“It’ll be fun and we can do it in two days no problem.” That’s what I told my friend Paul who was taking a week off work to come out west and ride. He called me up from my cabin while I was on lunch break and was saying that we should ride the Sevens Summits (Rossland’s IMBA Epic Trail, not Everest, Aconcagua, Denali etc.) while he was out, then we could head to where I live in Nelson and ride after work. I had other ideas though. I had been eyeing up a 2 day bikepacking route that would take us over the Seven Summits trail, then down into the valley between Rossland and my family cabin at Christina Lake where Paul was sitting while I pitched this idea, up a dirt road to the top of the mountain range that parallels the Seven Summits, then down a 1300m descent on freshly maintained singletrack bliss before finishing off with 10km of highway then 10km of lake-side cross country riding to the north end of Christina Lake. He was in. The only condition was that we leave late the first day so we could finish early the third day.
I believed this route was/is bikepacking gold. In my opinion, most bikepacking routes are just long gravel grinds. I’m not trying to put those rides down though, they just aren’t for me. Plenty of them have little to no singletrack and follow forest service roads through the bush. As a true mountain cyclist, I do not find I enjoy riding on a dirt road that much when I know there are berms out there that need brapping. This route only takes two days so you can pack light and brap those berms, and it has plenty of loamy and alpine singletrack. That’s why this route I had planned had me pumped. In the end, the route was better than I thought and had a lot more climbing than I thought. We rode 105km with 2965 meters of climbing.The weapons of choice. 27.5+ 120mm Rocky Mountain Growler and the 140mm Rocky Mountain Instinct.
We planned to set off on the first climb on the Seven Summits Tuesday night around 7-8pm. I got off work at 5 and needed to drive to Christina Lake to pick up Paul and then drive to the trailhead. I got to Christina Lake around 7 and we set off on the first climb around 9 (We don’t have the strongest time management skills). Behind schedule but ahead on stoke levels we slapped on our bike lights and set off to our first camp at 2200 meters on top of Mt. Plewman, the highest of the Seven Summits (again, not Everest, Denali etc.) It was a little windy but that worked in our favour as around 4 in the morning when the wind died down the swarm of mosquitoes came and ate us alive while we "slept" in our emergency bivy sacks that we opted to use instead of a tent.
If any of you haven’t heard of the Seven Summits you really need to do some research. It is a 29km piece of alpine and sub-alpine singletrack that winds it ways up down and around 7 summits of the Rossland range. It’s also not just some cross country ride. This is real all mountain riding with 3 main descents that are true black diamonds that you could expect to ride at any trail center. It is well worth a trip to Rossland to ride. The final descent can be combined with the Dewdney trail for an epic 1300 meter descent (4300ft, all conversions from here on must be done by yourself. Get with the system) that winds from alpine into old growth forest down to the highway. In our case though we needed to turn east instead of west. We had planned to ride a trail known as Sheep Creek on Trailforks which would have made for a potentially even longer singletrack descent had it not been for 4 trees down in 100ft of overgrown trail that swayed us to decide to ride the road down into the valley. There is a chance we missed out but we didn’t want to risk hauling our bikes over logs with limited time.
After the final descent on the Seven Summits, we dropped in on the Old Cascade Highway to the valley bottom. Lucky for us there was an awesome creek to rest at. We had our siesta here to avoid climbing up 950 meters of road in toasty 32֯ weather. We lucked out with the creek as well since it turned out there is a perfectly sized pool to swim in and cool off while we took our 2-hour break. Once we regained the motivation to ride we strapped out backpacks to our bars and took our shirts off and set out to grind out the least fun portion of this trip. The big gravel climb. Luckily though, this gravel road is the perfect road for riding up. It had a gentle grade, was freshly grated and was almost entirely shaded. This part of the ride was type 3 fun but well worth it for what we had in store for the next day. The Old Cascade highway is the perfect thing after riding the Seven Summits. You coast down for what feels like forever with the wind cooling you off in the heat. Just don't get squashed by a logging truck.
Day 3 was here and it would be the most fun day of them all. We had less than a hundred meters of climbing before our biggest singletrack descent of the trip. Christina Lakes Double Dewdney. Now Christina Lake is not a riding destination. They have a relatively small trail network with basically all of their trails being shuttle only due to the long forest service roads to access trailheads. There trails also have had the reputation of being “Old School”. Tighter, narrow, sharp corners and steep. Recently though the owner of Wildways, the Local Bike shop and Kayak/Paddleboard store, Josh Strzelec and his group of local riders and volunteers have been putting in a lot of effort to change this. It has been a real struggle for him since Christina Lake gets pennies to pay for trail maintenance and construction when compared to other places in the West Kootenay like Rossland and Nelson, but his hard work is paying off for sure. Christina Lakes Upper and Lower Dewdney (when ridden together it’s known locally as the Double Dewdney) turned out to be the highlight of the trip. The Double Dewdney is over 1200 meters of descent over 11km and when we rode it there wasn’t a single tree down. The whole trail is hand built and maintained by the dedicated locals and trail builders. It is an amazing blue tech trail that goes from true old-school tech at the top to a flowier modern blue lower down. The best part? The bottom of the trail is less than a 2 minute all downhill ride to a sandy beach next to what is known as the warmest tree-lined lake in B.C (think swimming pool warm, perfect temperature)
After lunch and a very well earned beer, we hit the highway for a short ride to the last trail of the trip, Deer Point. Deer point trail is 10km of undulating cross country singletrack with lots of berries, good views, and some serious exposure. This trail is one of my favourites. It is not overly challenging and the views up and down the lake are hard to beat. It also ends at the north end of the lake beside Sandner Creek in a west coast like old growth forest where they used to log back in the pioneer days of Christina Lake. The only downside to ending here is you either have to boat-hitchhike back to the marina or call for the marinas water taxi. It is well worth the ride though.
The ride was over. 2ish days of biking and we were finished. We rode some of the best trails in the Kootenays and explored a new area we had never been. We also learned a few things about our setup. Chamois butter would be a good investment, don't forget to bring a plus size tube (lucky we didn't flat), prepare your gear before-hand if you have time, consider buying a better bivy sack that mosquitoes can't bite through. If you are wanting to ride this route let me know if you have any questions. I would recommend you start early on the Seven Summits and ride as much of the Old Cascade highway as you can. This is a challenging route because of the amount of climbing. Pack light and fast. Think small, mini stove or make a campfire, bivy sack and no sleeping bag or maybe a light tent and light sleeping bag, dehydrated food etc. After 105km and just shy of 3000m of climbing we were done.
My last article (Shred-Ventures on the Cheap
) I saw some people were discouraged from trying bikepacking not by money but by time. That's one thing that really motivated me to make this route and show people what you can accomplish with a weekend. Really the only thing that stops most people from getting out and trying something new like bikepacking is themselves. Out of however many months of the year you are bound to have at least a couple days to get on your bike and go bikepacking (or just shred singletrack)
Thanks to Rocky Mountain bikes for their support and to the Christina Lake and Rossland riders for keeping their trails in primo condition. Follow me on Instagram @Gravity_Candy
for more photos.