With the warm summer months coming to an end, we had one last chance to snag a floatplane to the South Chilcotin Mountains. Soon, the zone we planned to ride would be covered in snow so deep that only sleds and skis would be able to access it. Our friends and partners at Tyax Adventures were just about to close down summer operations but gave our crew of big mountain freeskier Mark Abma, Squamish shredder Cassandra Prochera, and Norco staffers Jonathan Duncan and Tom Richards the green light for one final flight to our favorite alpine playground.
We checked the weather forecast a few days before our departure and found we were in for a mix of rain, flurries, high winds and freezing temperatures. Armed with layers of warm, waterproof gear, our trail bikes, and high spirits, we started the drive from Vancouver despite the forecast. We were looking forward to flowy trails in picturesque, fall-colored meadows, and post-ride beers by the fire, but we also had a touch of trepidation as we anticipated high mountain passes and a low freezing level.
Sure, we felt prepared, but really, when do you have any idea what the backcountry will throw at you?
Our first night, we arrived late and set up camp on Tyaughton Lake, just down the road from Tyax Lodge.
Before heading out, the group went to Tyax Lodge to thaw after a cold night and discuss the route for the weekend. If the snow cooperated, we planned to spend the day riding in the vicinity of Spruce Lake before taking the High Trail up to Windy Pass on day two, traversing to Eldorado cabin, and then descending the Lick Creek trail.
We met up with Dale from Tyax Adventures, loaded the bikes into the floatplane and took off to Spruce Lake.
After a stunning flight, we got our first chance to explore the singletrack in the lower grasslands amidst the fall-colored Aspen trees.
Riding in the Chilcotins in the fall means fast, flowy singletrack through beautiful autumn colors, with a few technical rock and root sections to keep you focused. Our trail bikes were the perfect companions on this trip.
The first day ended with steaks on the grill at Spruce Lake Camp, beer, and a warm campfire. What more could you ask for? We told stories into the evening and all got to know one another better.
The sound of pelting rain hitting the canvas tents echoed throughout the night. The rains were later replaced by freezing temperatures, and at first light, we discovered that the snow line was so low that everything around us had turned white. Despite the dusting of snow and ice-covered bikes, the group decided to make the push up and over Windy Pass.
After hours of climbing, the group reached the top of Windy Pass, and we were rewarded with awesome panoramic views of the mountains.
You'd never guess from this photo that five minutes earlier we were caught in a short, but heavy snowstorm.
As they always say, if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes.—Mark Abma
The weather shifted quickly from snow to hail to rain as we made our way down Lick Creek. There was an intense hail storm, where we had hail bouncing and ricocheting off our helmets. And then, as we continued to descend, the hail turned into rain. It poured with rain for the remainder of the descent and into the evening.
Adventures like this are as much about the trails and the topography here in British Columbia, as they are about the unique connections you form with the people you ride with. Trails connect us.