Monday, June 28, 2010

The sun stuck around for a bit.

Yes, yes - the rain has gone away (obviously listening to little Johnny) & stayed away for most of the last ten days. I'm still working weekdays at the Banff Center - although that project is supposed to wind up this week, so with a bit of luck I'll get some more work after that. I've been riding so much I'm having trouble remembering the rides last week. Tuesday last was the Highline trail again, I think. We climbed up to the trail proper from Quarry Lake & rode west to east. This route up was pretty good - not all switchbacks & all manageable in the middle ring (for me at least) - it also looked like a gnarly ride down that would flow together nicely. This was a shorter ride than riding up the Three Sisters way or riding up to Riders of Rohan - we were back in an hour & a half. Still a good ride - & Alex seems to be keeping up with me a lot more on the downhills. It's amazing what a regular riding & a decent pair of tyres will do for the confidence.

I went & saw the tree that I rather ignominiously shoulder-barged in the rain on Friday after work. We were back at the G8 trail on the other side of the Bow Valley. This time we managed to string the loop together in the correct way & it was really quite enjoyable. Of the four rides that line the hills on the Canmore town limits, this is by far the easiest with not a lot of climbing (comparatively speaking). But that doesn't make it any less fun & a great way to unwind after the week at work. We crossed the walking trail up to Grotto (which we hiked up a few weeks ago) & headed out to the extremities of the trail that we didn't find last time, enjoyed some nice sweeping corners down a small gully, looped around & headed back to Cougar Creek (the starting point) before cruising home via a small jump park. There were plenty of easy log rides to do, & a quite a few jumps of course. The jump park was overrun with ground squirrels, which were quite amusing.

A group of seven of us went for a little hike on Saturday afternoon. Driving past Banff on the Transcanada, we turned west at Castle Junction on to Highway 93 to walk to Arnica Lake. It was only five kilometres to the lake & only 350 m (climbing) - but having to descend first to Vista Lake, lots to look at & a larger group we took our time.

Looking back across the Bow River to Castle Mountain

The alpine Arnica Lake still had a layer of ice on it - which we amused ourselves with trying to land rocks on it, alas it was too thin.

After watching most of England's unfortunate exit from the second round, Alex & I headed back to the Heart Creek parking lot. We had a slightly more ambitious loop planned for another beautiful Sunday. We started by retracing our path of two weeks previous & heading up to Jewell Pass. We never worked out why we saw so few people out & about - only a few climbers in the parking lot & a couple of hikers on the trail early on were all we saw before we reached the top of the pass. Having been rather uncomfortable on the climb from the recently inflated rear tyre, I let a little air out before what I knew was going to be another fantastic blast down Jewell Pass - & it was, unfortunately I got a snakebite half way down - grrrr. After changing that tube, we carried on down to the power lines & finally met some more people out enjoying the countryside.

Having found another geocache, it was a ten kilometre ride up the valley to Nakiska Ski Area. Mostly we followed the power company access track, which was mostly pretty annoying gravelly rutty uphill. We could see over to Baldy Pass which we rode over last weekend - it's over there just to the left of the right-hand peak:
Getting quite hungry by this time, we followed the cross-country skiing trails up to a bridge that we spied on the map boards (a quick side note - many of the recreational areas around here have great little & simple map boards at most intersections, so convenient). It was a long climb (mostly because we were hungry I suspect) to the bridge - & the bridge wasn't even a bridge, it was a culvert with no troll underneath (the falls just downstream were called Troll Falls). Nonetheless, we had lunch & carried on up to Skogan Pass. It was reasonably gentle climb (middle ring - all day in fact) up to 2150 m over seven or eight kilometres of the road.
After passing through a little residual snow we took the little side trail up to the top of the pass for some great views over the Bow Valley. There is Canmore down in the distance:
The Three Sisters - centre & just right of - not quite as impressive from this angle

It was mostly power company access road for the descent - with a little bit of annoying climb to mix it up a bit. It was a good fast descent - my bike computer had somehow come back to life - I spent a lot of the drop over 45 km/h & almost hit sixty at one stage. In parts the trail narrowed a bit & near the bottom we met a couple of groups of hikers - thankfully on wide open sections where we could see them in plenty of time to slow down a little.

Back down near the TransCanada highway, we still had a little way to go to get back to the car. Given the choice of the highway or the TransCanada Trail - we took the singletrack. It started off pretty mellow, & then started climbing up above the highway & got quite tricky with lots of roots, rocks & steps. By this time we were getting pretty tired (over five hours out by then) & a lot of the sketchy looking obstacles were walked over. There was some neat soft moss around that was good for resting on:
Pushing up a long rockface for a minute or so I was glad to reach the top, but also noticed my recently replaced rear tube was getting a bit soft. Stupidly, I ignored it as it wasn't long until we reached the car. Of course, I got another pinch flat within fifty metres. Alex left me to patch it alone as he seemed to think he was going a lot slower than me. I patched two holes & then enjoyed the singletrack until we hit more fire road & a big climb & I noticed that my tyre needed pumping up again (I found a third hole on the inside of the tube in a different place this afternoon) - this was just getting frustrating. I eventually made it back to the car shortly after Alex - that last section ended up being close to seven kilometres of the most technically demanding trail we had had all day, not the best when you are already a bit tired. So in the end that was a six and a half hour adventure, fifty kilometres, 1600 m of climbing & two flats to keep my hand in at pumping up tubes.

To round the weekend off with a bit more exercise, we had a short game of social soccer on Sunday evening - can't think why I was a bit sore climbing up the stairs to the roof this morning at work.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rain, rain, rain, rain, sun & two rides.

As you may have guessed from the title - it rained most of last week (Mon. - Thurs.). This meant that I had plenty of time, finally, in the evenings to get stuck in to reading The Count of Monte Cristo. I got it out of the library quite a few weeks ago & all 1250 pages have been mostly sitting around unopened. It's quite good so far - about a quarter of the way through - but not quite as action-packed as the Three Musketeers (same author). But now the sun is out a bit more, it'll be ages before I finish it.

The All Whites' first game at the FIFA World Cup was on Tuesday morning, so I was up at 5.30 to watch it before work - it was just as well I didn't leave at 7.10 as I usually do. All those who watched the whole game were rewarded by that very exciting equaliser. Also of note last week, was the visitor we had at two o'clock on Saturday morning. I was woken by a banging noise coming from the laundry - after it didn't stop, I decided I had better get up & check it out. Alex also had the same idea & we were a little mystified by the noise coming out of the drier (which we haven't used yet). The noise was explained when a ferret poked its head around the corner of the washer. As the laundry is in the middle of the building, we were struggling to work out how it had got inside. All was revealed when we harried it outside & it promptly when through a small hole in the wall & walked back up the duct to the drier to thrash around some more & then reappear. It was really friendly & tame, so Megan & Alex made a little bed for it & it slept in the bathroom the rest of the night. We quite enjoyed its company (very well behaved for a ferret - no biting or hissing) for most of Saturday, until we finally tracked down its owners - friends of friends living a couple of blocks away. By then I was awake & hungry, so I stayed up & watched the All Blacks thrash Wales in the second half at Carisbrook.

Quite tired on Saturday morning, so it was spent watching football & cleaning my bike (got rid of the horrible grinding noise from my bottom bracket when it was under load - very dusty in there, strange considering I only greased it a month previous). Alex & I headed back to K-Country for another ride that afternoon. We were going to do Baldy Pass - on the opposite side of Barrier Lake to where we rode last weekend. We climbed up a forestry road for about ninety minutes - it wasn't too steep (except a little singletrack at the top of the pass), but we did have to clamber under & over a lot of fallen trees. This part of the ride wasn't at all scenic - recent logging had opened up the view a bit, but also left a lot of debris.
Stopping briefly at the top of the pass for a rest & a bit more geocaching, it wasn't long before we were heading down through some nice sharp, loose rocks.
The trail down then turned into another great test of roots & rocks & not-falling-off-the-side. It was technical enough for the first part, there was never really any place to let go & blast down - but eventually it started flowing & I could get some speed up & still remain in control. As we got close to the creek bed it flattened out a lot & was good pedalling fun. For our nice climb, we got a good twenty minutes of bliss before hitting the road & riding back to the car. On the other side of Barrier Lake, you can see Jewel Pass, which we so enjoyed last weekend, & to the right of that Barrier Mountain - which was a decent climb well rewarded by more great downhill.

Saturday evening was a barbecue for James's thirtieth birthday. A good night with plenty of good company, food (Zara's crab sauce was incredible & didn't last long), beer & cake. I was well full by the end of it - I skipped the bars, as I wanted to get up & watch the All Whites-Italy game on Sunday morning. It was well worth getting up for - who would have thought we would be 1-0 up so early & then manage to hold off waves of attack for the last sixty or so minutes. I popped in to Calgary for some new tyres & on my return, Alex & I biked three-quarters of the way up to Whiteman's Gap to try out another downhill trail - the Reclaimer (which just reminds me of moving coal & PC around & in to the Ironplant). Here's a video of the trail, obviously taken early spring as there is still quite a bit of snow lying around. We got a bit more downhill out of it for our thirty minutes of climbing - as we were a bit slower going down. Those first two rocky corners were a bit tricky as they are steeper than they look (in fact, most of the trail is steeper than it looks on a helmet cam), but after that it was all ridable for me. From the end of the trail, we cut over to the Nordic Center for a few more trails (making up as we went along), before hitting our favourite way down from the Nordic Center to town. I was pleased to actually clear a tabletop or two, my doubles need a bit more work though. The hairy corner just above a pond was a lot less tricky after a race on the trail last weekend helped to smooth it out a bit.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Jewell Pass

The warm sunny weekend continued all through Sunday & pleasingly Alex had found a ride for us in Kananaskis Country. We started just off the Transcanada near Exshaw at the Heart Mountain parking lot. We roughly followed along not far from the highway (within in hearing distance, but not sight) under Mt McGillivray (thought you might appreciate that, Neil), crossed the Heart Creek & continued for another couple of kilometres. This part was a pretty narrow hiking/biking trail & was overall pretty flat - but a nice mellow downhill with lots of perpendicular roots to drop off.

Quite soon we were climbing a nicely gravelled, gradual climb up towards Quaite Campsite. By now we were passing a lot of mountain runners coming the opposite direction & some climbers walking up to a crag that we spotted shortly after. There was a big party of school-aged kids at the campsite, setting off for the day. Not long after the campsite, Alex started hunting for the first geocache (basically a worldwide treasure hunt using GPS) of the day. From here the trail got a bit narrower, a lot steeper & rockier. It was mostly middle-ring rideable though & after a another couple of kilometres we were at junction & seemingly the high-point for this part of the ride. The old skinny fire road changed to a much narrower hiking/biking trail down to Barrier Lake. This part was a sweet downhill - there were heaps of roots & rocks to make things interesting. But it was never steep, rocky or slippery enough to be too much to handle. We passed many hikers coming up the other way (& a few bikers going down) - it would seem this area is popular for day-hikers starting the opposite side of the pass to that which we started from. We spent a fair bit of time looking for various geocaches around here too - some we found, some we didn't.Somewhere through here we went through Jewell Pass - but it was never completely clear where exactly. Before long the trail flattened out a little & started to go around the edge of a hill & the trees & view opened up a bit.It wasn't too much longer & we were down beside the lake (& another geocache):
Now we just had to get back up to that junction that was at the top of the hill (it turned out, that it wasn't the top). Mostly it was a gradual switched-backed climb on a fireroad where the biggest obstacle was the scores of Calgarian day-walkers out for a pretty pleasant walk in the sunshine. It got pretty steep near the end & then plateaued for a little bit - this part turned out to be a very popular lunch spot - the view may give some indication why.
The last part of our climbing for the day was a hard slog that progressed from the easiest gear on the bike to pushing & then to carrying on one's shoulder up a rockface. The fact that we passed two women carrying drums should have started alarm bells ringing. The lookout was teeming with people & for good reason.The biggest crowd at the lookout was all the hippies with drums making a lot of (awful) noise & stinking the place out with some sort of incense (that might well have had a bit weed in it - it stunk). Needless to say, we didn't hang around long. Walking a little of the shingle trail down from the lookout (mainly because it was skinny & fast & there were a lot of hikers coming up the other way) we passed quite a few of the hikers that we had passed earlier going through Jewell Pass. Back on the bikes & away from the traffic & hippies, the downhill was spectacular - not too steep & lots more roots & twists & turns to keep one on the ball. I was smiling so much that it looked like I was there "to kill Batman" (two TV episodes I've watched recently have referenced the Joker's facial appearance - The Griffin Equivalency of The Big Bang Theory & the Friendface episode of The IT Crowd - both very funny shows). Our hands needed resting every so often as the handlebars were bouncing around so much. Returning to the junction that took us to Jewell Pass, we knew it was all down a fire road towards the highway. The first section was nicely rocky & I took it a bit faster than I normally would & flew down. Just as I thought I would hit a rock & get a puncture, I hit a rock & got a puncture ("Before I could say - 'Don't tread on a mine', she trod on a mine." - Blackadder Goes Forth [my favourite of the four series] - Major Star). I took my time replacing the tube - I was in time credit with Alex after all the geocaching. The rest of the blast down to the highway was smoother & I enjoyed jumping off the water channels (small ditches across the trail).

Here a few photos from the last fifteen minutes' ride back to the car. The last shows what sunny Sunday afternoons in the area are like - beautiful clear sky, lakes, trees, mountains & the holiday traffic & day trippers in their RVs & on their motorbikes.
We were gone for four hours, only did the twenty-six kilometres - but got a great taste of K-Country riding. I must buy a guidebook & find more great back country rides to do around here.

Not long after we got home, Ben - a young guy from Devon (UK) arrived for the night. He is touring across Canada from west to east & had arranged to stay at Megan & Alex's place through warmshowers - which is a bit like couch-surfing, but for cyclists. Good to hear some of his stories...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rain, rides, crash & a sunny stroll.

Tuesday's ride was preceded by my bike getting a well deserved clean - not that it was worth it in the end - & the start of the ride to the Benchlands area on the other side of the Bow Valley was punctuated with snain/hail again. As it was an after work ride, it wasn't overly ambitious & the rain curtailed the loop a bit, as the roots got slipperier & slipperier. Still it was a pleasant ride, not too cold & the trail interesting. Going down the last downhill before Cougar Creek I got a little wayward when my front wheel slid on a parallel root & ended up shoulder barging a tree. The tree didn't move too much - just as well it was my slightly better shoulder & it didn't do any damage.

Wednesday I just remember it raining a lot at work, Thursday quite a bit too. It wasn't too cold, in a T-shirt all day - even for the long walks to the garbage skips. Once inside again, we would dry off soon enough. But all that sogginess did put a bit of a damper on Zara's new found keenness for football (soccer in this country) - our Thursday night kick around was put off a week. The weekend got off to a start that lived up to the forecast of sun & warmth (finally). Friday evening was a cracker & Alex, James & I headed up for a lap of the Orange Circuit at the Nordic Center. It was still a little slippery on the roots & a little muddy in patches, but nothing that posed too much of a concern. It must be noted that I've adopted "hey-up" (pronounced more as "hey-oop") as my advance warning system for bears. I'm pretty sure it was someone at NZ Steel who used to say that a lot - perhaps Jamie brought it over from Pommyland - anyway, it's a good call to let bears know I'm coming so as not to surprise them too much.

Today's weather was as beautiful as promised & after getting up much too late - I was shocked to first wake at about six after only five hours sleep, so I watched a bit of the World Cup lying in bed before going back to sleep. I love World Cup time, so much football to watch - the goal that England conceded today against the States was pretty funny too. I also seem to have got hooked watching the rest of the BBC series Luther (I saw the first two while I was still in London) today - lots of good London sights to spot & just general Englishness to remind me of my time there. I'm just waiting for the fourth episode for today (the last in the series) to finish downloading - it may be a later night again.

With Megan only about [mmmm, Alex just bought me a train wreck of a waffle covered in Nutella] nine weeks from due date, our hike today was a little less ambitious than the previous three weekends. I wasn't complaining though, at least I shouldn't be walking around for half the week at work with a strained achilles. We drove up in to K-Country (Kananaskis) north of Canmore (& site of my last shoulder dislocation, incidentally) past parking lots full of cars near Ha Ling & the Goat Creek Trail up past the lower Spray Lake. It was a gentle amble up to West Wind Pass - only about 350 metres of altitude gain & even at our pace we were only walking up for seventy-five minutes. It was nice & warm, if a little breezy at the pass. Here are a few pictures to end my rambling.

A sliver of Spray Lakes down below

At the top of the pass

Looking out towards the Bow Valley - Grotto, that we climbed last Sunday, is the peak on the right.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My bike has finally earnt a clean.

Tonight's been a nice quiet Monday night recovering from the weekend & a strenuous day at work moving too many heavy steel doors. Really all I've done is cook a proper meal (my first in almost a month I think, Alex & Megan at pre-natal classes) & made some muffins - Canadian ingredients must be slightly different as they are not quite as good as normal & it's a really easy recipe. It also seems that Canadians have not heard of self-raising flour, so I had to make some myself (thanks Yahoo Answers).

To more interesting things - Saturday was forecast for rain, but there wasn't too much of it to discourage Alex & I driving to Lake Minnewanka (said as if Minnie Mouse had married Willie Wonka) - which is approximately opposite Banff over the Transcanada highway. Lake Minnewanka was the first scenery I saw really in the area - Megan took me out there at the start of my January/February trip. The main the difference now is that the surface of the lake has returned to the liquid phase. I'm still undecided which is more beautiful - summer or winter; but the weather on Saturday wasn't always so nice. We started the ride in the rain & then snain made itself felt. By the time we got to this river after five minutes the sun had come out again.
The riders crossing the bridge finishing their ride looked decidedly muddy - we were about to find out why. The surface of the only real hill of the ride was dirt that was now quite slick & slippery. The mud wasn't deep, it was more surface water that was running down the trail (it's never a "track" here) & splashing up to meet up one's bike, feet, legs & clothes. It did mean however that the climb, which wasn't particularly steep compared to the ones earlier in the week, was quite difficult as the rear tyre would often slip on roots on small step-ups (I'm still not rating High Rollers that much, even when they have been relegated to the rear). The top of the ascent took us back to the top of a bluff above the lake & for the drop down to the lakeside the trail changed suddenly to being very rocky - it wasn't too steep, but it was dry & the babyheads (before anyone asks - rocks about the size of a baby's head, they make for much more interesting riding as they tend to move & send you directions that you didn't really have in mind) were great fun to negotiate. Not many rocks here for Alex to get through:
The rest of the trail to the warden's hut (our turnaround point, at about twenty kilometres) was within about twenty or thirty metres (altitude) above the lake, so it wasn't too strenuous - but still a lot of fun. It's a very popular trail & we passed many hikers & bikers on the way. As I was at the front for most of the way out I spotted lots of squirrels & deer diving off in to the foliage as I surprised them.I'm pretty useless at yelling out at blind corners to let bears know I'm coming, but I was pleased not to see one & have to put my new bear spray to use. The trail was pretty smooth for the most part, but there was a good creek crossing that only turned out feasible in one direction. It was about ninety minutes after setting out when we reached the hut (a little delay for a mechanical - one of the pins holding the parallelogram together in Alex's rear derailleur thought it a good idea to work its way a fair way out).
Sitting snacking on the side of the lake (which is a good couple of metres lower than it should be - still waiting for the summer melt) we watched clouds roll in up the lake from the direction we came & within long we were getting wet without having to go swimming. So it was back on the bikes again & shortly after it dried out. We got most of the way back without precipitation, but as we were climbing that rocky bluff some nice big drops started falling - by the time we had worked hard to get to the top again, it was proper wet again. That made the final downhill even more fun as we got soaked, muddy & the slipperiness made for some exciting riding. A great day's ride, even if I do now have to find the time to give my bike a bit of a clean (I've been spoilt - I haven't had to clean it after all the previous rides of the last three weeks).

It was a bit of a late start (1100) for our hike on Sunday as some of us had been out to a late movie & then hit the nightlife of Canmore (tongue firmly in cheek there - Canmore is pretty small, still it kept me up until two). Megan, Alex, Zara & I were off up Grotto - which is opposite Lady Mac over Cougar Creek on the east side of the Bow Valley. This is the highest of the hikes that we had attempted over the last few weeks - the summit is at just over 2700m. Yesterday dawned with the best weather we have had for ages - & the first couple of hours of hiking were uncomfortably hot (the highs don't seem to have got out of the teens for the last couple of weeks - which is fine by me, great riding temperature). There's not too much to say about the hike, we walked up a very steep path for ages, then got out of the trees & in to a little snow & walked for quite some time up to the top of the ridge. Due to our late start, leisurely pace & frequent rests/food-stops we didn't push on for the last thirty-forty minutes of ridge walking to the summit. I think I was the only one disappointed by that, but it was getting late (1530 by the time we turned around) & if I forget just how steep the walk is, I'll have another go in a few months' time when all the snow has melted. The walk down seemed to take forever, as it was very steep - mercifully, the trail was pretty good & there was not much sliding/falling involved. All in all, it was an eight hour hike. Here are a few pictures from the day - I hope no one is getting sick of seeing all these.

Alex, Zara & Megan with Lawrence Grassi on the other side of the Bow Valley

Canmore with Lawrence Grassi on the left, Rundle on the right - you can just see the road going up to Whiteman's Gap in between the two, it doesn't look such a big bike climb now.

Above the trees now, looking southwest

Looking over the ridge, northeast-ish.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

More new Canmore trails.

It's Friday evening & it's a nice quiet one at home recovering from the week. This has been the first week in over a year that I've worked forty hours (in fact, in two days' time I would have been out of NZ for a year) & I'm slightly tired - but they may be more to do with the extra-curricular riding. It's been more of the same temping at the construction site in Banff - the building is nearing completion, but there is still loads to do. Unfortunately, a landscaper got his foot crushed by a zoom boom (all terrain extendible boom fork hoist or some guff like that) on Tuesday afternoon. Funnily enough, a lot more attention has been paid to OH&S since then & in particular people-moving vehicle interactions. Reminds me of somewhere else - can't think where. Enough of that - it serves a purpose - allowing me to live & ride in this wonderful valley.

By Tuesday Alex had replaced the damaged seal on his brakes & we were able to go for a ride after work. This was my introduction to the Highline trail. We started out by riding down beside the river & then up to Three Sisters golf course (past the condo where James & Becca lived) - avoiding the sinkhole that had opened up in the walking path where an old mine ventilation shaft was. This took about half an hour & half way along the sealed path, it had stopped drizzling & the evening turned out quite nice. We had another good half an hour of climbing up single track - I was pleased to be going well in the middle ring & then all of a sudden it got a lot steeper & I was stuck in the granny ring (it seems to be a common feature of a lot of the rides around here) & occasionally pushing. There was a tiny bit of old fire road & we quickly went past these little structures without thinking too much about the merits of attempting to land such a feat.
The trail traversed for quite a while & there was the odd bit of downhill, but I found that nothing really flowed just so. The trail was interesting in that it would suddenly change from Rotorua/Taupo-esque packed dirt covered in pine needles to technical rocks (on both ascent & descent) to roots that would get the suspension working hard - needless to say, I was pleased to have my soft-tail (which will be celebrating its third birthday in five days). We had a few stream crossings as well - with the water in varying states - solid, liquid or absent. Riding across a big hunk of ice was a first for me. Some trooper had bothered to cut a path through the ice so that one did not slide down the hill. With the occasional view of the Bow Valley, we eventually came to the final downhill - it was tight & twisty switchbacks that were clearly designed with climbing in mind; an OK way to end the ride, but not one that I felt repaid for all the effort spent climbing. Not having had enough, we rode alongside the canal to the Nordic Center to check out a downhill from there down to town that James had told me about on Monday night (spent at The Wood watching the Stanley Cup Final game #2 & eating cheap wings). We found a couple of different trail heads & the one we chose had lots of table tops & doubles - nothing too massive, but a bit beyond me. Ended up at the power station with a really loose rocky chute down to the river & then back in to town - total trip time, two hours and ten minutes - suitably worn out.

I was keen to check out the pump track which is a very short ride from home (a few minutes at most) on Wednesday. There is a little skills area there as well. It turns out I really don't know what I am doing on a pump track - I will need to tag along with someone in the know & then I should be able to work out how to improve my riding a bit (or a lot, would be better).

I had planned on hitting the Nordic Center trails on Thursday to complete my first of mid-week rides - Tuesdays & Thursdays to enable at least some recovery. Alex had other plans - Riders of Rohan & then the Highline in the other direction. It was a long forty minute climb up the gravel road (that goes to Spray Lakes & K-Country) to Whiteman's Gap. Rounding the last corner, we were hit full in the face by gale coming the other way. That made the last few hundred metres rather hard work & riding across the dam to the other side of the gap to the trailhead was the first time in ages I have had to concertedly lean my bike in the wind to prevent being blown over (& over the dam to almost certain peril - I don't think there was that much peril). It turned out to be quite a difficult trailhead to identify with a couple of options - funnily enough, it was the the least-likely one up a steep rocky hill that led us to RoR.

We should have been a little more circumspect when we saw a group of five guys enter the trail on big-travel downhill bikes clad in full-face helmets & varying assortments of body armour. It was a steeper-than-I've-ridden-for-a-while narrow down hill, mostly pretty straight, full of rocks that made things interesting. Thanks to Alex for the photos, I've annoyingly taken to forgetting to attach my camera to my Camelbak when riding - but at least for a change there are some pictures of me riding. There were a couple of tricky dropoffs that were a bit too much for my skills & confidence, & there were others that I would approach much too cautiously & realise that I could ride - so I'd push back up the hill & conquer them. Here I am getting down a tricky part - the photo is good for showing me that my weight is far too high & far back (& I really must put my seat down a bit more). Further down the hill, I caught up to a couple of riders in the group we had seen previously (one of them had gone over the bars) & of course, with eyes on my riding I managed to completely stuff up a tricky bit & somehow ended up pulling a front wheelie for a good three seconds (felt longer, naturally), avoided flying over the bars in to a tree (not quite sure how) & then jumped off the side & landed on my feet - slightly embarrassing, but only injured pride. Shortly after this we reached the Highline trail turnoff - one of the other riders had told us that the part of RoR was well suited to our bikes with their more modest levels of travel, alas we missed it this time. Here is a video of what we rode, albeit at a much quicker pace - you can see the blue signs to Highline where we turned off a few minutes in to it.

After grovelling up the switchbacks (the very same that I noticed two days' prior were designed for going up), it was not long before I realised that riding the Highline in this direction is so much better - it flows very nicely in parts. We tried to spy Megan at the top of Ha Ling (unfortunately for her, being pregnant is not conducive to mountain-biking - but she can still hike) & had a rest & food stop at this rock. As the trail traverses the side of the mountain, no matter which direction you go, there were still a few climbs to be had. Here I am crossing the ice bridge on the latter half of the ride.Shortly after this & a little more climbing, we hit the downhill that we had struggled up for half an hour on Tuesday. It was fantastic - the highlight of my riding in Canada so far. Not nearly as steep or rocky as RoR, [Just back from an exciting addition to the "nice quiet" evening - exploding pie. Pyrex dish full of scrummy pie & a hot element is not a good combination, it turns out.] I was able to keep much more speed up & really lean in to the corners. One of the those sections of trail that has me grinning from ear to ear - over much too soon, as the best bits always are. Tried to push it a bit on the way home, but that nasty wind was down by the river too - back home in just more than twenty minutes longer than Tuesday's ride, not bad considering all the extra climbing & photo-stops.