12.8.08

waterton to westcastle and back again?


last week my good friend aaron and i took a sweet 2 day mountain bike trip into the backcountry west of waterton. the weather was perfect, our bikes were reliable, we were feeling strong and we felt confident that we could complete our planned loop starting from cameron lake in waterton, through the akamina pass into bc, down the flathead valley to the US border and back up middle kootenay pass into the castle river valley before heading back along the southcastle fsr to waterton and back to redrock canyon.

unfortunately the mountains had different plans for us... about 1 hour into our ride we hit a section of windfall in the akamina pass that was almost impassable. the trail was so matted with fallen trees that after checking to see that the windfall actually ended and returning we had to unload our gear, make our way precariously over a web of trees 1-2m above the trail with our bikes on our shoulders, then clamber back over the whole mess only to go over a fifth time carrying all our luggage. thus a 1 km stretch of trail that should have taken us 5 minutes to traverse took us 4 hours and took a big bite out of our energy reserves.

for the first 200-300m the trail was totally obliterated, and for about a km after it was continually interrupted with fallen trees at various heights like this.

once we reached the maintained portion of the akamina pass things got a lot faster and we finished the akamina pass and got into the flathead valley with minimal problems. most of the trail was a light downhill grade with occasional steep uphills so we made huge time and yelled a lot to alert the bears to our impending arrival on their trail.

we realized early that we were never going to complete our planned route in 2 days so instead set our sights on getting out of the backcountry in time to get picked up... with that end in mind we still had to bike until 9:40 at night and set up camp on the flathead river in the day's final burst of relected photons before the moonless darkness set in.

the next morning we enjoyed our beautiful campsite on the river before climbing up the middle kootenay pass to cross the continental divide and reenter alberta.



the final push up the pass was painful. the trail was loose shale which meant we had to push our bikes ahead of us with our feet sinking back with every step. after all the lifting of bikes and gear over fallen trees the day before, every muscle in my upper and lower body was screaming in lactic acidotic pain for the last 30 minutes.

you can see the trail we followed up the pass crossing from the right and disappearing into the left of this picture.
but resting in the shade at the top of the pass and eating our lunch made it all worthwhile.

actually the technical downhill from the pass down to the base of the skihill made it worthwhile, sorry i dont have any pictures, we were moving too fast.

after reaching the ski hill and finding a phone that worked we phoned around our family trying to find someone who could come and rescue us. in the end we got a hold of aaron's mom jane who gave up her entire evening to pick us up and drive us back to the vehicle waiting in waterton... thanks jane!

now we are safely back in chilliwack and aaron is safe in singapore. i am going to be looking for more opportunities to take my trusty trailstar into the backcountry... any takers?

6 comments:

Lowell & Julie said...

You boys are crazy.

Shelley said...

i like the pictures....so scenic on that trail!

jill said...

Oh my word!!!!! And you want to do it again!!! Crazy kids!

imnotchris said...

Damned Wasp. My foot de-swelled by Thursday. No way I would have made it over the initial stuff. Sorry I missed such a sweet adventure. Next time.

Anonymous said...

Great pics Marc! I can imagine your muscles were screaming.
Did you ever wonder how our early explorers ever did their work-- portaging canoes over hill and thru bush as bad or worse than yours, in any and all kinds of weather? They were crazier than you two I would guess.
Love, Dad G.

marcandorkylie said...

thanks for the comments.
yes i certainly want to do it again.
i actually got stung on the ankle by a wasp the morning we set out... minimal swelling though.
and dad, i was thiking precisely of the early explorers when we were crossing that windfall. i can't believe they did that with horses and supplies, or with canoes on their heads!
marc