Monday, September 27, 2010

Gusty Ha Ling & shuttles at Moose Mountain

More great weather on Saturday with clear skies; however a Chinook came to town & it was super windy.  Here are some of many yellow leaves around town - this taken from our driveway.

Straight after lunch it was time for Finnian's first ex utero hike up Ha Ling.  The road up to the Goat Creek parking lot seemed markedly better than the previous week & we were hiking by five to one.  All the snow that I hiked through last week was all gone & there were heaps of people & dogs on the trail.  As we got above the tree line the wind started to get up a bit.
Megan, Finn hiding, Gill & Alex - looking down Goat Creek (Banff is around the corner to the right)
We started the last zag of all the zig-zags up to the summit as we layered up a bit.  The wind kept getting stronger & stronger.  About a hundred metres from the top there were some really big gusts that came close to blowing some of us over.  The biggest of all the gusts ripped my sunnies off my face & I last saw them disappearing towards the edge of the cliff.  None of us valued getting to the top over not-being blown a few hundred metres down to Canmore, so we decided to turn around.
Playing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Finn - isn't the summit close?
A short photo stop on the edge of the ridge - the wind had great fun messing up the girls' hair.
As was the case last Saturday, after getting home after the hike/stroll I was still itching for a ride in the sun.  This time I went up to the Nordic Center & was pleased to get all around the Orange Trail, Coal Chutes & the exit trails without unclipping.  The trails were in sublime condition & being early evening there was no-one around - the only life I had to share the trail with was a curious deer.

Alex bailed on our planned Sunday epic to do a Jumpingpound loop, claiming sickness.  Thankfully I had a back up plan - free shuttles at Moose Mountain.  The drive down was fantastic - there are even more yellow trees down beside the highway near the Cochrane turnoff & around Bragg Creek.  Arriving around eleven, I got on the first shuttle up the hill with five or six others - I definitely had the most puny bike.  I followed them all down Race of Spades - it wasn't too steep & I could easily ride all of the trail & keep up with the group.  There were some pretty big structures & I didn't hit any of the gaps, but could ride most of the rest - there was a neat bridge up two metres in the trees that wound its way around for a while.  Halfway down there was a really steep climb that had all in front off & pushing straight away - I waited for quite some time at the top.  Moving off, the second half back to the parking lot was just as fun - if not quite as rocky & rooty.  I decided to do one more run to see if I could go any faster - we had a smaller group & it was faster.  I rode a few more structures than the first time - one I was told was rollable, it sort of was - but a lot steeper & taller than I was expecting.  It was the first time I remember bottoming out my forks so conclusively - quite a loud thunk.
I was too busy having fun riding down to take many photos - here is some typical trail.
Back at the car, it was time for lunch before heading out to do a XC loop.  The shuttle driver gave me some good tips on how to find the new Ridgeback trail.  Once I found the trailhead, it wasn't too difficult as the signage was superb.

This was a one-trail, ridden there & back mostly climbing out.  The first section, being so new was really muddy & I met a couple of younger guys riding up.  One was on a rather large Scott Ransom while the other was on a hardtail with a broken derailleur (enforced singlespeeding) - this guy was rather strangely riding in white socks & sandals.  They showed me the way & half way up we ditched the Ridgeback for the older Tom Snow trail - it turned out that there were some massive mud bogs in.  The only consolation of having an almost bald XC tyre on the rear was that I got very little mud up my back - mud seemed to go almost everywhere else.  The other guys had to turn around at three o'clock to get back to Calgary to work - so I continued up to the end of the trail to get a bit more climbing in & of course more downhill.
Riding through the beech trees.
Looking out from the top of the ride.

On the way down I chose the parts of the two trails that I hadn't already been on.  For the first half this was the Ridgeback - & it was fantastic (& mostly dry) & flowy.  There was a nice big climb for a while, before riding along the ridge & more great down.  I was, & still am,  quite tired after such a great day's riding.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Prospector pics

First ride since Saturday - always nice after work on a Friday.  With two clear days, the snow is gone from all but the peaks & the trails are pretty dry.  I threw the bike in the back of the car & went & hit the Prospector Trail after knocking off work - how great is it having sublime riding one minute's ride from work?  The nice blue skies had gone & with them my hopes of getting great photos of all the brilliant fall colours that have sprung up in the last week.

It is three weeks since Alex & I rode this little gem of a trail & this time I remembered to pack my camera to get a few pictures to go with my previous trail description.  Unfortunately as I was by myself, there aren't too many action shots.  The climb up the valley was harder than two weeks ago - my riding diary tells me I've only been on three rides in the last fortnight.  It's amazing how quickly one can feel the effects of less riding & fifty-five hour working weeks.  So I pushed a bit more than usual up some of the steepest parts of the climbs & started to look around for photo opportunities in the gloom.  Unfortunately, being by myself, there are not many (rather, no) action photos - so you'll have to imagine me riding over the features.

 Riding up beside the Exshaw Creek - that slickrock on the left is where the trail ends.

 The first of many trail features - this one has a nasty gap at the end that you can't see from here, thankfully there is a chicken route down to the right.
 This part of the trail goes along the top of a short spur & has some more nice features.

 Looking out across the Bow Valley (this is east [~15 km] of Canmore).

 Looking over Exshaw - Heart Mountain on the left, not that you can really see the heart shape - it's there - I assure you.

 Down in to the slickrock section.

 Work - for now.

This one is good fun.

Here is a little video I made by setting my camera on a conveniently placed rock.  Unfortunately, I took the file off my camera before truncating the bit of me running back up the hill to get on my bike - so skip the first half or enjoy the wind whistling past.  Sorry, I really can't be bothered going to the trouble of getting the software I need to crop it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nothing too exciting

It's been a couple weeks & it's been the usual mix of working heaps & riding. The riding has been curtailed a little in the last week due to the inclement weather. Summer has well & truly ended with some determination - it's been cold & it's snowed a few times in town. The highlight ride for the last two weeks has been a new trail called Razor's Edge that word of mouth told us about. It starts near the end of the downhill from the Barrier Lookout (a ride Alex & I have done quite a few times now) & apparently comes out on the TransCanada. Friday before last was reasonably nice & I was keen to explore - so Alex & I parked on the side of the highway after work & rode up Quaite to the top of Jewell Pass. This is Mt Barrier (just right of centre) taken from high up at the cement plant.
We had to ride & push up the downhill trail for a few hundred metres before finally spying the trail branching off to the left. As the trail was quite newly cut, the traverse around to the next pass was quite soft & slippery (thankfully there were not too many roots). Before long we were at the pass - which we had to go along, not over for a change. It was pretty rocky & we appropriately spent quite a while riding along the Razor's Edge. There were some good slippery drops of which we could do some, & some we weren't going to attempt knowing that we didn't really know how long it would be before we got off the trail. It's always quite neat riding along big slabs of rock. We lost the trail proper at the other end of the pass, but with a bit of bush bashing following various coloured ribbons we were back on the trail climbing up & then around the next peak (the one on the left of the photo above, I think). The descent through the trees (we were by this stage on the reverse of the unknown peak) started off really step & slippery & not all rideable for us - it flattened out a bit, & became really fun before climbing a little & then dropping on to the final descent to the highway. We were a long way above the highway & the trail soon turned to being completely big slabs of rock. It was little hard to know exactly where the trail was, but there were sufficient cairns to make our way down eventually. There were some neat little rollovers & chutes to zoom down. One just had to be careful to stop & take the left turn twenty metres from the highway - or else some poor motorist would have had a MTBer flying off the cliff & landing on their hood. It turned out to be a two hour ride to do only ten kilometres, & it was a little epic in places (hence the slow pace) - but the downhill sections were both rewarding & challenging.

While I've got them here, here are a couple more pics taken from the cement plant - looking up the Bow Valley (Canmore is further up there, around the corner a little). It may even be a more scenic setting than NZ Steel; actually, it's much nicer than the Manukau Harbour & dairy farms.
It was pretty wet in general last week, so not too many outdoor activities. Friday morning there was a good few centimetres of snow in town & even more out at Exshaw - when it cleared that afternoon, leaving work was really beautiful (even more so as it was the weekend). Saturday was unexpectedly clear - so I took the opportunity to pop up Ha Ling to get a good view over the Bow Valley & up the Spray Valley. I hadn't been up there since February, when there was bit more snow around. It's the easiest summit around here (about an hour up & just under an hour down - the descent time does tend to depend a bit on how slippery it is). The snow was melting by now, but there was still quite a bit around - out of the trees there was about twenty centimetres in some places - & a few chipmunks scurrying around. Nice to have some blue skies & a view for a change.

A nice ride after the hike around the G8 & that was Saturday afternoon. Sunday was a good day for watching TV programs & chocolate chai. The weekend ended on an unexpectedly expensive note after Alex spied a nice pair of alpine touring skis, bindings, boots & skins. They turned out to be in really good condition - so now I have a nice pair of K2s & it doesn't really matter so much now if the snow comes in a hurry, as I want to go & try them out.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer (apparently it is) snow.

From what I can remember I've worked over a hundred & twenty hours in the last two weeks - but apart from the four doubles, it hasn't been so bad. As I mentioned last time, my birthday was a write off (with one of those double) - but it was great to get some nice packages & cards from home. The cement plant is still going well, but I may have somewhat inadvertently done myself out of a month's work by absolutely dominating the conveyor survey - all the plant auditing is done now as I easily find my way around the place & its one hundred & seventy conveyors with the process flow diagrams. Now we are just writing up all our surveys & my Excel prowess is surfacing after ling dormant for a few years now. Bagel baking is just that at the moment, although I'm finishing now at about midnight, not two in the morning.

Near the end of the week before last I finally had a bit of free time to pop around & introduce myself to Finnian Lawrence & see how Megan & Alex were doing. I'm not sure Finnian remembers much of that, having missed out on the great date of 24 August & being born the day before. As expected he spends his time sleeping, feeding & I assume crying (I seem to have missed most of that so far - must be my calming presence). After a chocolate chai for the three adults (probably a bit too soon to introduce Finnian to them), Alex & I popped out a quick loop of the G8. By quick I mean that we weren't away from home for long - we were both pretty slow due to lack of sleep over the previous week. The trail was in great condition & it was good to get out.

That evening I headed over to Banff for the first time in ages to meet up with a guy from Yorkshire that I met while working construction at the Banff Center. Dale had come over to Canmore a fortnight prior for a bit of shuttling. This time he was the guide as we drove up to the Norquay ski area & headed out to ride Upper & Lower Stoney Squaw. From the car park we had half an hour of steep climbing. Dale with a big DH rig walked most of it - & with it being so steep & technical in places I walked some chunks of it. It getting in to early evening when we left & the weather hadn't been all that bright all day, so we were getting close to running out of daylight. Also, the view over Banff & the Bow Valley wasn't quite as spectacular as it might have been. Reaching the summit, Dale armoured up for what was obvious (from our elevation & the view) going to be a long downhill. I did the token seat drop & we were away. The first part of the descent was the most technical with some nice rocky sections & tight corners. Strangely, there were also a few pinch climbs & some flat pedally sections. We were buzzing by the time we came out near the second chairlift & hit the lower section.

Lower Stoney Squaw started with a big wide (compared to the previous section, probably only two metres wide) grassy descent that was really fast & then all of a sudden funnelled in to singletrack - we had to kill a lot of speed quickly. The lower section was generally a lot faster & none of the patches of rocks necessitated slowing down a lot. Many of the rocks were great for popping off & one could be reasonably sure of a good landing. We loved this section & as it flattened out & even climbed ever so slightly I was able to get in front of Dale & even stay in front for a while. Just before we came out on the TCH, there was another fast steeper part & then a cool jump that had a really easy landing. Even I managed to get what felt like quite a bit of air. After pushing back up the hill a few times & hitting the jump again we were spat out on the highway - crossing this we rode back in to town to Dale's house, hopped in his car & drove all the way back up to Norquay (glad we didn't ride that rode) to pick up the Legacy. I must also add that the few days around here had got quite cold & snow was noticeably appearing on the peaks & hanging around for days on end.

The following Sunday was miserable weather wise, so it was a day at home doing chores, reading, watching TV & working on the bike. Alex had done well to spot mention of a small new trail out near the cement plant at Exshaw. So on Sunday evening I loaded up the car with my bike & associated gear in anticipation of a post-work ride on Monday. It took me a little while to find the trail head for Prospector as the construction site for the new wastewater treatment plant had squeezed it almost in to the creek. At only about seven or eight kilometres long, it turned out the trackbuilder(s) had squeezed an awful lot of riding in to that. It started out pretty much with a half an hour climb up the valley - the first part was the steepest & I don't think I rode the whole thing. It then flattened out a little before heading up to the highest point through a series of switchbacks. Then the descent started, forming a little bit of a figure eight with the uphill track; with all the rain the day before & it being a newly built trail it was quite slippery in parts. As you can see from some of the photos from the first link above, there were quite a few trail features that had been built. I could ride some of these, but looking at some of them & how slippery they looked & considering I was by myself there was no way I was attempting them. The part of the downhill that was closest to the creek was the Wonder Ridge loop & it had a steep little climb to get up to some rocky technical bits - here I couldn't ride most of the little structures. After fixing my obligatory puncture & crossing the uphill trail again there was a little bit more climbing & traversing before some almost slickrock riding. I managed to lose the trail right at the end & getting stuck behind some condos - I eventually made it out after carrying my bike through a lot of bush. A great ride & so close to work & easily done in the time after work before it gets dark (at the moment). I was keen to show Alex this trail that he had found for me, so we headed back out to Exshaw after I had just got home from work on Friday. The trail had dried out a lot & we both really enjoyed it - it was even better this time as it wasn't as slippery, I didn't get a flat, didn't eat dirt on one particular drop (or any others) & we found the last section of trail that I had missed on Monday.

Saturday dawned reasonably brightly & rolling out of bed at nine I was quickly trying to organise the day's big ride. Not sure that Alex would be able to get away from home for half the day - I wanted to ride Powderface Ridge, ninety minutes' drive away - I got in touch with Gerry. Gerry is back in Canmore after returning from home in Mexico & I had met him in January as he is a friend of Craig's. To my surprise, Alex was able to join us so we set off with the wagon well loaded with three bikes & three people. As it was the last long weekend of the summer, there was masses of traffic streaming west to the mountains from Calgary - we were glad to be heading in the opposite direction. Parking near the Elbow car park (from this previous ride) we were all bemused by this sign - it begs one rather obvious question.
As the trail was a one-way, we had seven kilometres of gravel road to warm up on first. It had a little climbing in it but nothing serious & it took us about half an hour. The sun was out & we had good views of the Nihahi Ridge:
& looking back towards the three mountains Alex & I had ridden around a fortnight before.
Reaching what we assumed was the trailhead (a strange lack of signs), we started up through the forest & almost immediately were on one of the toughest & most technically long climbs I've done in a long time (it seems I've had some difficult climbs in the last week - maybe I'm just becoming less fit & strong). None of us managed to ride close to the whole thing as the loose rocks would send one all over the place when you were just really trying to keep going up. The trees started to clear a bit & we came out where the walking track from the other side of the ridge came up & joined our trail.(Note the snow in the background - that wasn't there two weeks ago). While we had been climbing there had been some pretty loud rolls of thunder just off to the north & we started to get a few drops of rain. Leaving the rainjackets in the car wasn't looking like such a great idea. From the trail junction we still had plenty more climbing up through more trees - this was less technical & then we were on to the ridge proper.This looks like a nice gently climb along the ridge, but when we hit those trees it got really rocky & tricky - we were soon walking parts of it.
The rocks continued & as we rode/pushed along the ridge we sort of misplaced the trail & as the weather was getting colder & it was still threatening to rain we decided after fifteen or so minutes to go back to where we last had the trail & take that route (that seemed to go down the wrong side of the ridge) down. With quite a few switchbacks, this part rode really well & I was having to work to keep up with Gerry in front of me. Mind you, that was made easier when he landed obviously a bit to hard & pinch-flatted. Still enjoying this downhill, we were rudely shocked by some muddy stream crossings that then changed in to five minutes of climbing & pushing. Soon we were out on a grassy spur that took us over to the side of the ridge we wanted to be on. Then the downhill really started - first very quickly through the open area & then it got steeper & rocky again. The trees were really close to the trail as well - fortunately there were plenty of options as one adjusted one's lines to that allow for the position one found in. We flew down there, with the exception of stopping to allow our hands to recover from all the rocks & hanging on to the brakes. It was just as well we didn't meet many hikers coming up the other way - but we must have been making plenty of excited noise as those we did meet gave us plenty of space. Back at the car, we had dropped three-hundred vertical metres very quickly & we all had manic grins on our faces.

So, there you have it - three new rides in less than a week & couldn't even tell you my favourite. Of course, they have to go up against all the rest of the rides I've done over the previous ten weeks. So even though, summer seems to be coming to an abrupt end - I don't mind too much. Especially when you see this just walking around the corner:Even going to the grocery store (they don't really know what you mean here if you say supermarket) isn't too much of a chore - everytime I walk out carrying my shopping a grin appears on my face as I look up & see this:Incidentally, those houses on the other side of the traffic lights is where I live.