sick edit by Chris Rubens
Blanket Glacier Chalet is known for its snow. With an average spring snowpack of 5 meters, backcountry skiers have been enjoying the terrain for over 3o years.
Growing up at the lodge I know every square inch of the area like the back of my hand….Every tree, cliff and secret glade. But have only spent this time with the area blanketed in snow. It was always a pipe dream to bring my mountain bike up in the summer to explore the area that I call home every winter. Access has always been the limiting factor. We’ve tried hiking in before…successful 2 out of 3 times after 12-16 hours straight of bush whacking or crossing big complex glaciers. The reality is both summer and winter the only access is by a helicopter ride from Revelstoke.
I’ve spent years contemplating the idea of flying my bike in to really see what it would be like to ride around the chalet. Then the pipe dream of actually riding out. Laughing over the idea with good friend and long time adventure buddy Chris Rubens we had to give it a go…or should we? Even the night before we flew in we had our doubts of even bringing bikes. The trip consisted of two days. Our first day we’d fly in ride the area then develop a plan for next summers infrastructure upgrades. The second day we’d ride our bikes out to Revelstoke via the northern section of the Gold range traverse. A growing in popularity multi-day ski mountaineering route requiring perfect spring time conditions and technical route finding and glacier travel. I had completed the traverse only twice a number of years ago. Nervously overviewing terrain photos from years past and closely zooming into google earth terrain features we figured we’d give it a shot. The worst case scenario we’d tie the bikes to our backs and slog out….or just call for a helicopter pick up.
We had two good weather days so we decided to go for it. The night before was spent strategically packing our camel packs with glacier travel gear and sizing out mountain bike shoes with crampons. We met at 5am to break our bikes down to fit into the small jet ranger. At first light we took off from the Glacier Helicopters hanger. A lightening storm to the west, we landed on the summit of Castor peak. As the heli took off to the east back to Revelstoke we stood silent watching the sun break through the clouds for an incredible sunrise. Bikes put together we rode the 800m vertical down towards the chalet. We linked up one rock slab to the next as we descended. What an incredible experience to be riding our bikes down terrain we thought we new so well. It was that same feeling of stoke as if we were skiing that blower powder hooting and hollering over every roll.
The rest of the day was spent filled with youthful adventure. Freedom, like the first time you learned to ride a bike with you and your best friend. A backyard filled with a new adventure around every corner. We’d see a cool terrain feature and giggle our way over to go ride our bikes on it. From riding off a summit, to connecting the most interesting rock features right up against a mighty glacier, we were ecstatic that this silly adventure wasn’t just working…but this might be the best mountain biking of our lives! There was no need for a trail or to even follow each other. As far as the eye could see was solid rock that we could freeride to wherever we wanted to go. We’d pass an alpine lake, drop the bikes and jump in fully taking our breath away. Or find a half pipe of rock to follow each other down. As the day drew to a close it was time to head back to the chalet to take the measurements we needed to plan for next summers building. Exhausted by covering more terrain then we would on an average ski touring day we fell asleep early with nervousness of the next days travel back to Revelstoke. Thoughts of impassible crevasses or loose rock along ridge features limiting us from making it home dwelled on us.
The next morning started early. We made it to the col between Castor and Pollex peak after fooling around on the longest and steepest rock ride we’ve ever ridden. From the col we jumped on our bikes to ride the small pocket glacier loosing elevation. Easily steering clear of the crevasses we giggled at the thought of never riding our bikes on such a feature before. From the toe it was quickly evident that our previous very rideable terrain is now over. Moving over broken rock and snow we found ourselves at the bottom of the Big Apple Glacier. With very little fern snow left we put our bikes on our backs and crampons on our feet. On the steep ice we were stoked to have the crampons. From the summit of the Big Apple or Mulvahil was our first major route decision. Try and cross the heavy crevassed and steep mulvahil glacier, or attempt the ridge scramble with our bikes on our backs. The gaping hopes on the glacier easily steered our eyes to the ridge…which wasn’t so much of a gimmie.
The more we put our bikes on our backs the more we developed efficient systems of strapping them to our backs. By the time we were scrambling along the knife edge ridge we had our frames and one wheel strapped to our backs. One wheel was used as a walking object and the other used to find hand holds to pull us up and across exposed sections. From the summit of this sub peak it hit us as to how much ground we still had to cover and just how little riding appeared ahead of us. Terrain eventually mellowed out and we jumped on the bottom half of our last glacier to ride straight down covering distance quick…we couldn’t believe how it actually worked.
After crossing the Begbie Lakes we were taking much longer then expected. By the time we had made it to the base of Mt. Begbie it was getting late, and fatigue was setting in. An hour long large boulder scree walk below the Begbie Glacier found us to the top of the traditional hiking route climbers take to get to the Begbie summit. We laughed and were stoked that we could ride our bikes again. Following the rock cairns we rode into the Begbie camp site. Last remaining power gels pounded we started the steep switch backs down. STOKED to finally be riding without hiking we hit the road before dark. Rolling down the highway home never felt so good. It was dark by the time we cheers beers at the Big Eddy pub.
We’ll be back to ride the rock around the Blanket Chalet . But the ride out, that’s doest have to be done again.
Riders : Marty Schaffer, Chris Rubens
Photographers : Marty Schaffer, Chris Rubens