Friday, September 16, 2011

Pemberton (8.23.11 & 8.24.11)

Although Emily and I have been going to Squamish/Whistler to mountain bike for our last five anniversaries, we had never before ridden in Pemberton. It was only within the last few years that I had heard that the XC biking was superb there and rivaled that of Squamish. With that bit of news we decided that this year we needed to check it out for ourselves. A quick search online uncovered a really nice pdf map of the trails in the area allowing me to do some pre-planning.

Trail map for Pemberton. You can find the .pdf here, but make sure you
purchase the printed one on waterproof paper once you hit the trails.
It can be picked up at Pemberton Bike Co. and is well worth it!

It was now the 3rd day of our nine-day trip. Day one had us following one of our favorite routes in Whistler, which combines the Lost Lake/Zappa Trails, Cut Yer Bars, Emerald Forest, and A River Runs through It. (my ride report from last year can be found here). We actually sat out the second day due to a big storm that dropped 2” of rain in the area, which I had no desire to ride in. This ended up being just fine since it allowed us to relax and tour Squamish a bit as well as get in a quick hike to Shannon Falls. One of our stops was to the Home Depot to pick up a large blue tarp (aka the Oregon Flag) to cover our other one that was erected to provide shelter at camp, but had saturated through. Luckily this would be our only day of rain, and the sky actually cleared up that night.

Shannon Falls

Sportin' the Oregon Flag

Starry night at camp in Squamish

With the new (3rd) day, the sunshine returned, which did a good job of rejuvenating our spirits. After packing everything we needed for a day’s ride, we headed north ~60 miles to the town of Pemberton for some good ol’ shreddin’. Before hitting the trails we decided to stop by and get some additional beta and ensure we rode the best of them. It was good that we did, since we had planned to ascend the gravel road, which would have been a mistake since supposedly the road was pretty rough and there were some really good climbing trails.

Once at the parking lot near the trailhead, we geared up under the shadow of Mount Currie, one of the tallest peaks in the area and quite a spectacular backdrop. There were also a few more groups getting ready to ride, who further provided us with some good local beta. Now that we were all set-up, we saddled up and headed out on our ride.

As recommended, we rode along a dirt road that paralleled the train tracks until we came to our first bit of singletrack, Happy Trail. True to its name it ended up being a super sweet climb with more rideable switchbacks than you could count. As we made our way up the hill we were also given multiple views of Mount Currie, lots of other mountains, and the Pemberton Valley.

The parking lot with Mount Currie partially covered in clouds

Somewhere on Happy Trail

Emily rounds one of many switchbacks

A nice view from Happy Trail

Soon we reached the intersection with the Waco Connector trail, which provided the legs with a little bit of a break before another steep climb on another trail called Nimby. Basically Nimby felt like an extension of Happy Trail, as the switchbacks continued one after another until we had literally rounded 95 to 100 of them by the time we reached the top -- no exaggeration! Along with the dizzying amount of turns in the trail, there were also lots of fun technical features to keep us entertained. We eventually reached another intersection with the trail “Let it Go”, which headed northwest toward a paragliding launch sight, and what we hoped would be a good view. As we got close to our summit goal, the trail began to fork multiple times with no markings. Although we assumed we’d eventually find our way, we decided we were done climbing and were ready to enjoy the fruits of our labor, a ~2,000’ descent!

A helpful cairn guides the way up Nimby

Bob Gnarly, one of the cross trails.

A ladder bridge on Nimby

More switchies

Another great view from up higher

Climbing toward the paragliding launch site on Let it Go.

The plan was to ride back down Let it Go, then ride a connector trail over to Mackenzie FSR to access Overnight Sensation. Once we had descended Overnight Sensation, we would review our options of getting back down to the car. The payoff for all our climbing didn’t last long, for after about ¼ mile of downhill, I was tossed over the bars by a root positioned at handlebar level that decided to grab ahold. The result was some minor bumps and bruises -- however, my bike did not fare as well and I ended up with a rim that looked more like a strand of DNA.

Is it supposed to look like this?!

After verbalizing my displeasure of the situation, I gave in to the inevitable and began my hike out. Luckily the connector trail to the road wasn’t too far away, and after a couple of miles of pushing my bike in the wheelie position, we reached Mackenzie FSR. Since Emily had the only functioning bike and she wasn’t too sure about her navigation skills, I saddled up the undersized bike, maxed out the suspension, and made my way down the rugged dirt road. It was actually a little sketchy as the dirt roads in BC are not nearly as smooth as the ones in Oregon. I pretty much felt like I was on the edge of control on a little clown bike. Finally I made it to the car without tweaking another rim, which I was sure was going to happen. I quickly loaded up the bike and drove back up to pick up Emily, which really tested the suspension the Suby.

At least there was a good view on the ride down the dirt road...

Since we had been coming up to BC to bike for many years now, I knew that 29’ers were not very common, so thinking ahead I had decided to bring an extra wheelset from home. Talk about forward planning actually working out and preventing a big trip buster! With that, we headed back to camp so I could setup the new wheel and ready my bike for the following day, where we would return to finish what we started in Pemberton.

A view of the Squamish valley on the drive back to camp

The next day we drove to the same parking lot as we had the previous day, although the sky was completely clear and the sun was shining bright. We had decided to only climb Happy Trail and Waco Connector, and instead of climbing up Nimby we’d head over to the trails by Mosquito Lake to see what they were all about. Once we got over to that area it became abundantly clear that my ability to put together a quality route using only the map wasn’t very good. Basically it felt like we were either riding the trails in the wrong direction or they were really overgrown, bordering on decommissioned.

We had started on a trail called Radio Tower which led southeast off the dirt road we had been on. This ended up being a great little trail until we reached a point were it started to climb up an unrideable series of pitches (at least for us). Next we went up Dark Forest, which ended up being more of the same. From here we took a quick traverse back to the dirt road we had previously been on. After a quick study of the map we decided to head up to Chair Traverse and Log & Rock, which were the overgrown trails and not much fun. My lack of map reading prowess then had us going up No Err, which is supposed to be a down trail. At this point we decided to cut our losses and start heading back toward the car. We had been told by locals that Cream Puff was an excellent trail and a good means of doing so. After a quick ride up another dirt road and Econoline, we reached Cream Puff, our descent back to the car.

Emily on Radio Tower

Somewhere on Log & Rock

Cream Puff ended up being a really fun trail, and I'm sure riding it in the correct direction helped out quite a bit. The trail was rated as a black diamond, which felt pretty accurate. I was able to ride a majority of it including some really fun granite pitches, but there were also spots I shouldered my bike to avoid destroying another rim (or myself for that matter). The views from this trail were also spectacular, with great panoramics of Mount Currie and some local farms. The trail finally deposited us at some train tracks, which we used to traverse along the base of the mountain back to the parking lot.

Cream Puff!

Emily takes in the view on Cream Puff

Finishing up a fun granite pitch on Cream Puff

The author takes his turn

A granite sidewalk

Emily rails the corner on Cream Puff

More good views near the bottom...

...and slickrock!

At this point is was still relatively early, and there was certainly enough time for another ride. We decided that we would head into town, get a quick bite to eat, fill up on water, and head over to the One Mile Lake trails. We'd actually gotten some beta on this area and were told to ride in a counter-clockwise direction following the signs for "Lumpy's". Located just south of town it was easy to find the parking area on the southwest side of the lake.

Even though I never saw it specifically signed, "Narin One Mile" was the trail we started on, at least according to our map. It was actually pretty technical with a lot of ups and downs along the way. I was starting to feel pretty pooped at this point and my legs were a little jello-y, which made the techie stuff a lot more difficult than it probably needed to be. Finally we reached "Lumpy's Epic", which started off with a pretty difficult climb, but luckily it wasn't too long. Once we reached the summit we had a choice between taking K2, the shorter route, or continuing around the backside along Lumpy's. We decided upon the latter hoping to get some more nice views of Mount Currie, and we weren't disappointed. This part of the trail reminded me a lot of some of the sections of Comfortably Numb, with a mix of technical features and fun granite slickrock along the side of a mountain. The trail eventually descended down to an easy path that we used to ride toward & along the lake, and back to the car.

Narin One Mile

A view of Mount Currie...

...and another

It had been a pretty full day, and I was super glad that we managed to get quite a bit of riding done in Pemberton, even with our slight setback the day before. I'm certainly excited to explore this area more next year, and hopefully we can become as familiar with it as we are with Squamish and Whistler, so we can put together a better linkup of quality trails.

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