Photo Epic: Forfeit, Marlboros, & Riding Canadian Alpine - A Yeti Tribe Story

Oct 10, 2018
by Reuben Krabbe  



• Goal: Seven summits, 7 days, circumnavigating the Southern Canadian Rockies
• Reality: Dodge smoke, ride when possible

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Dawn breaks as we step foot into the skeleton of an old fire lookout building. Looking in each direction from the hollow windows, there's a curtain of smoke between us and each horizon. Miraculously, we're standing in the center of a smoke-doughnut, breathing freely and peering down at 1000 meters of earned vert (for American readers, 1000 meters is Canadian for 'really big').

A fine Canadian trucker's joke goes: In Canada, there are two seasons; winter, and highway construction. I'll offer my revision, based on the recent years: In Western Canada we've got three seasons; winter, hockey playoffs, and Smogust; our summer month of smoke.

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Stu, who wields chainsaws for a living, and races bikes faster than most will ever dream, has a remarkable phobia of heights and is nearly incapable of jumping off bridges.

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story


In Golden B.C., we set up camp at a trailhead, but upon waking up, we find our headlamps illuminating smoke so thick it feels like walking through coastal fog. There were no stars in the cloudless skies At sunrise, we find mother nature forgot her colour palette. The day could only fade into a dull greyscale.

Lines in the sand are difficult to define— when is the smoke going to be too smokey to care? How many cigarettes are we willing to smoke to keep adventuring? How many smokes are too many smokes?


Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

How to Tango with a Smogust

• 1. Create a diverse plan of trails to ride‚ as the smoke is going to lead this dance. Plan to be responsive and flexible if you want to keep up with its rhythms.
• 2. Show up to bat — you can't capitalize if you aren't already trying: pack the bag, set the alarm, and see if you're getting lucky or getting skunked.
• 3. Don't force it— when your headlamp looks foggy, or the summits are obscured, go back to bed, or make a third coffee.
• 4. Lean into the novelties— go skip stones, fish, read books, sketch, swim, breweries, museums, galleries, and all of that Pinteresty stuff. Leave the plans on the back burner and turn the peripheral into your priority.
• 5. Know when to fold 'em— Kenny Roger's manifesto isn't just a catchy track, know when you're beat

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

As the old adage goes, you can't wrestle a shark unless you get into the ocean. So, we drive toward the blade runner skies to try again. There's a backcountry cabin with our name on it, and unless the cabin itself is on fire, we're going to get to it.

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

There's enough smoke for this to smell like the inside of an Idaho bar full of Patty and Selma Bouvier impersonators. But, as we gain altitude, we move into cleaner air and eventually into the subalpine cirque where the cabin is located. Held by a perimeter of tall Rockies peaks, we're once again in the center of an impossibly fortunate doughnut hole.

Did you know: doughnut holes are the national food of Canada, and we call them Tim Bits.

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

How to Get Beginner’s Luck Fishing

• 1. Find a rod, any rod, reel or line.
• 2. Crack a beer
• 3. This is where you wish you paid attention in scouts when you were twelve years old. Get a lure for whatever you are fishing. If you don’t know what you’re fishing for, something shiny should do the trick. Tie it to the end of your line. If you didn’t pay attention in boy scouts: Google It.
• 4. Remember that you don’t need to catch any fish to have fun.
• 5. How to know if there is fish in the lake? You don’t.
• 6. If you see fish jumping, this is your bull's eye.

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

How were the views in the Rockies, Marty? 'Well, the fishing was good'

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

How to Skip the Perfect Stone

• 1. Find a smooth, roundish rock the size of a deck of cards, or smaller to fit your hand.
• 2. Assume a wide stance at the shoreline.
• 3. Skip when there's minimal wind.
• 4. Hold the edge of the rock with the pointer finger and palm.
• 5. Using a sidearm throw, throw the rock spinning like a record. Aim for 25 feet ahead of you for the first skip and try to have the leading edge of the rock slightly higher than the trailing edge.
• 6. Profit.

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story


Then, Kenny Rogers came to Stu in a dream and said, “You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."
Each of us had worked our way through a couple packs of Marlboros, and one of us so under the weather the regional toilet paper supply was on red alert. Beijingian greyscale skies had sucked the optimism out of the world. When the music stops, you look like a fool when you keep dancing. This tango was over.

This is when you fold.

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

- - -

Part II: The Return of Colour

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Rain fell, bringing British Columbia back out of the seventh circle of hell, antibiotics carpet bombed the offending stomach cultures, and a freak chainsaw fight accident reduced our tribe from the three stooges to the two coastal amigos.

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

When the music resumes, what dance do you choose? If smoke still threatens the Rockies, should we persist, or take a hint and change our aim? What would Kenny Rogers do? WWKRD?

After channeling Kenny Rogers on the Ouija board, he gave us a new Summit(ish) Quest that will include three Coast Range rides. Only the second ride has a definite summit. We've long since past the point of failure, that our once dearly held goals are easily given up like the idea of floating disk brakes or water bottles below downtubes.

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Our home mountain range on the coast doesn't really make itself available to biking summits, but on our Google Earth maps pinned like an acupuncture patient, there are zones we've thought to try, but have never prioritized. We point towards Where Trailforks Ends, and move into the thrill of the semi-unknown. We find a flock of granola crunching hippies, fantastic rock slabs, and a cabin that houses infrequent bike traffic.

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Objects in the Fraser Canyon may be bigger than they appear.

Though our first language is Canadian, we misinterpret 1400 meters as 'really big' when it actually means 'really, really big', and try to blame a long drive, and a late start, for why we might miss the summit. Finally, we're chased off the summit ridge by a rainstorm giving us a valid excuse for yet more failure, but still manage to find a couple high five worthy moments during the headlamp descent.

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

The Fraser Canyon disappears in the rear mirror without a summit under our belts. On our Rockies-Coastal Summit Quest, we still have only a single peak in the bag. The good times abound, but the lack of winning is palpable, and our last remaining summit route is nearly blank on the map.

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story
Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

The last ride strings us along like a Stephen King thriller— a bushwack, then supreme forest singletrack with so much needle loam you could call it a biohazard, then a kilometer of derailleur biter trench, then a lost trail, a found trail. The sun begins to dive to the horizon, like a newly mortgaged med school graduate diving into middle age.

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

We race it up the mountain, following the intermittent trail. Time wanes, but our hopes grow. Singletrack reappears and pulls us towards the summit. Finally, 21 days after our first summit, we reach the second and final summit of the trip.

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

Photos for Yeti Tribe Story

“Shoot for the stars, if you miss, you'll find yourself swatting alpine mosquitos.” -Norman Vincent Peale

Riders: Stu Dickson, Marty Lazarski
Words and Photos: Reuben Krabbe
Production: Craig Grant, Sarah Rawley
Thanks to: Yeti Cycles, Nature, Modern Medicine
Production carbon offset by Reuben Krabbe Photography



47 Comments

  • + 100
 Easily one of the best photo essays I've ever seen on PB! Amazing work you guys!
  • + 4
 Just logged in to compliment Rueben on this, I have to agree with you @scottsecco , I got goose bumbs looking at this!!!! By far the best in a long time!
  • + 12
 Carbon offset for the production? Rad!
  • + 5
 glad that stokes you out!
  • + 7
 Amazing photos. Yeti's subtle way of marketing through storytelling is my favorite kind. What kind of gear did you carry with you and shoot these with?
  • + 4
 Stellar photos and story as always Rueben! always stoked when you get back out to Alberta for stories. Apparently Alberta is going to finally get the recognition it deserves, we have some amazing rides here that offer a bit of a different type of riding than in BC. If you like loose, natural, techincal trails then Alberta is for sure the place to be (other than all of the current snow)
  • + 3
 Way to go eating a threatened fish species (Westslope Cutthroat trout).
www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/species-especes/profiles-profils/slopecutthroattrout-truitefardee-eng.html

Save the bashing for the brookies and rainbows.
  • + 1
 I don't think that one is a Westslope, the speckling doesn't look right. Westslope's are typically a bit redder when they are that size too.
  • + 1
 @brentjj: It's a westslope cutthroat. Work on your fish id before heading out. Idk what else you could confuse it with. Red slash, more spotting on tail than front of fish. The more confusing comparison with Oncorynchus is the distinction between coastal cutthroat and rainbow (if you're in an area with anadromous fish...). Been working fisheries projects for the last 7 years.

Color is a poor indicator too. Fish will change colors when you put them in different environments (e.g. taking from stream and putting into white bucket). Things like spotting patterns and fin size/shape are better for id.
  • + 4
 You could fill a Photo of the Year bracket using these shots alone. They just got more impressive as I kept scrolling. Awesome work from behind the lens!
  • + 2
 Wow! Great pics, great writing.

And I think you maybe also broke some Canadian illuminati blood oath — to never mention hockey or Tim Horton's on PB. Don't worry, even if teams below the 49th may win Stanley Cups, hockey is still yours. And Tim's, well, that's just not even in contention.
  • + 17
 I don't even watch hockey, but it's fun to poke fun of Canadiana. Hockey is for people who haven't figured out that you can ski during a Canadian winter.
  • + 3
 @ReubenKrabbe: Or the fact that there is a rink in every town across canada and most ski hills east of alberta are on landfills.... Hockey is pretty rad, hockey players sometimes not so much.
  • + 3
 @ReubenKrabbe , hats off to you!!! This is breathtaking, the images are just perfectly well done/thought/timed/style etc... Thanks for sharing! When I grow up I want to take pictures like you, hahaha! Cheers man!
  • + 5
 In the words of Marty himself: wowowow!!!!
  • + 1
 Absolutely awesome! One point of contention though, I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “freak” chainsaw fight accident! Keep living the dream so I can live it vicariously.
  • + 2
 Alright, I was all ready to reschedule my next years vacations after the "At home with Sorge" story. Now I'm packing my bags...Absolutely Awesome, thanks!!!
  • + 1
 Was the "Step 6 Profit." a reference to the South Park episode with the underwear gnomes? If so, freakin awesome!!!!
Step 1 - steal underwear. Step 2 - ???? , Step 3 - Profit..... LOL
  • + 4
 Y'all fugged.
  • + 1
 A damn real photo Epic indeed!! makes you want to drop everything, take a flight there and do exactly that same route... cheers from Spain!
  • + 1
 Siiick trip! Smugust was a bummer this year, and last tho. We've got to be flexible these days. I had to drive all the way to Sun Valley from Pemby to get some blue sky!
  • + 1
 @ReubenKrabbe super inspiring trip, photos, and words! Really enjoyed reading! How'd you set up the photo of the two of you on the rock slab? Is that a self portrait?
  • + 3
 August fires and smoke = new normal
  • + 2
 Ruben is in another league when it comes to photos. Great shots from my favourite area in BC.
  • + 3
 Many a POY there.... well done.
  • + 2
 This pic is insane - www.pinkbike.com/photo/16374035

Love it!
  • + 1
 "The sun begins to dive to the horizon, like a newly mortgaged med school graduate diving into middle age."

you killed me
  • + 1
 Great story and amazing photos! I also liked the reference of water bottles on the downtube Wink
  • + 2
 This article is the definition of photo epic.
  • + 2
 Fantastic images! Holy sh*t!!!
  • + 1
 Really had to pump up the ISO on those night shots. But they still look pretty damn good!
  • + 1
 Awesome report! Astonishing pictures!
  • + 2
 amazing photos
  • + 1
 Would it be possible to post a map on where you rode?
  • + 11
 the other version of this story on www.YetiCycles.com has some beta around trails that are already on Trailforks. But there's many cyptically mis-named locations. Trails will find you when you're ready.
  • + 1
 Looks like an epic trip of a lifetime! Thanks for sharing!!
  • + 1
 Great~. Thanks for share~
  • + 1
 Live it like you ain't got a chance!
  • + 1
 Another one here that is clapping you ,fuck yes.
  • + 1
 Down in SD, CA. Admittedly jealous.
  • + 1
 Epic "failure" of the best variety
  • + 1
 yes!!
  • + 0
 Yeti's photo stories never disappoint.
  • + 1
 Great pics!
  • + 1
 Banger shots.
  • + 0
 Great pictures, but cringy write up...
  • + 1
 Epic

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