28th July 2012 Location
: Revelstoke, British ColumbiaRiders
: Barry, Dean, Rich, Scott, TimChallenge
: Take a group of riders, who ride 90% downhill, on a 20-25km total ride, with 5310' total possible elevation gain/drop, in a bug infested, high altitude, alpine, all-mountain epic adventue. Results
: Awesomeness, fun, good times, mechanical drama, physical challenge, and promises of more all-mountain extreme action to come.
We don't do it in small doses, our little riding group. Familiarity with people teaches a person a few things. Most notably, that when the call goes out to ride some epicness, you can guarantee that there will always be riders willing to step up. Most of us get between 30 and 70 days on the bike each year, and manage to knock down between 20 and 30 days in the bike park each season. That's a lot of riding, and a lot of vert. Last year, when we went "big mountain" for the first time, we got ourselves a taste of 10,000' of prime singletrack at high altitudes, and one of the best riding experiences of our lives. So it was time to test ourselves on some big all-mountain riding, and what better way to do it than on a recently purpose-built trail that weaves northwards along the very eastern edge of the Monashee Mountains, the same range that encroaches on the hometown of some of our crew: Vernon, BC. The Monashees (the name means Peaceful Mountain) are a sub-range of the Columbia Mountains, stretching all the way from Valemount BC across the US border 530 km (329 miles) from north to south and 150 km (93 miles) from east to west. The mountains are big in this zone, and the riding is off the charts. Epic is often an overused word, but not in the Interior of British Columbia. Here, the word epic defines the riding experience.
Prologue: Revelstoke BC
The mountains are big in this zone
First a few words about Revelstoke. This mountain town of about 7,000 people sits in a valley between the Selkirk and Monashee mountain ranges. The vast barren emptyness of the western Kootenays lie to the south. The Okanagan, Shushwap and Thompson regions with their denser populations, warmer climate and tourist orientated activities to the west, and not a lot else to the north. To the east lies the land of tour buses, mountain resorts and much further beyond, the metropolis of Calgary. Nothing defines a BC mountain town better than Revelstoke, purely from a location and cultural perspective. Small in size, with massive easily-accessible terrain, with a certain character and individuality of its own. A community that has one of the world's best ski hills
with a monstrous 6000' vertical drop perched just above it, with the base located almost on the edge of town below Mount MacKenzie, can quite rightly call itself a mountain town. Not only that, but Revelstoke holds the Canadian record for snowiest single winter. 2447 cm of snow fell on Mt.Copeland outside town during the winter of 1971-72. That works out to just over 80 feet of snow.
Clearly the tourist and visitor dollar is important to the economy and the lives of people living and working here, but you can also feel a sense that everyone here is "out there" doing something, exploring their own local backcountry regardless of the season or how busy the town is. It has a vibe where the energy levels are high and the love for the outdoors exceeds any love for material things. Our last visit was in September 2011, when the wait lines at the gas station didn't consist of RV's pulling SUVs. Things were a little calmer in town, and the early or late off season is a good time to get a better feel for the place and sense its mountain town pace of life. Sitting watching the traffic go by, you see every sort of bike known to man. Road bikes, commuter bikes, singlespeeds, tourist bikes fit for a mellow ride down a flat dirt road, freeride bikes or twin crown DH bikes thrown over a tailgate. But the most popular ride seems to be a versatile 6" all mountain/light freeride bike. It's the two-wheeled best weapon of choice for the diversity of trails to be found here, especially if you have to make the "one bike to do everything" decision, especially with the use of gravity in mind. Act One - Frisby Ridge All-Mountain
Revelstoke and the Columbia Valley looking south from Frisby Ridge.
According to Revelstoke Cycling Association
, Frisby Ridge is "a fantastic ride and spectacular trail. The trail climbs from a cutblock up through very impressive mountain hemlock sub-alpine forest and into the alpine meadows, cresting on a rolling ridge with views in all directions. It dips down to a small lake and ends." Bikepirate.com says "is one of two high alpine cross-country epic rides located in Revelstoke; Frisby being the less technical one. Finished in the fall of 2010, Frisby Ridge is not a physically easy trail to ride. It’ll push you with its long 10.5 km ascent and over 800 meters of elevation gain up into the high alpine, yet drop your jaw on its insanely fast, flowy and jumpy descent back to your car".
For a group who ride 90% downhill, this could all get very interesting.
Barry calls all-mountain riding "soul riding" and I get that same vibe too. We spend all summer hammering down DH trails, lungs bursting, legs and knees resisting, smashing our way through rocks and roots, eating up rock gardens, jumps and drops. The adrenalin is strong with this group. But all-mountain changes the pace of things. Time to talk, look at the views, take time to connect with the singletrack, and think about the ride and the group we're with. The purity of mountain biking: take a bike, any bike, and roll with it, out into the great beyond.
The biggest shock to me was the climb. Straight out of the parking lot - boom - you are on it. Slow ponderous but incessant climbing, with a short flat section here and there then another wheel spinning climb. No warm up section. This theme continues, more or less until you hit the subalpine elevation with a few flatter sections where you see small lakes to the left and right and a few epic viewpoints start to open up on the east side of the ridge.
Easy riding, eh?
Another long climb takes us up into the alpine. Here the trees get visibly smaller, and bent over with foliage on just one side presumably from the cutting howling winds. Grass is still yellow and dead from the subzero overnight temperates and snowbanks sit in among the trees. Most of us have hike a biked some of the steeper climbs, so when we reach the first open alpine section, we don't fancy the final climb to the apex, and the descent to the lake is definitely off todays menu. But as a downhiller, what it does for me it gives me a real appreciation of a different type of riding skill. Endurance and fitness and the ability to get to places other people can't reach. The simplicity of that achievement, and the link to the simple act of riding a bike cannot be overstated. On a ride like this, a reasonably fit person on any bike regardless of bike skills and experience will hand your ass to you. We made it as far as the 9.5km marker, and respect to anyone who goes further into the alpine. With hindsight, the climb didn't take too long and with the incredible natural surroundings, it wasn't too unpleasant. Climbing is definitely mentally challenging, and the knowledge of where you are in relation to the peak, and the satisfaction associated with that end result is always going to be an advantage over the first timer. Also beware of bugs, which seem resistant to all forms of spray.
We reach the first Frisby Ridge peak at the alpine elevation. There's more climbing available, if you're persistent, and if you're more of an uphill machine.
The Frisby Ridge descent is a real blast. Smooth, twisty, undulating, and off camber, it's a real good time for any bike or skill level. You earned it, now point that front wheel downhill and let loose:
Interlude: Regarding Bikes
Just a quick word about bikes. My AM bike is a bit of a hybrid oddity. Rich Stevenson from Sovereign Cycle
called it "an all-mountain bike for a downhiller". Built for flexibility and to do pretty much anything required of it with little need to swap out components or mess around, I can put phat Minions on her and go ride fast airy jump trails like Silver Star's Pipe Dream and Rockstar, and she pops and floats like a dream. Put my skinny Continental Mountain Kings on there and she's 31.5lbs of freeride, all-mountain, do-it-all bike. This isn't the bike for the XC crowd and no doubt with my baggy shorts and jersey flapping in the breeze and nasty old Five Ten Sam Hills with bits hanging off them, I would get dirty looks from the hardcore XC crowd as I haul and maul this bike up the inclines. But that wasn't the crowd we saw at Frisby Ridge. It was a broad mellow group of friendly riders all out for exercise and a good time, high in the mountains. Even as unfamiliar as we were to the trail and the environment and type of riding, it all seemed very comfortable.
As primarily a downhiller, I'm not averse to hopping off and pushing up when I need to. In fact, sometimes it makes a nice change to swap up the exercise mode from spinning and grinding my insides to pulp, to push up and use leverage with my huge Nathan Rennie-like man calves. Pushing up into the great beyond like a true freerider. As this point was proven when just a few hundred metres into the Frisby Ridge climb I managed to drag a branch up into my derailleur and destroy it, bend my dropout, and screw myself up for the climb. No fear. 1800' of hike a bike? I can do that.
This all-mountain bike looks fast just standing still. It's a shame that the rider is only fast on the downhills.
The bike excels on the downs, with a fairly ridiculous 65.5 degree head angle for an AM bike, 13.1" BB height and 46" wheelbase she's built to shred the terrain using gravity like the disposable plaything of a 70's porn star, with a big smile on my face leaving roost and space nuggets in the face of the XC crowd lagging behind me. With no restriction on geometry or amount of travel, she rips and floats over the nastier stuff. Fully tested on 5000' of Martha Creek DH, the bike flowed and floated over the high speed twisty forested sections like a dream, airing roots and undulating sections. Things got a little more interesting on steeper techy terrain, or anything steep, haggard, and slow where I had to hold my nerve, but focusing on bike skills and line choice on the steeper stuff was a favourable strategy. I have found that the best way to ride this bike is to ride it like a DH bike. Throw in a bit of attitude here and there, and it rewards the riders aggression.
No carbonz, 29" or 27.5" wheels, 2x11 drivetrain, granny gear, seatpost dropper, and travel adjust on the fork. Just the purity of a 1x9 setup and a simple lock-out on the Fox DHX Air, shock and fork pumped much higher on the incline and softened for the decline. A 32-tooth Chromag ring mated to a 11-36 SRAM rear gives me a reasonable amount of uphill gnar-grunt but doesn't spin out when I need to lay some power down at speed. A Crank Brothers dual-stage QR seatpost clamp does the business when up changes to down. Interlude: The Feast
No ride in Revelstoke would be complete without a visit to the Nomad
. Located just off the main highway, it offers a basic but very tasty menu. The Nomad burger and chicken burger are both first class, but stepping it up to the N2 burger (two Nomad patties) was a bit much for a between-ride feast even for this ogre. Try it. Great food, great friendly smiling servers, and a very accessible location. Why would you even consider fast food when the price and quality of the Nomad beats anything else hands down. Ride big, eat big. Act Two: Martha Creek Big Mountain DH
Well, the original ride plan was an epic all-mountain experiment. Until someone who shall remain nameless (but is probably the author of this piece) stepped things up with a challenge thrown out to ride both Frisby Ridge AND Martha Creek. In one day. All-mountain epic extreme plus big mountain DH extreme. A total of almost 10,000' of riding. That's a hell of a spicy combo meal deal! Who could resist? Thankfully Tim generously stepped up to shuttle Dean and myself. All-mountain helmets were cast aside in favour of a full face and goggles and we dropped in to shred the 5000' of endless DH. In my case, chainless. The first traverse section was a bit of a pain in the ass, especially as I hobbled along with raw skinless heels from the hike-a-bike earlier in the day, like some mountaintop-dwelling hobgoblin from Lord of the Rings, but I had no care. Big rides await, pain is just temporary, and every extra effort pays dividends.
The Martha Creek drop in sits at just below 7,000' elevation. Here be big mountain descents.
You know you are in good company when you have a willing volunteer to shuttle you, and another accomplice who is happy to drop another 5000' of vert after a hard all-mountain climb-descent that burns the legs, knees, lungs and other bodily parts. Last year we commented that it was worth the trip just for the experience of the shuttle drive up. That was reinforced again second time around, as Dean testified to the epicness during the climb. Freedom in BC and the accessibility to the outdoors means having the ability to drive a truck to the top of a mountain range. Arriving and unloading at the top of the mountain has that same "spiritual" feel to it. How can you not be blown away, standing on the edge of the Selkirk Mountains with the Monashees to the west and glaciers directly opposite your viewpoint. There are places in this world special to people of many types. Mecca, Jerusalem, The Wailing Wall, The Egyptian Pyramids, The Great Wall of China. This sacred place is special to me, and as a worshipper of the vert, it is revered in a deep earthy "connected" spiritual sort of way.
Maybe I should consider a Tibetan-style sky burial when I am done for, known as 'jhator'. The eagles and buzzards can peck the flesh from my bones, then my friends can chuck the remaining bits and pieces over the edge of the mountain next time they ride the trail, assuming that passing snowmobilers haven't used a legbone to prop up a broken part of their sled or to scrape the ice off a frozen fairing. Take my skull and stick it on a pole by the drop in, and write "Gnar" on the forehead in black sharpie. The existing "no snowmobiles" signpost will suffice. I won't be too fussy. My only concern is will I be able to get a permit for this? The sky burial is connected to the Buddhist belief that we are all just passing by in this life and it is all impermanent in the scale of things. How true, when you consider just like visiting mountain bikers passing by Revelstoke and dropping in as "tourists", it is not "our" trail. We are just passers by, and the local trail gods will take care of whatever rituals and incantations they need to enact in order to maintain and create other local trails. All hail the trail gods, for they are capable of incredible acts of kindness, selflessness, and generosity. Whoever you are, you anonymous people, you have my sincerest appreciation.
The one conclusion about Martha Creek is the sheer "endurance" aspect of the descent. It is long, arm-pumpingly long. While you may have ridden more haggard technically challenging trails, you may not have ridden something as long, where the riders focus has to remain 100% on the trail. The twisting and changing terrain never stops. You cannot relax for more than a few seconds, and new sections come upon you so fast, with the adrenalin rushing and trees passing you by at eye watering speeds. It is easy to get carried away and blow your wad before you realize you are just a third of the way down and there is a lot more descending left. This is where fitness, strength, and the ability to gauge a trail is a real benefit. Some sections make it hard not to brake drag all the way down, but you have to find a way to dig in and carve into sections to ease the energy being drawn from the forearms. Some are slow and techy, and pull at the forearms and other bits. Others are fast and rooty, while others twist and turn, pulling you in every direction. Each one challenges the rider in a different way, and the sum of the parts is quite phenomenal. Braking when only strictly necessary is a hard discipline to learn, especially on a new unfamiliar trail, and the ability to make a split second decision whether to open the bike up and keep going is a hard one to handle over such a long descent. I've found that most people are at least 30% faster on their second lap due to the increased comfort level with the type of terrain and the general nature of the trail.
Dean taking a break at the 6km mark on Martha Creek.Epilogue
The moral of this short bike story being, ride what you want and have fun. Industry fads and the latest 2013 components are not all-important factors. Riding bikes can be a simple fun sport if you let it all go and just ride what is there, explore new possibilities, push yourself to try something different, and have a good time.
Many thanks to the hard work and dedication of the members and volunteers at Revelstoke Cycling Association for taking the initiative to design and build the Frisby Ridge trail, and to all their supporters and sponsors. I cannot even begin to imagine how much work and labour hours went into creating the trail. The incessant bugs, and seemingly endless amount of trail. All cut and hacked to perfection, even the smaller trees at the edge of the trail have been removed to ensure lower maintenance requirements over the next few years. Every root has been rock or dirt packed to avoid damage. Drainage and cross ditches have been put in to ensure sustainability. A very thorough and very impressively executed project, undertaken by people that are very clearly riders foremost but who know terrain and topography and trail building techniques
Also a big shout out to Lee Lau
who was the original inspiration for me checking out Revelstoke last year. Thanks Lee! People like you open doors to new adventures and help promote the sport, in all its forms, and grow it organically through passion and the desire for new experiences.Trail Information:Frisby Ridge
Trail Stats from bikepirate.com
Distance: 25 km (return)
Time: 3 - 5 hours
Elevation Gain: 855 m
Elevation Loss: 855 m
Min Elevation: 1,287 m
Max Elevation: 2,009 m
Technical Rating: Intermediate
Physical Rating: Hard
Season: July - September (in 2012, open on July 15th due to caribou season)
Permit Required: No
N51 03.287 W118 15.663 (Trailhead)
N51 06.758 W118 17.149 (End)
Access and Trail Description from bikerevelstoke.org
Access: The access is 2 wheel drive acceesible, but we recommend a vehicle with some clearance. From Revelstoke head west on the Trans-Canada highway across the Columbia River, at the highway 23 junction (traffic lights here), turn right or north onto West-side Road, Drive up the road for about 8km/10 minutes, to a point where it turns into an odd 4 way junction leading off onto gravel logging roads. To this point, don’t be fooled by the Frisby Ridge Snowmobile signs, some point the right way, some don’t! Turn left on the Frisby Ridge Road, there is a sign here, and also a tall cedar post with a small blue sign indicating “Rec Trail” with an arrow and bike symbol. All subsequent junctions are signed as such, and will lead you 9km up the gravel road to the parking area (trailhead kiosk with map here). Riding from town to the trailhead adds about 2 hours and 800m/2500ft. of climbing.
From the trailhead (1330m) follow the trail as it climbs 700m gently but steadily for about 12km to it’s high point (2030m). There are 2 viewpoints, one at 5.5 to the east looking over Revy, and another at 7.2km to the west look over the Monashees, if you wish to take a break and make a short walk. Continue from the high poinf of the trail ,if you wish, descending for another kilometer to a small alpine lake and the end of the trail. Head back up and over and enjoy the long flowy cruise back down, you deserve it! Note that there are many blind corners and uphill riders have the right of way, descend with caution!Martha Creek
Trail Stats from bikepirate.com
Distance: 9.4 km
Time: 45 min – 2 hrs
Elevation Gain: 17 m
Elevation Loss: 1,479 m
Min Elevation: 642 m
Max Elevation: 2,105 m
Technical Rating: Advanced
Physical Rating: Hard
Season: June - October
Permit Required: No
N51 10.787 W118 12.022 (Sale Mtn FSR)
N51 09.970 W118 08.047 (Trailhead)
N51 09.031 W118 11.991 (End)
Access and Trail Description from bikerevelstoke.org
Starting at the Hwy1/Hwy 23N junction drive 21km north of Revelstoke. Turn right on the Sale Mountain FSR, and drive a further 15km’s of dirt road to the summit. You will need 4wd to drive the last 5km’s of this road.
Specific mileage to the summit from the start of the FSR is: at 5.2km turn left. Turn right at 11.3km (you are now in a large cutblock). Turn left at 11.6km. Turn right at 12.8km. 15.7km finds you at the top of the road at the tower. The trail descends to the south.
Low Elevation Access: At 5.2km turn right. Go 2.8km and turn left. Finally another 1.2km along, turn right. As of Sept. 2011 the road is washed out here, it may be passed by bikers at low water. The trail is found a few hundred meters down this road.
Mid Elevation Access (not passable by vehicle): From the 11.6km junction go right and travel 2.8km to the trail intersection.
The trail drops from the tower into some technical riding right off the start. This leads into beautiful, mellow alpine meadows. Once the meadows end, so does the easy riding. Steep and fun technical riding through old growth forest and cutblocks will challenge any type of rider. Midway down, the trail gets fast and flowy with newly refurbished sidehill sections that will have your rotors smoking. The lower section slows down into technical rocks and roots, testing your bike skills along with testing your now tired arms and hands. Take your bike across the highway at the bottom and go cool off in Lake Revelstoke at the Martha Creek campground. This 5000 foot descent is one of the best you’ll find for miles around and will have you returning again and again for years to come. Summit is not snow free until early July. Please do not drift – it causes huge erosion problems!Photo Gallery - Frisby Ridge:Photo Gallery - Martha Creek:
Continued thanks and appreciation to my friends at Sovereign Cycle
, Lama Cycles
and Kali Protectives
who provide support and assistance to keep the ride going.