Solstice Bikepacking in the South Chicotins

Panthea and I decided that before I took off for Peru we should go on a short bikepacking trip. I called Tyax Adventures, expecting that much of the alpine and subalpine riding anywhere in British Columbia would still be under snow. To my surprise, they claimed that almost all the passes up in the South Chilcotin mountains were snow-free. So with hope in our hearts and four days of food packed onto our bikes, we headed North. Five hours later, after a stops for victuals in Squamish, and a trail map from the Bike Co. in Pemberton, we made it over the Hurley FSR to the trail head at Jewel Bridge on Gun Creek.

Leaving my van all alone in the parking area, we headed up the (mostly) smooth, sandy trail, following Gun Creek.

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Before too long, we emerged from the pines into a series of blossom-filled meadows.

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We were forced to push a fair bit, with four days worth of gear loaded on our bikes, as we climbed away from the creek toward Spruce Lake.

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Before we’d even seen these Grizzly prints, it was clear that Panthea was so worked up about bears that she was not actually enjoying herself very much. Her anxiety would barely let up after three days with no bear sightings.

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Tired after only 600m of elevation gain and 16km of riding (not by the most direct route), we decided to camp at Spruce Lake.

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My Surly ECR recently went on a diet, gaining a prototype two part seat pack system from Porcelain Rocket, a Timbuk2 Goody Box top tube bag, a smaller dry bag from Mountain Equipment Co-op, new (free) silicon-lined water bottles, and Profile Designs bottle cages to replace the Axiom stainless steel cages we’d collectively broken. Panthea doesn’t have a seat-pack yet, so she just strapped her sleeping bag below her seat, and carried some light/bulky things in a backpack. On that note, on trips that involve more than a little pushing/lifting of bikes up steep hills, getting weight off the bike and into a backpack seems to make better use of limited upper body strength. Panthea was glad to not be pushing my bike, just as I was glad to ride without a backpack.

In the morning we headed north to Tyaughton Creek, across the creek, then west along the creek.

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When I told Panthea I was going barefoot for the creek crossings, she replied “What?! Bear?”. None of the creek crossings were so bad as anything Patagonian, but we nevertheless opted to scrambled awkwardly along a steep, loose bank to avoid a double crossing where the creek makes a horseshoe bend.

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A long push up from Tyaughton Creek toward Deer Pass yielded incredible views. Feeling the bite of a cold wind as we emerged into the alpine convinced us to backtrack a few hundred meters into the trees for a more comfortable night than what we might get at the pass. I still slept with a jacket on. Unpacking the new two-part seat pack is easy since the bag part can be pulled off the bike while leaving the harness in place.

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We found a tiny flat spot on the side of the mountain.

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Then, in the morning, we still had a fair bit of pushing up steep stuff to get to the pass.

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We could ride a bit of the climb.

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But mostly just pushed…

I told Panthea we just had to bear with it, and soon enough we’d get a sweet descent. Panthea replied, “What?! Bear?”

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Deer Pass was glorious for both the view and the prospect of actually riding out bikes.

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Finally going downhill after two days of mostly up…

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The alpine, as promised, was indeed snow-free.

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Down in the Warner valley, we stopped at Trigger Lake for a gourmet lunch…

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…before continuing down the valley through blossoming subalpine meadows.

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The trail was smooth and the skies were blue.

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We ended up camping at Spruce Lake again, this time at the even nice southern campsite.

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On our last morning, we rode/pushed up the trail to Windy Pass.

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From Windy Pass, we cruised a short ways down the valley, then headed over Taylor Pass. We were running out of time, and still had a long drive home, so we hoped that connecting to the two-track below Taylor Pass and then onto logging roads past Tyaughton Lake would speed things up.

 

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Down on Gun Creek Rd, Panthea’s front rim chewed through the valve on her second tube, so I continued up Gun Creek alone to retrieve the van at Jewel Bridge. Just as I was leaving the parking area, Panthea showed up with her bike in the back of a friendly local’s pick-up truck, reminding us that generosity is still alive and well outside the city.

My muffler was hanging a couple inches lower than usual, after the trip over the Hurley, so we went via smoother roads through Lillooet and Hope on the way home. This way takes about six hours. Our research for this trip consisted of calling Tyax about snow level, and figuring out where we could buy a map. We now know a bit better which trails make good climbing trails, and which trails require a lot of pushing on the ascent. So our next trip, and there will no doubt be a next trip to the South Chilcotins, should be even more fun.

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6 thoughts on “Solstice Bikepacking in the South Chicotins

  1. Had a similar first encounter with the South Chilcotins. A lot of sketchy sidehilling and taking my bike for a walk up a hill. Resigned myself to the fact that I likely need to get a lot stronger at hill climbing before I go back. The area is amazing though. It should be on every mountain bikers bucket list.

    • My post might misconstrue the amount of pushing we actually did. I’d guess I pedaled more than 80% of the whole trip (which was about 115km). The trails are really excellent in general. It’s just that we seemed to be climbing the steeper side of all our passes.

  2. Great photos. Definitely feeling a new bike build and heading sound at the end of my US tour. I’ve had my eye one the ECR for some time. Might need to pick your brain some time.

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