I was the first person to stick their head from their tent that frozen winter morning on the mountainside high above Carpenter lake, and the first person of our crew to feel saddened by the snowfall. I was still somewhat oblivious to the details about how this trip should pan out, but amongst the plans I'd heard discussed were helicopters, uncharted terrain and wild big mountain chute lines. The centimeters of snow accumulated on my bicycle suggested to me that perhaps this entire trip would be a flop. After driving hours down old highways, scaling a mountainside and building a base camp this sudden change of season seemed like some kind of a cruel joke. But as I was soon to discover, there isn't much joking around to be done in the mountains above Bralorne. Not until you're seated by a fire after a day spent pioneering massive shale descents, that is to say.
One by one the rest of our crew crawled from their snow coated tents and frowned when they saw what winter had done. Some of them were keen to pack up and head home while I was on the fence about the whole situation. Aggy and the Sherpas Cinema boys though, were not ready to admit defeat. We warmed our bikes by the fire and before we knew it, in the midst of an alpine snowstorm, the Reds were rolling and Graham was leading me down a ridge line to some shorter chutes below the campsite. Aggy started slaying right out of the gate. He'd been in the mountains looking for lines before I arrived and sculpted a cool hip drop into a deep shale slope. I instantly felt like I might be in over my head, like I'd bitten off more than I could chew by tagging along for this trip. It was foreign, rocky terrain that my tires and I were unfamiliar with. But Knowing these shorter lines were only a sampling of what I'd be riding for the next few days I sucked it up and got to work with figuring out how to control my bike in shale that would sink deeper than my tires.
Early that afternoon a black winter sky slowly split apart and I realized just how big those mountains were. Graham and I rallied his quad above the campsite toward another ridge and it was there that I took my first fearful glance at what we would be riding for the rest of that day. In stone cold childlike fear I peered across the valley toward a purple, gray and orange slope of sediment much larger than I had ever seen. Tall and jagged rock faces littered the landscape while Graham spoke confidently about lines between this mountain's teeth. There were chutes that must have measured out innumerable in length and any small miscalculation simply appeared as fatal. I didn't really have a lot of time to consider what we were getting ourselves into before the chopper picked us up and the rest of that day faded into something entirely new to me.
A blurry afternoon transitioned seamlessly into an evening filled with the most epic riding I'll ever have the chance to experience. I'd never ridden that fast and certainly never ridden that loose while every few hundred feet of each line came as an almost complete surprise. Thousands of feet of oddly colored shale and sand rushed past me as I dodged boulders and snow piles on my way down the side of the mountain. An entire ride comprised of the same helicopter assisted bicycle boogie down the slopes of this mountain while we tested the limits of our bikes and shifted our perception of possibility. After hours of shredding in our two wheeled wonderland the wildest ride of my life finally came to a close when the chopper left and I found myself pedaling along a snow capped ridge, just west of our campsite. Returning to home base we discovered a small campfire where we'd spend the night sharing stories and struggling to process the day's accomplishments. As the night grew cold and the fire burned low, I crawled into my tent and fell asleep to the hollow howl of Aggy's harmonica.
That night was even colder than the last. We woke up to more snow, nastier winds and an even less forgiving sky. It felt almost as if we had worn out our welcome, like the mountain wanted us to leave. Despite the hurricane winds making it nearly impossible to disassemble our tents, we got ourselves together and began our descent to Blake's cabin in Bralorne. A night spent warm and cozy in the shelter of Blake's humble abode came as a sincere treat after the past few nights spent in the alpine. We woke up slow and easy the next morning while a warm fall sunrise flooded the floor and yellow-orange leaves swirled past the windows. It was a lot warmer down here and as far as we could see, a blue bird day appeared to be layed out before us. Perhaps we were getting greedy, but the improved weather was perceived as an opportunity to get back in the chopper and tackle another slope on our potential hit list. A monster of a line descending the backside of our previous location with gigantic rocks and nearly twice the vertical as what we rode in the few frantic days past. The chopper was just a phone call away and only an hour later we were high in the sky on our way to push the adventure even further.
Flying over the mountains toward our destination I felt a serious change of pace from everyone in our group. Seeing the size of the rocks up close and imagining the intensity of the speed we would reach on this slope made us really question whether or not it would be manageable. Everything was much more rugged and viscous than we had anticipated. But before we knew it Aggy and I were perched atop this monster peak and I was scared for my life. Before splitting up and hiking to our own drop in locations we shared in a short discussion about life and death in the head sized rocks below and whether or not either of us would be able to hang on. A big red bird came roaring over the ridge and cut our conversation short with "hope I see you at the bottom, bro." That was the first time I'd ever seen fear on Aggy's face and up to this point, the most scared I've ever felt in my entire life. While I watched Graham drop away from sight with the chopper chasing him to the bottom, it was everything I could do to keep from vomiting.
Watching the helicopter come back around the valley I knew that Graham must have safely reached the bottom. This knowledge helped in knowing that what I was about to do was indeed possible, but did little to alleviate the anxiety that had built up inside me. Still, I knew that whatever would come of barreling down that mountainside would be worth it. So I let off my levers and began my descent into another dimension where instinct is in the driver's seat and I'm simply a passenger for the ride. And I lost myself on that line. The world blurred passed me at a pace I never knew to be possible and eventually everything came to a close an eternity later when I laid myself onto my side just a few short feet before the tree line. I still have no recollection of the finer details about that line. How my tires didn't flat, how my bike didn't toss me, or how I even held on. Your guess is as good as mine.
Once returning to the cabin we all gave our heads a shake. That was cutting it close. We wrapped up the trip with some interviews about the whole experience and that seems a bit fuzzy in memory too. It was challenging to piece everything together. And it wasn't until I was nearly halfway home that night, pumping gas in Lillooet that I realized how big of a risk I'd taken that day or how gnarly the whole adventure was. The riding I'd taken part in was far beyond my perception of epic in every conceivable aspect, and others previously unimagined. When my gas tank was full and the pump went pop, the world suddenly sounded a little louder. I was standing under the midnight buzz of a rural road side gas station, and the past few days were a total daydream.
Those frantic few days took place early last October. Since that adventure I've been obsessing. How much deeper could we explore? Where might the limits actually lay? I know we got close, but just how close? Maybe there are slopes out there with room for more style, more speed and more trickery. Who else would be fun to have along on a mission of such proportions? Would we fair better earlier in the season while the weather is still mild? These are all questions I've been tossing around since I returned home late that cool Fall night. I haven't really heard any talk about going back any time soon, but I hope everyone involved will be eager to return one day. Until then I'll be daydreaming about blasting big lines in Bralorne.
Check out this Aggy Profile for video footage from our trip to Bralorne:
I want to thank Kona, Blake Jorgenson and Sherpas Cinema for having me as a rider on that adventure and supplying me with the images for this article.
You can see what I'm up to in between columns by following me on the Kona COG
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