Day 4 – Over Iron Pass to Lorna Lake
Waking up high on the west side of Iron Pass to a glorious sunrise I was once again blown away by the beauty of our campsite. Simply stunning!
It didn’t take long to get over the top of the pass both because of the short distance and the reasonable grade. Up top we enjoyed the views and started the hike-a-bike downhill. Yup no riding down….at least not right from the top of the pass. Too much loose steep rock.
We did see a cool bear den where a grizzly had spent the winter as evidenced by the massive amount of fur and animal bones. And we got to ride/slide down some remaining winter snow patches which was fun.
Eventually the trail looked rideable so we gave it a shot. Both of us crashed good. At one point as I was tumbling down the side of the hill the trail was cut into I saw my bike flying over top of me! Luckily it was relatively soft so I got away with some scraps and a bump or two. I decided I could walk the bike a bit lower where the steepness relented and the trail was safer to ride.
I’m happy to report we did get to ride a bunch of the valley lower down. It was fun to be rolling and cover distance at double digit KPH rates for a change. I had a GPS track from last year which we were following. Amazingly the vegetation was so think in places we lost the trail despite having that GPS track. I was impressed we had managed to follow it last year without having GPS to follow, but I guess we had 8 sets of eyes to sleuth the trail.
Partway down the valley we took a break by a tiny creek to refill on water and munch some snacks. As Scott rolled out I snapped some photos of him then started out myself. I ran into Scott a moment later which was unusual. I guess a big old grizzly bear on the side of the trail will stop a mountain biker dead in his tracks! 😉 We yelled a bunch which did not interest the bear at all. Then I fired off a bear banger – careful not to get it behind him which would send him our way. He didn’t seem all that fussed, but the banger got him lumbering past us slowly about 20′ away until he was behind us and we could keep riding down the trail. I felt bad for disturbing him, but he went back to munching berries quickly so I don’t think he minded too much. I did wonder if that was the same bear who wintered up in the den we found near the top of the pass.
Funny thing was at the end of the trip when we were looking at photos on my laptop it was easy to see the bear down the trail in the last photos I shot, but at the time we didn’t spot him until Scott was right on top of him. His head was turned towards us in the photos so I’m sure he knew we were coming and just didn’t give a shit.
After the bear excitement we had a pretty easy ride down the rest of the valley. Yes I said riding! So nice to be pedalling and not walking! 🙂
Our cruising came to an end near the junction with Big Creek Trail where we had to ford the Grant Creek. Scott’s well worn Keen sandals blew out at the back leaving him with a SPD flip flop! I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to repair, but we sat down by the creek in the shade and got to work on it. A few zipties later it was functional and the repair held the rest of the trip.
We made our way south on Big Creek Trail to Lorna Lake. I was pretty impressed with how technical the riding was. It was a real challenge to keep the bike moving in many places. This is where I hurt my arm last year at the very start of the ride and I can now see why that happened. I was leading the charge with 7 guys behind me all amped up on testosterone. Not wanting morale to flag I gave it my all trying to make it look less gnarly than it was. In all that thrashing of the bike I badly tweaked by left tricep tendon. The next 5 days of riding/pushing probably didn’t help either! Nor did the next Chilcotins trip in Aug 2014 that started after just 2 weeks of rest.
Getting to Lorna we found 3 packs at the campsite, but no people. Some serious snacking ensued and we debated staying here for the night or getting over Lorna Pass and camping along Tyaughton Creek Trail. Scott was keen to keep going and I was keen to ride the fun singletrack descent on the far side of the pass fresh the next morning not to mention do the hike-a-bike while it was cool. Scott was gracious enough to go with my plan.
The owners of the packs showed up in the early evening having been dropped off by Tyax Air that morning and gone out for an unloaded loop that day. They were a nice bunch of guys and unlike the morons at Spruce Lake could hang out with each other and not make a huge racket!
They were sporting these very large packs and day packs on top of them. Their plan was to ride over Lorna Pass and then Deer Pass with those packs on their backs. That seemed bold, but they said they’d done it before so we gave them the benefit of the doubt as they were fit looking.
Day 5 – Lorna Lake to Spruce Lake
We got up after a great sleep. Amazing what camping with some considerate people does for your mood! Ate breakfast then sipped tea to let the other guys head out and up Lorna first. After about 45mins wait we headed out. I had a lucky crash at the bottom of the pass. Not lucky that I crashed, but I ended up wrapped around a large sharp rock that looked like it would have snapped my leg had I fallen 8″ further back. Whew!
Scott took off uphill like a rocket. I pushed my bike at a steady pace knowing the pass wasn’t too high although it was quite steep in places. Once I got out of the trees it was really pleasant hike-a-bike with a bit of wind to keep the bugs at bay. Tyax Air flew over dropping off a crew at Lorna before heading back to the lodge.
I really enjoyed the break at the top of the pass. It was bug-light, a nice cool temperature still plus I knew this was the last pass of the trip and a long downhill shred was about to happen. I’m glad we waited to climb Lorna Pass. I was feeling energized and I felt like I’d make much better use of the vertical now than I would have tired the previous evening.
The ride down didn’t disappoint. Fast swoopy alpine singetrack then into forested trails lower down. It was great to be riding and knowing that the rest of the trip was going to spent pedalling not pushing. About the only downside to the descent off Lorna was that it was over too soon. Probably a good thing as my brakes needed to cool! 😉
We took a break at the sweet campsite along the creek we stayed at last year after crossing Deer Pass. While we were there a large group of 18yr old shredders who had been dropped off at Lorna by Tyax Air rode by. They had a freaking powered sound system with them. I’d come to hate that fucking speaker by midnight, but I didn’t know that yet. They were “broing” and “schralpping” and “rallying” to each other for what went on for an eternity. You might say “Vik you are a boring old man with no tolerance for morons.” You could be right. 😉
The ride down Tyaughton Creek Trail was pleasant as it wound its way long the creek. There was some steep climbing and some loose “side hill of death” stuff to contend with, but for the most part it was rideable and it was lovely to ride. As the trip wore on the days got back to nearly-Africa-hot. So it was great to ride in the forest when possible. When we reached open meadows and rode along the un-vegetated cliff sides there was some roasting going on.
There were five creek crossings on this trail. Four of which were within a 500m stretch. I remembered the first two of the four so I had a couple WTF? moments when I got to the second two crossings. The water was nice and cool on my feet and not too deep – although one crossing was deep enough to be interesting. One of these days I’ll find fast dry shoes I like to bike and hike in. Until then I have to stop at each crossing to remove my shoes and walk across barefoot. It’s a slow process so I’m glad there weren’t more crossings.
Scott rocks some Keen sandals. I have no idea how he handles the steep mountainous hike-a-bike with those. My feet and ankles get worked over pretty good in some reasonable mountain bike shoes.
After the last creek crossing we climbed up over a ridge on WD Trail and rolled downhill to Spruce Lake. There were a few small groups of 2 to 4 people at various sites in the campground. We grabbed a spot in the middle that we usually take and had a nice time chilling with the remains of the sunshine, a dip in the lake and I did some much needed laundry. All signs were pointing to a great night….well except for some luggage piled up on the dock waiting for a group of riders to show up. They didn’t arrive until after Scott and I had already climbed into our tents to sleep. It was our luck that it was the same group of “rippers” that passed us at the bottom of Deer Pass. The group with the sound system. Who the fuck brings powered speakers to a backcountry campground and plays them after dark???
I won’t complain any further because I am reasonable enough to see that it was our fault for not assuming the worst and camping somewhere else. Lesson learned. I won’t make the same mistake again.