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.

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