Bhiko’s Trail

3 Sisters - Alex Hanson

Evening Shot from the top. Alex Hanson Photo

I have been lucky enough to stand on the top of the 3 Sisters three times. I say lucky because two of the three times was with the help of a helicopter. The heli would land us just below the summit then we would climb the last 500 metres of vertical on our own, which was a still a decent climb. Over the years Ascent has been pressured enough times not to bring people up there with a helicopter for many reasons, so this time my friend Alex Hanson and I took a stab at it without the help of flight, and the feeling of cresting the peak by our own means was incredible.

Alex and I have been filming together for the past few years, mostly in the winter and it seems every time we go out something stops us from achieving our goal – snow conditions, bad light or weather has turned us around many times. Being summer there are far less variables so we hoped to pull off a successful mission.

Our mission was to summit the middle Sister via Hiko’s Trail. Me with my bike and Alex with his camera gear. We were to spend the night on the peak capturing sunset, the stars and sunrise, then of course the incredible descend from the peak.

We left the truck at 3pm, and with the amount of gear we were packing we guessed it would take us seven hours to reach the top. We both had heavy packs loaded with food, water, camping gear, Alex’s two camera’s including a drone and my bike.

Fifteen minutes in to our hike, it began to rain. It came down hard and I watched the leaves surrounding us dance under the rain drops, something we have not seen in a while. I welcomed the rain, but Alex was worried about his gear getting wet so we hid under a tree until the small storm passed and once the rain stopped we continued on.

We took our time climbing the ladders through the steeps beside The Jumping Waters and continued passed the Bisaro Cave. We were making good time considering our load, then thunder clapped above us and we looked at each other and laughed. Because of the nature of our mission we had to pack accordingly. We didn’t have room for a tent, or an excessive amount of warm clothes. Rain on the peak would mean disaster but the single thunder clap wasn’t going to scare us off. We discussed it and neither of us were that bothered by the idea of having to turn around and walk back in the dark if we had to. Luckily, the higher we got the better the weather became. We pressed on through the tree line and up to The Pass.

Jumping Waters

Jumping Waters. Alex Hanson Photo

It had only been four hours, we were ahead of schedule and figured it would take us about an hour to reach the peak. It is the hardest part though, the last stint. It is nothing but shale and I had to carry my bike on my shoulder almost the entire way. Our tired legs shook beneath us as we made the final steps up the last section of the hike. Placing my tires on the ground at the summit was one of the most rewarding ascents I’ve ever done. We made it in time for the sunset, and what a sunset it was.

We got the drone in the air and took some shots then set up our sleeping quarters. The only cover from the elements we had were the rock walls protecting us from the wind. After the sun set behind Mt. Fischer we waited for darkness. Equally as Fernie began to glow, so did the the stars and I have never seen stars like that. We could see the entire ring of the galaxy stretching from one side of the Earth to the other. Alex took some photos and set up a star-lapse that would run all night, then we went to bed.

Galaxy Town - Alex Hanson

Fernie and the stars. Alex Hanson Photo

I was more prepared for the cold then Alex, but even I was cold. Neither of us slept very well that night and as soon as the sun came up, we rose with it, seeking it’s warmth and admiring it’s beauty as it stretched it’s rays across the peaks all around us. I geared up for more shots and Alex flew the drone and did some more time-lapses capturing the amazing sunrise.

3 Sisters - Alex Hanson

Sunrise at the peak. Alex Hanson photo.

Now, it was time. I felt nervous. The ride down the from the peak is extreme to say the least and we were already on top. There was no warm up, just coast in and drop which I did twice to get two different angles with the drone. After the second shot I waited for Alex to climb down to me and even though now I was below the summit I felt even more on top of the world then I did on the peak. The rush I got from descending that section of trail and hearing how stoked Alex was on the shot had me firing on all cylinders. I was amped and still had 3000ft of vertical to ride.

Unfortunately the gimbal on the drone stopped working after the two shots we got off the top so we were not able to film the other shots we had planned, which fit in with the rest of our ‘failed’ missions, but this mission was not all a complete failure – it was a feat. We battled through harsh alpine conditions, got some wicked photos and some breathtaking footage.

Once back in town both Alex and I felt the strain of the mission, I dealt with an intense fever and Alex had huge blisters on each foot, but we both agreed it was worth it and something we would do again, something we had to do again. For we have unfinished business in those hills.

Check out the video here.
Check out more photos from Alex’s instagram here.

Multi-Sport with Levi

Levi

A few weeks ago my good friend Levi and I planned a short canoe trip down the elk river. I couldn’t find my waterproof speaker so therein lied a difficult decision. Do we bring his speaker? It was a lot more expensive than mine and not waterproof. He asked if we would flip and I said that it’s one of those things, like crashing your bike, you never plan on it but it can happen at anytime. So I left the decision up to him. We are both DJ’s and music is engrained in us, so he decided it was worth the risk to have music on the float.

We put the boat in the water at the Hosmer bridge and the first bit of rapids were the biggest of the whole trip. We narrowly avoided the biggest part, took on water and almost flipped right then and there, but we held on and made it through.

It’s amazing how much the river changes after every winter. Often at each corner there are two options you can take, and we only chose wrong once, and almost got wrecked. The way we went the river took a 90 degree corner and there was a log sticking out over the river. We couldn’t cut the corner short and got sent into the bank. Luckily there was a stump that I was able to grab onto and stop our momentum, otherwise we would have gotten squashed under the log between the canoe. While holding onto the stump we turned the front end of the canoe then I let go and we laughed as we went by the log.

“That was a close one!”  We said at the same time.

On another corner we hit the bottom with the front of the canoe and ended up backwards, we did a full 360 and came out of the corner facing forwards but after that and a few more rapid sections we got the East Fernie bridge and the rest of the way was was fairly calm. A lot of the time we wouldn’t paddle, we would just sit and enjoy the views and of course, the music.

The best move of the day was our exit. We nailed it! Came in perfectly, spun around and hit the shore, almost like we meant to. Levi then looked at me and said,

“Should we go on a bike ride now?” Levi just got a mountain bike and is keener than anyone to ride it, so we dumped the canoe and traded to our bikes.

Most trails are new to Levi, and riding a trail with someone that has never ridden it is like watching a movie you have seen already with someone that hasn’t seen it. It makes it almost as exciting as your first time. I was excited to show Levi a trail I had secretly built on the ski hill after I stopped working there.

Myself and a few friends that also worked on trail crew would go up to the resort after they had closed for the night and work until it got dark. We had a decent amount of the trail started then we neglected to finish it. About a year later, someone from the ski hill contacted me, asking if I new anything about a trail in the tree island beside Siberia Ridge. We had abandoned it so the trail and who built it was not a secret anymore. I was excited though, to hear that the trail crew wanted to connect it to an existing trail and add it to the map. All I asked was that they call it what we were calling it, and we called it ‘Neverland.’

When Levi and I got to the top we were exhausted. It had been a long day in the sun but riding Neverland was going to be the perfect way to end it. And when we got the bottom, we sat and observed one of the best sunsets I have seen in a while.

Note: Building trails without permission is prohibited.

Road Trip To Whislter

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A few summers ago my brother Sam and I lined up two DJ gigs in Whistler. One was a Full Moon party which was somewhere in the woods between Whistler and Pemberton and the other was at a bar called the Savage Beagle. Sam had just bought a van for $700 and we packed it full of our sound equipment as well as our mountain bikes. Needless to say, we were very excited for the trip.

On our way through the rock cuts we were admiring the speed and agility the $700 van had to offer and we began referring to it as ‘the sports car.’ Six hours into the trip Sam and I switched seats and I began to drive. I immediately felt the van pulling to the right so we moved over to the side of the road and noticed the brand new tires were now balled, wires sticking out and all. The alignment was out.

We backtracked to Revelstoke and were forced to spend the night and wait for a tire shop to open. That morning we found out no one in Revelstoke could help us, but a shop in Salmon Arm had tires and the time to get us back on the road. So we realigned the wheels as best we could and headed for the next town.

It was a harrowing one hour drive to Salmon Arm. Going around corners we could hear the tires squealing and we were ready for one to pop at any moment. Finally we began descending into town and just before we got to the first stop light I spotted the mechanic shop we had an appointment at.

Then bang! The front of the van dropped and there was an awful scrapping sound as we slid to a halt. We both looked at each other in silence then jumped out to asses the damage. Not only had the tire exploded but the driver side rim snapped clean down the middle like a bagel. We were so close to the shop but still had to get towed around the corner. Luckily the shop was able to source a rim and get us back on track with just enough time to spare. $700 later, I might add…

We got to Whistler half an hour before our gig and the gig went well. It was a quiet night that night, they had us set up in the cocktail lounge with small speakers, then sometime during the night we found that in the basement was a huge underground club, completely empty. We would have been way more stoked playing on that sound system, but it was a good night none-the-less.

The next day we took out our downhill bikes and had a wicked session at the bike park. Then we went back to our friend Matt’s place, set up our turntables and started working on our set for the Full Moon party. The next day Matt showed us a secret frisbee golf course which had thick woods, unique objects as nets and very uneven ground, making for an interesting game of frolf.

Later that night we headed out into the dark and drove through the backroads in search of the party site, which we found eventually. They had a cool setup, a decent amount of speakers and lights, there were lots of people and the crowd was stoked on our music. That is all we could ask for.

We didn’t stay too long at the bush party, we had a scary drive home ahead of us the next day and scary it was,we were just waiting for the sports car to fall apart at any moment. Mountain pass after mountain pass, even going around corners was terrifying but we made it. It is not a road trip without a few hiccups. Making it through those times and coming out ahead in the end makes the journey more special, and in this case, worth writing about.

Bluff Charge On Verboten

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A few months a month ago, when the bike trails were finally clear of snow myself and a group of friends headed into the provincial park to hit my favourite trail Verboten. Verboten (which means forbidden in German) is my favourite trail for many reasons. Mostly because of its root sections and technical aspects but another reason I like it so much is because in those peaceful woods just below the Haulback T-Bar I feel especially close to my friend Connor, who passed away a few years ago. I am not sure why I feel so close to him there but after he died I was riding up Red Tree Road by myself and I felt his presence more than I had ever felt before. I think part of it has to do with being close to the ski hill, where we both spent so much time together working and playing. Now every time I go there, I can still feel that presence which makes it a very special place.

The five of us made our way up Gorby and once we got to the top of Snake Bite we had to walk almost the rest of the way because the road was still full of snow, but I was almost certain the trail was ready. After trying to pedal through the patches of snow we made it to the top of our objective and the trail was, in fact, clear and ready to go.

Max, a new friend of mine went first, and I followed. We went full tilt all the way down until about half way where there is a natural break in the trail. Max slowed to a stop, I was right behind him. As soon as we stopped we noticed a large male moose blocking the trail about twenty metres ahead. Max is from Australia and had never seen a moose before and wasn’t really sure what to do, but we got off our bikes and stayed where we were.

Soon after the rest of the group showed up and we tried to figure out what to do. We could see the moose had his ears back, a sure sign that he wasn’t happy and could be aggressive but we wanted to continue our ride so I slowly started moving towards him, hoping he would simply walk off the trail and let us pass.

With the group behind me I took one more step, talking to the moose calmly, then he lowered his head, snorted and galloped towards me. I quickly picked up my bike and ran for the nearest tree, and by the time I got there the moose had turned around and headed up into the woods. It was a classic bluff charge. I looked back to where my friends had been standing and none of them were to be seen. They had all dropped their bikes and scattered into the woods. I could hear laughter and cursing as they all slowly made their way out from hiding. We regrouped and expressed the fear we had felt as the moose ran towards us, but everyone was safe and we were able to continue our way down Verboten.

It was another lesson learned; moose are aggressive, territorial, and not to be trifled with. As I was running for cover I was thinking how I would feel if someone had been injured because of my actions. Give animals their space, after all, the woods is their territory.

The Gathering at Island Lake

Craig Kelly - Gathering - Mark Gallup

Craig Kelly at The Gathering – Mark Gallup Photo

Having grown up in this wonderful place we call home I have so many good memories from being a kid, but some of my earliest, best childhood memories are from the Gathering at Island Lake.

The Gathering was a small live music festival that was held at Island Lake Lodge from 1996-2001. To get to the stage from the lodge you had to walk down a hiking trail towards the lake, the trail would cross over a small creek and open up into a beautiful meadow. During the festival the meadow would transform into a crowd of people of all ages. I remember men and women dancing in bare feet with flowers in their hair, a group of people had a side stage with turntables and a disco ball and kids ran around feeling the freedom of the forest.  In the meadow near the stage grounds you could rent teepees by the lake for the weekend, there was live music at night and activities during the day. I remember meeting Scott Schmidt who was one of the organizers, and I also remember hanging out with Craig Kelly who had a strong connection with Island Lake and our family.

As kids we would do arts and crafts during the day, my favourite activity was building mini rafts out of sticks and racing them down the creek. I remember the stinging nettle at the edge of the creek bitting at our skin as we ran trying to see if our craft would make it to the lake without flipping.

The Gathering was my first concert experience and I will never forget the live shows we saw there. Some of my favourites were McGnarlies Rant, TheRheostatics and Keith Greeninger. During the night we would watch the music with our folks and play hide and seek in the dark with our friends. There were so many of us kids, and many are people I still hang out with today.

The experiences we had at The Gathering in those early years of life affected me, without a doubt in a very positive way. My brother and I were just old enough for our parents to let us run wild and what I remember the most from The Gathering is the feeling of being free.

The Free Press

Dufus The Deer

Dufus

One of my favourite places on earth is the Slocan Valley which is just north of Nelson. My parents own a small piece of property south of Silverton which is one of the few small towns that sit on the edge of the massive body of water that is the Slocan Lake. We call the property Graceland because of it’s secludedness and beauty. It has one small road that meanders through the property and ends at a small opening that is surrounded by a mossy forest floor and hemlock dominated woods.

Last summer my brother Sam, his girlfriend Caitlyn and I went and spent some time at the property. While we were there we had interactions with many different animals. Owls hooted in the dark, squirrels threw pinecones at us from the trees above, and we were escorted off the property by a dog we named Rufus. But the most interesting interaction was with a sightly larger animal.

It was the first day, we finished setting up our camp then wandered around the forest to remind ourselves and to show Caitlyn how majestic the eight acres really were. After a while we made our way back to the opening where our camp was positioned and started a fire. Evening was falling upon us and shortly after the logs in the fire began to crackle we had a visitor.

Caitlyn saw him first and pointed out that a deer walking down the road towards us. As he got closer we noticed one of his antlers was dangling in front of his face, which made him sort of spooky to look at. The other odd thing about him was he seemed to show now fear of us. We were more afraid of him! As he came uncomfortably close we made sure to keep the fire between us and the wild animal. After letting him do his thing for a few minutes I started waving my arms and I shooed him away. He turned around and walked back up the way he came. His head was down, and his body language was telling me he was sad and I immediately felt that maybe he needed our help. I started to call out to him, asking him to come back – which he did. He turned around and walked towards me, this time I wasn’t afraid and went into the woods towards him. I let him walk right up to me, he was so close I could smell him, then he stepped closer and began to smell my chest. I looked back at Sam and Caitlyn and slowly raised my hand and began petting the deer in complete awe. The others joined me in the woods and we stood there with this deer for about ten minutes.

After a while we decided to go back to the fire, and what did the deer do? He came with us. Once on the road he even galloped a bit, shook his bum and showed his teeth almost like he was smiling. He appeared now to be very happy.

That evening he hung out with us around the fire and would wander off into the woods, but if we called out to him, he would return and did so three or four times. It was one of the wildest experiences of our lives. We named him Dufus, and I can tell you, none of us will ever forget meeting Dufus the deer.

Fernie Free Press

Canoeing to the Bus

Busland

The bus at the Elk River location.

One thing some of you may not know about me was that I lived in a school bus for just over five years. For the most part it was as if it was an extension of the house I had it parked at, but the best time I had in the bus was when I had it parked on the Elk River one Fall for a few months. Those were actually some of the best months of my life, cooking by candle light, eating breakfast by the river and taking my mountain bike across the highway into the Provincial Park for a ride everyday.

When I had made my transition from town to the new location I only had one important item left to move, my canoe. I biked back into to town and met my good friend Davis at the house where the bus had been parked for a few years. We put my bike in the canoe and portaged from 4th Street to the edge of the Elk. I forget exactly how the conversation went but I remember Davis and I pointed out that neither of us had ever flipped a canoe…

At the river we tossed our shoes into the boat, tied my bike to the support in the middle just as a precaution and pushed off the shore into the rapids. It was a beautiful day, the sun was sparkling on the water and every once and a while a refreshing splash would come over the edge of the canoe, cooling us down as we paddled.

About half way to our destination we caught up to some girls floating the river, we stopped paying attention and struck up a conversation. Not a moment after we started talking we hit a shallow spot and tipped. Luckily we were able to half save ourselves and neither Davis, myself or my bike fell in but the canoe had taken on a lot of water. The girls laughed out loud and floated away, we could only imagine what they were thinking.

Davis and I were now stranded in the middle of the river and had no choice but to get back into the extremely tippy canoe that had water up to the edges. We almost didn’t make it to shore, but we did. We emptied our boat and laughed at ourselves and at the conversation we had earlier. We now had both officially flipped a canoe.

We cautiously got back onto the water, this time we payed more attention and went slower, hoping that we would not to catch up to the girls.

The rivers and all water for that matter, demand respect. So please be careful this summer.