Icefields Parkway

10926355_10152494640201193_7363740462449083702_oA couple winters ago good buddy Leighton Poidevin from Canmore and myself road 205 km of the Icefields parkway from just north of Lake Louise to Jasper in preps for a big year of 24hr racing.   It’s arguably the most scenic highway in Canada as it runs over high mountain passes through the heart of the Rockies via Jasper and Banff National Parks.  That year we lucked out with some warm weather around -8 degrees but 8 inches of snow at the start which made the journey into a 13 hr slog.  This year we had an urge to revisit the ride but were having a hard time finding the right weather opening to make it happen.

The mission is pretty solid in the winter and takes a lot of convincing to get the mind on board. After some humming and hawing I finally convinced it this was a good idea and gave Leighton a call.  He’s a real trooper and up for anything We made a little plan and soon I was piling some stuff in a pack, hopped in the truck and left Jasper late afternoon.  Driving 140 km south to Rampart creek hostel, I ditched the truck there and set off at dusk for a 60 km ride south to Mosquito creek hostel, just north of Lake Louise.  The rather short ride turned into a nippy one as the temperature dipped from -17 to -24, requiring  numerous stops to adjust the clothing.  The body was holding up pretty good except for the legs which were getting frostbitten as the bike shorts and gore tex pants weren’t meeting the requirements.  It was a bugger stopping in the middle of the highway, stripping down, putting on long underwear and redressing but it was needed and after that the ride improved.   Traveling through the dark was a crazy sensation as I had no ide_H7A2088a where I was but after 4 hours I finally checked into Mosquito creek hostel for the night.  After a quinoa dinner and short visit with some ice climbers from Victoria, it was off to bed for some shut eye before meeting Leighton in the morning for the 205 km back to Jasper.

Meeting Leighton in the parking lot at 7:30 in the morning there was a bit of silence as we both new were in for a shocker.  All he said was, “hey, it’s -21.”  It was a comical situation as I had been the trip coordinator and was waiting for the right weather pattern to move in, but unfortunately I had been using a Norwegian weather website which turned out to be a dud and I unknowingly pick the coldest day in weeks.  The -12 temps it was calling for didn’t turn up.  We were frigid leaving but soon warmed up as we road over Bow Summit under a gorgeous sunrise.  A couple photographers had passed us on the climb to the summit and were set up a10896201_10152494641176193_7632963729539252404_ot the top to snap some rad pictures. These rad shots can be found at www.docnickphotos.com.  Thanks Nicholas for letting me use some of your sunrise pictures in this blog! Also Thanks to Karolyn George for the skidoo picture down below.

On the descent down we started to chill and were soon a couple of frozen ice cubes as we road along Waterfowl lakes.  We were both thinking, “what the hell are we doing” but neither of us wanted to be the one to wave the white flag.  After riding in silence for a while I looked up to see Leighton with a big patch of white frost bitten skin on his right cheek.  It was scary looking and I thought possibly our ticket out of the doomed mission.   As he stopped to put on a face mask he froze his fingers good, my feat were also turning to ice blocks so I started to run around on the highway like a chicken with his head cut off to get some blood back in them.

It was a nasty 1 hour or so of riding, the bikes weren’t really working great either as the grease in the bearings was getting gummed up from the cold.  Heading up one hill it felt like we were biking through sand with our brakes on so I got off and started walking at the exact same speed we had been riding.  It was a struggle, but finally the weather started to turn as we neared my truck at Rampart creek after a fre10918958_10152521396591193_158367937702596718_oezing first 4 hours of the journey.

Hopping in the truck we sat there for 30 minutes or so, warming up, having lunch and discussing the meaning of life.  We didn’t figure much out but did warm up a little. We were both in a crazy state of mind, already blown, but still knowing we had another 140 +km to Jasper to go.  Finding a bottle of Yukon Jack in the back seat lifted the spirits and soon we were back on the bikes trudging along, the weather had even warmed up to -17 which was a nice bonus.  From that point on the ride was unreal as the temperature warmed up further to -11 and there wasn’t a breath of wind in the air.  The bikes started to roll better and we were soon cruising down the highway, taking in the crisp fresh air, enjoying the endless spectacular mountain scenery unfolding in front of us.

Rolling into Jasper 11 hours later was a rad feeling and to top it off my Mom had a huge spread of wicked homemade food on the table topped off with a fresh apple crisp for desert.  Moms are the best!   That night we plugged in our Garmins to check out the ride stats and felt less like wussies when we found the temperature had dropped to -28 for the stretch when Leighton nearly lost his face and my feet wanted to fall off.  Next year we will try to be smarter and stick to the Canadian weather channels when planning this ride.10926782_10152494641691193_3540726150844797868_o

The following day my Mom dropped us off at Beauty creek flats and we had another unreal ride, this time just under 3 hours cruising by the Columbia ice fields back to the truck at Rampart cr.   Getting early season base miles in on the Icefields Parkway is a perfect way to kick off the year as it is dead quite this time of year and the mountains are looking great all dressed up in there white winter coats.

The following day any left over energy was spent on a 4 hour Fatbike ride with Mike Vine and Derek Anderson through Jasper’s extensive trail network.  Trainin10668799_10152521396451193_434882828030238780_og in the winter has really changed with the addition of Fatbiking and opens up a whole new possibility of rides.  They are a great training tool, requiring a lot of effort to ride and some real good balance through the icy conditions.  Freewheel Cycle had lent me a Kona Wo for the duration of my 3 week visit in town and it was used extensively.  If your in town this winter make sure to check out there Fatbike group ride leaving the shop at 7 PM tuesday nights!

 

The fat bike highlight of the year was riding up a side valley near Valemount BC on the Skidoo trails to Dave Henry hut over New Years.10914989_657826635912_3210309167733652065_o  After a couple solid days of skiing with some old & new mountain friends it was time to head back to civilization.  Thanks Karen, Reiner and the Mckirdy family for organizing the trip!   The ride down from the alpine was unreal.  Cruising down the skidoo trail in the dark weaving between trees was a rad luge run and faster then the skidoos, that was until I would hit the side of the track and get sucked into 3 ft of fresh powder causing some spectacular pile ups.  It was awesome.

As much fun as winter riding can be I was still stoked to get back to home base in Victoria to hit some dirt and above zero temps!   A good balance of freezing and not freezing on the bike seems to help keep the winter base training in Canada entertaining year after year.

Big thanks to Wild Mountain for supplying all the clothing needed for these winter adventures!

Over and out._H7A2071

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