fitness allowed me to hatch an ambitious plan to ride the 4 trails I had heard great things about over the 2 days. I was riding solo, but fortunately, I had a topo map as a companion to battle any internal power struggle.

Great! I get to ride through horse shit and get yelled at while I take 5mins to pass them!

Good thing I left this ride to the fall after the leaves fell off!

The exploration road quickly brought me into the alpine.

The end of the trail. The map suggested off trail travel along the ridgetop to the right to connect to the pass. There was a trail heading midway down the ridge, but it wasn't on my map and I didn't know where it went.
The first ride was a bit of a bust. Eventually the exploration road petered out and left me with some off trail hiking to get to the ridgetop. Ride #2 was a greater priority for me so I pulled the plug and enjoyed a pretty good descent down the trail that I had climbed.

Ride #2 didn't start off so hot. I was "just riding along" when a rock struck my rear derailleur and sent it into the spokes. It knocked my shifting off, but fortunately by almost exactly 1 index. 
Walking up the creek (and down at the end of the day) was hell. Fortunately it was not very far and  it seemed by fluke that I found the trail.
A hellish creek washout formed by the 1995 floods had taken out the first chunk of the trail and forced me to walk up through the rocks. Soon, I was walking up the trail.

Let's skip the forest section and move on to the exciting stuff! Formerly the highest lookout in Canada (I don't think it got surpassed, it was no longer in operation after 1954).

Raspberry Ridge, home to one of the two lookouts that replaced the Cameron Lookout.

...the other was Hailstone Butte.

Plateau Mountain, unaffected by the ice age. The alpine tundra and rock along the plateau apparently has a honeycomb arrangement as a result of freeze-thaw cycles.

Looking down the trail that I climbed. What attracts me to these lookouts is the well built trails that go into the alpine!

Starting to show her age.
This ride down was awesome, but it still does not equal a similar experience from earlier this year. The descent featured a benched rock sidehill

an exhilarating spine section

and some steep rock and slabs before heading into the fun trail through the forest.

And then back down the creek. 

The goal for the evening was to set up my hammock and I enjoyed looking up at the full moon with a clear sky during breaks in my comfortable sleep, although some clouds in the morning were a little threatening (fortunately I had a tent set up as well). It was cold in the morning, but I had to get a start on ride #3 (hinted in one of the previous pictures.

An enjoyable trail on a reclaimed road (think smooth singletrack that seemed to meander from where either "wheel" of the road was) led to the base of a steep trail, although I could have continued up the road for a less steep but longer climb. 

I chose the steep climb as it would give me a good opportunity to take a look at the descent.

The descent was steep and rocky, with a couple of sections that forced me to get off my bike and walk down.
A clue for ride #4
Ride #4 was the "Queen Stage" of the trip, potentially the longest trail but apparently it held some gems on the descent. The approach was on an interesting logging road, filled with steep climbs and descents instead of contouring natural features, and multiple shallow fords. Closer to the pass, the trail weaves with the Great Divide Trail, the latter offering more technical challenges on the way down, but making for frustrating climbing. Near the pass, the road turned to loose rock and would have forced me off my bike, requiring me to walk the rest of the way to the pass. Feeling "far out there" and by myself, I opted to turn around, so that I could be back home for dinnertime to mend my shattered character after 4 challenging rides.

Man, she's loose! Probably the only place I would take the GDT on the ascent as heck, I have to walk anyways, why not take the shorter and more scenic trail.

About 3km and a steep grunt up to the pass. Maybe for another time, when I have more company.
The GDT had some pretty technical sections that forced me to walk, but I was quickly back on the main trail and was able to make quick work back to the trailhead with a slight downhill almost making me wish I had gone to the top...almost. It was neat to explore a new area, but solo exploration in an area rarely frequented by mountain bikers is tough. Deadfall, being bear aware, and a general lack of information made this trip mentally draining for a solo rider.

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