There are important places in everyone’s life, places that leave an impact, places that are seared into your memories, places that breathe life into who you are. These places can be located anywhere from remote corners of the world to just in your backyard. This is a story about our backyard. Full disclaimer, I didn’t build any of the trails featured in this piece, but I tip my hat to those who did, DR, JD, PF, JN and the trails moto club.
Mountain biking in Squamish is pretty easy, not the actual trails, but everything surrounding the actual riding is easy. Navigation-wise, it’s easy, everything is built off three main roads, ride to the top, point it downhill and keep going and you will hit your vehicle at the bottom. Traffic wise, it's easy, driving from downtown to the trail head will never take longer than 10 minutes, even at 6pm the Friday of a long weekend when all of the Pacific Northwest is driving to Whistler. The trails are busy enough that you don’t need to bring tools or a tube, someone will ride by in the next 20 minutes and they’ll sort you out.
Better yet, you can grab that tube you forgot from the bike shop that is right at the bottom of the hill, or grab a delicious donair from the Farm to Table Food truck 300 meters away from the shop. The laps can be lunchtime ride quick; you can hammer a really fun loop out in 45 minutes door to door. Should you require emergency assistance Squamish SAR and Squamish Ambulance are minutes away from a response, and you have cell service to call them.
I’ll be the first to admit, I love this ease, most of the time.
Sometimes you want more, more challenge, more variables, more risk...more adventure. Overcoming these additional factors always makes the descent sweeter. This leads you to seek out the big rides, the ones that count. The stakes get higher on these big rides, the risk increases and you only bring your most trusted riding buddies. That’s where the magic comes from, knocking out hefty objectives with some of your best friends. There happens to be a classic big ride right down the road, Disney Land…lucky us.
This is an epic, in every overused sense of the word, in our backyard, starting from 5500ft and descending right to the ocean. Living here you are exposed to the tails about Disneyland, hilarious stories from the first times mountain bikers attempted it. Dropping into insane steeps with 4-inch travel forks and those old Hayes Disc brakes, half shell helmets and amour pilfered from their hockey bags. Occasionally these stories would be illustrated with a film segment or some photos in the magazines from the area. I have been engrossed with these stories and images long before I moved here they created a certain mystic around this area for me.
My first exposure to this place was in the passenger seat of my friend Stu’s RT-44 helicopter, flying over a recently burned out logging clear cut looking for a place to build some freeride lines [you read that right, freeride lines, that flight was over 8 years ago]. Our cut block was low down, barely scratching the surface of what was available to us on the ridge above. After some exploration on the neighboring trials, moto trails we started piecing together great rides through some phenomenal terrain.
Soon thereafter one of Squamish’s [name redacted] most dedicated trail builders started crafting some mountain bike specific lines. After catching a cheeky shuttle up with him and riding his first creation, G-String, I was hooked. This first mountain bike specific trail was easily the best ride in the corridor. Again this trail was barely scratching the surface, only using a 1/3 of the available elevation.
This builder was dedicated; quickly there was an upper connection, Tramp Stamp. Then a line snaking out to an area colloquially known as the Pretty Slabs, other trail builders followed cutting mountain bike specific trails through the lower elevations. Delicate land management issues soon arose, the gate was locked and this zone became pedal power only. Well, pedal power or rotor power…
Summer 2015, we had two sling loads of bikes and 12 friends from around the world ready to fly to the top. This was to be all of our first times heli dropping this trail from the top, the anticipation at the log sort was so thick it could be cut by a rotor.
Landing in the alpine, overlooking the ocean with a faint ribbon of trail winding through the meadow we knew we were in for a good time. With high expectations we dropped in, through the alpine, into the trees, into incredible steep loam, into even steeper loam.
Riding down these steep chutes was more like mountain bike skiing. Sustained now had a new definition, steeps, after steeps, after steeps, on more than one occasion we had to stop to marvel at the superhuman effort required to muscle a trials moto up these sections. After several hours of this we arrived at the cabin, which marks the start of the mountain bike specific trails. We still had three more trails to go with over 3200ft of descending left to get to the ocean.
The trials moto club has been cutting trails here for over 30 years creating a vast network of brown ribbons through mossy granite and perfect forest. They are the stewards of this ridge and we are their guests. Their network is too vast to explore in a day, even with an engine, and extends into way more terrain then I have ventured into. Photographer and adventure aficionado of the highest degree, Margus Riga and I have spent a few nights in the cabin doing our best to explore this network. The cabin is barely large enough for two, but it protected us from the rain and had a woodstove to dry our kit with.
Spring 2016, Dustin Adams and I were gearing up at the base; it was his first time, with no understanding of what was to come. After a hefty climb, 3200 grueling feet up we dropped into Tramp Stamp. The turns were divine, the rock rolls intimidating as always and a recent rain added some extra spice to the exposed roots. Over a beer at the bottom, Dustin wondered why you ride anywhere else. From this point on we never rode together in Squamish, always juggling our schedules to make the time to ride here.
You can search the world for the best trails, but sometimes they are located in your own backyard. This is a story about our backyard, but I guarantee this place exists in your backyard. All you have to do is find it, good thing the hunt is a blast.
Still Photography: Margus Riga Produced by: Kevin Landry Cinematography: Cameron Sylvester, Max Berkowitz, Jordie Lepage, Patrick Henry UAV: Patrick Henry / Jordie Lepage – TOPO Films Post Production: Leigh Powis Colorist: Leigh Powis Maverick: Darren Taylor / Black Tusk Heli