At the end of Part 1 of the Legends of Retallack story, we were just flying our way to the top of Toad Mountain near Nelson, BC. From the top of Toad, a trail called Powerslave descends from mountaintop to valley bottom, incorporating ridge lines, hike-a-bike pushes, singletrack and wooden features along the way. One of the finest bike descents I've ever been on, there is no reason to wonder why Retallack includes this ride as part of their weekend trips.
| The view we had just before landing on Toad Mountain|
| As I mentioned earlier, the folks at Retallack take care of everything, including unloading the heli.|
| I had also mentioned that no rider is left behind, even if he's unable to ride. Michael lounging in the alpine with an injured ankle.|
The logistics that go into planning a day such as this are quite difficult. Thankfully, the boys have done this all before and have no problem getting things ready and sorted for everyone. Even though it is not a new trip for the guides, having this many people doing a heli drop is, which allows us ample time to lounge in the alpine, soaking up some beautiful fall sunshine and enjoying the beautiful mountains surrounding us. It takes quite a few trips, 6 in all, to transport all of the riders and bikes to the mountain top. Each group is treated to a fantastic helicopter ride, getting a new perspective of the Nelson area and gaining a new appreciation on how nice it is to save your energy for the ride by taking a helicopter to the top. No complaints here!
| I could hear the chopper approaching from around the ridge. As the bird came around the bend, there isn't a much better sight than a helicopter with a dozen bikes strapped to it.|
| Guide Derek Chambers makes sure that the bikes are safely on the ground before the pilot releases the sling and retreats to get some riders.|
| As the last group of riders arrives, we know that we are only minutes away from one of the best descents in British Columbia.|
At last, when the helicopter lifts off of the ground one last time (with Michael back in the passenger seat) and disappears over the ridge, the silence hits us and we realize we are now on our own. A round of high fives are in order and then a small push to the viewpoint at the summit of Toad Mountain is all that stands between us and an epic descent. We take a few minutes at the top to relish in the fact that not long ago, we were thousands of feet below where we now stand. We are going to milk this descent for all it's worth and the media-types (myself included) start searching for the best angles to capture the beauty that surrounds us. When everyone is positioned in their spots, the riders all begin to descend, picking their way down the alpine ridge through rocks and roots, trying to focus on the trail ahead of them instead of the stellar views that surround them.
| Waiting at the top for the cameras to get set up.|
| Richie, about 20 feet into the descent. Eyes on the trail buddy!|
| The fall colours had just begun to change in the alpine. Here, Wade negotiates a steep, loose rock face with ease.|
| Again, when was the last time you led Wade Simmons down a trail? Oh right. Never.|
| I remember after Wade hit this little air, he stood beside me and said: "Here comes Richie, Schleyble-top for sure." Maybe they've ridden together a few times.|
As we descended the trail, the group became quite spread out. Some people wanted to ride the trail, with minimal stopping, while others halted many times for photo and video purposes. Consequently, I ended up near the back (as photographers tend to do) with Tippie. For anyone who hasn't met or spent any time around Brett, it's a special experience. The guy is like a stand-up comedian that can shred just about any line he sees with very little effort. We stopped multiple times on the way down for photos and not once did he complain or not want to go back up for another shot. I found that he, Wade and Richie were all like this, a true testament to them not only being incredible riders, but also true professionals when it comes to understanding the industry of our sport.
| Tippie being Tippie. Shredding a rock face and getting the new profile shot for his video series, 'Just the Tip'.|
| The huckleberries were all-time in the forest on the descent. I just stopped to get a few photos to tell that part of the story...|
| ...of course Tippie had something entirely different in mind. Amazing and weird all at the same time.|
With a rich mining history in the area, it is no surprise to come across some relics while riding down Powerslave. Old cabins, tailing piles, mineshafts and rusted equipment are all part of the experience. No doubt that the trail was pieced together to bring all of these historical artifacts together to enhance the ride and they blend together beautifully to truly make Powerslave a must-ride trail in the Kootenays. It is not just a ride, but an all-day adventure that brings together everything that is great about mountain biking. No wonder it is the flagship day of the weekend in Retallack's plan.
| Whatever you do, don't look into the hole.|
| Maybe the old miners used these to play Neglin back in the day?|
| Loamy goodness, even in the driest conditions.|
| This cabin is one of the highlights of the trail and a favourite for pretty much every photographer who has ridden it.|
| Another old cabin in the woods.|
| This section of trail, called Bear's Den, is famously depicted in Life Cycles.|
We finally put the cameras away after Bear's Den, needing to catch up with the group and make sure they don't drink ALL the beer awaiting us at the bottom. We rip down the last few trails as fast as we can, dealing with two flats along the way, which slows our progress and allows everyone to get another brewski under their belts before we arrive. Lucky for us, we get to the parking lot just in time to get our hands on the last few cold ones and bask in the parking lot, reliving everyone's experiences on the same piece of singletrack. There isn't much better than sitting around with friends after an amazing ride, with a beer to quench your thirst as you talk about that corner you ripped, that crash you took or the amazing forest you rode through.
| Two wounded soldiers.|
| Not riding was making Michael a little crazy.|
| Post ride lounging|
We crushed the last of the beers and all piled back into the vans for the drive back to the lodge. Again, stories were shared, friendships were deepened and somewhere along the way, stomachs began to grumble. As we arrive back at the lodge, Nicole and Paul had our dinners ready for us. A quick shower and change of clothes later, everyone sat down for another amazing meal, courtesy of our two chefs. Like any other cat-ski or heli operation, the meals that Retallack provides for you are nothing short of 5-star quality. Appetizers that are amazing, but won't spoil your dinner. Salads and soups that perfectly compliment your mouth-watering entrees, followed closely by desserts that are just the right amount of amazing that you might just go check with the kitchen to see if there might be any extra servings kicking around. All of this is complimented by a full-bar and served to you by a group of lodge staff that are both helpful and friendly, helping round out the full lodge experience. What else could you ask for?
| The chefs not only put together amazing meals, they also have a great sense of humour.|
| They weren't lying about the dead cow...|
| During dessert, our group was presented with something special that was going up on the wall near the bar, The Official Rules of Neglin.|
Once the food was eaten, the speeches were made, the cheers were shouted out and the birthday celebrated (Happy Belated Mitch Cheek!), most everyone made their way to the bar area to REALLY celebrate, and also compete in a few games of Neglin. Following the newly printed 'official' rules that now hung above us on the wall, the games were intense and competitive. Last nail standing has to buy drinks for the rest of the competitors. There are many different strategies in this game, but only one way to avoid buying a round. May the best person win!
After a long night of celebrating, everyone awoke slowly and made their way down to breakfast, in search of coffee (and maybe a few Tylenols) to wake themselves up and prepare to ride one more day. On the last day the groups split up, with one van staying at the lodge while the other went for another lap of the Monster. Cameras and video equipment was put away for a few hours and we just rode, enjoying the trails without having to stop to shoot or ride with heavy backpacks. Upon our return to the lodge, we had lunch down by the river, then headed out for one more lap on the lodge trail. Wanting to capture a few last images of the trip, we sessioned some of the jumps higher up on the trail. Everyone was still having a great time, talking trash like only friends are allowed to do, competing in a friendly game of 'who could get the best photos' or have the 'best style'. With the light quickly diminishing and everyone needing to get on the road home, we left the jumps and rode down to the lodge, enjoying the flow of these beautifully crafted trails all the way down to our awaiting vehicles.
| 14 person limit...we definitely had it maxed out.|
| Richie, nailing down the timing first try.|
| Kinrade, showing he knows this place like the back of his hand.|
| Schleyble-top Part 2|
| Classic Simmons' style.|
| Kinrade and Richie also getting in on the act.|
| Kinrade and Richie vs. Tippie and Simmons - who could time it better, first try?|
After our last ride, everyone began exchanging emails, phones numbers and business cards, hoping to keep in touch after the trip. As we all went our separate ways, I couldn't help but reflect back on the trip as I drove north back to Revelstoke. Being lucky enough to be included in a trip such as this one is something that I won't soon forget, a sentiment I'm sure that is shared by everyone involved. Not only meeting legendary riders, but people from all walks of life that you might never meet in your day to day experience, is what these trips are all about. Some are pro mountain bikers, some are doctors or lawyers, photographers, chefs or trail builders. And this is what makes us individuals, the differences among us. Yet what brings us together and puts us all on the same level, is the one thing that we all share: mountain biking
. The one common interest that spans all age gaps, monetary differences or lifestyles. Plain and simple, mountain biking is what brought us all together to the same place. And this is what Retallack in all about, bringing people together who share a simple common interest: powder. White, fluffy powder in the winter. Dirty brown powder in the summer. In either season, let Retallack take you out, show you the goods and shred some pow!
A huge thanks to everyone at Retallack lodge for the amazing weekend of shredding. To find out more about the lodge, please visit: www.retallack.com
for all the details, both summer and winter. What a legendary weekend it was! Cheers to all the guests, guides, lodge workers and to the three legends of freeriding. Hope we can all do it again soon!
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