Sunday, April 04, 2010

Cycle to This House Of Sky

This is a great time of year for outdoor types in my area. I can cycle outside in shorts and jersey, or I can head into the mountains to ski or ice climb. On Thursday evening, I had the brilliant idea that I should combine both in to a multi-sport adventure. I worked on Easter Friday, my birthday day, so I considered this to be belated birthday present to myself, or more correctly, exercising my right as "birthday boy" to do whatever crazy thing I wanted to.

Depending on which circle of my friends you belong, the plan doesn't sound too crazy at first...cycle 90km to the Ghost River Wilderness Area, walk to the classic ice climb This House Of Sky and climb it, then go home.

The reality of the situation is somewhat tougher: the cycle would be 180km round-trip, 30km of which would be effectively logging road, and another 20km is not normally driven on without a high-clearance vehicle. The prevailing westerly wind kicks in early to mid-morning, and while riding into that, I would be carrying ice climbing boots, axes, crampons, gloves, and enough food to see me through the day. Plus a headlamp. :)

The night before, I had concerns about the viability. Doing the math, a realistic 25km/h cycle, plus what is normally a 4 hour climb, plus hiking a half-marathon, and a couple of hours for stopping to eat/change clothes, etc, plus a date that night at 7 or 8pm, did not give me time for 8 hours of sleep. I decided that I would have to average 30km/h, not stop, solo the climb quickly, and hope that I could cycle the hike. Thus reassured (that's my strange way of spelling "deluded"), I set my alarm for 7:30am.

8:45am - leaving the house, 45min behind schedule

My back was in pain after about 500 metres. Note to self: buy panniers. The wind was already starting to pick up. No problem, I'd just ride harder.

10:50am - arriving in Cochrane, about the same time as 15 knot winds. Two hours behind schedule. I realized my schedule was out the window.

From Cochrane I had a slog into the wind for 20km, until the turn north onto Hwy 40. The trees and hills along the road started helping, so I was able to make it to Waipourous by 12:30 and stop for lunch. I'd told people I'd be back early evening, and not to worry unless I hadn't contacted them by 9pm... Okay, great, that gives me 8.5 hours to get back, so an hour to get to the Ghost, an hour to get to the climb, two hours for the climb, two hours back to this point, and 2 hours to do what had taken me 4 hours thus far (I'd have a tail-wind, right?). Yikes, that's starting to sound tight, I'd better start cycling again.

Just a few km after Waipourous, the road turns to gravel. No problem. Then at the turn-off to access the Ghost River, it is...well, a bad gravel road. I remember it being uncomfortable last time (I was on a cross bike sans backpack...). Let's just say it deteriorated from there...

I'm sure there is a road here somewhere.

The driver of the pickup in the photo offered me a ride. I declined, because, as I told him, I'd got myself into this situation "somewhat intentionally".

500 metres later

As I started changing my flat, I saw that I had three spare tubes (how responsible of me) but only two CO2 cartridges (doh!).

After the break, I didn't need a speedometer (which is good, because I didn't have one) to know that my progress was slipping into single digits. So a few kilometres later when I was offered a lift, this time with climbers going into the Ghost, I took it. 10km is 15 minutes! Just 5km to the climb! By this time I'd stopping doing the math on my schedule...I'd made it this far with that damn bag, I was putting those boots on and sinking an axe into ice, regardless of the improbability of making it back on time!

Since the flat, I'd been cycling out of the seat a lot, to reduce the weight on the back wheel and so hopefully reduce the need to use my last CO2 cartridge. Let's just say I was getting a good full-body workout.

Not your normal road bike terrain


I was able to cycle a good chunk of the rest of the way, and finally I made it to the climb. By this time I was feeling pooped. Like, really really pooped. But at the same time, I love this climb and was pretty excited to climb it again. It's mellow and "stepped-out" enough that I wasn't worried about soloing it, but by the second pitch I had to put my sandwich away and use two axes. :)

Made it!

This photo is the proof. For anyone that has climb THOS, you'll know that you can only see this once you finish the last pitch. The WI4 and last pitch of WI3 is way back there, and I thought I'd toss my axe in the photo for good measure.

Ok, so I "made it", but at the same time, I was at the 21km mark of a marathon. I didn't bring a rope, so I had to downclimb the 12 or so pitches of the ice climb, which is decidely harder than going up. The hardest part is actually starting to downclimb a pitch...sort of requires you pretend the top is a horizontal ladder, and you step backwards and then down the face, hanging your butt out so you can see where your feet are going while your top half is still on the horizontal. Fortunately it requires a lot less energy, so I felt really good at the bottom.

This photo is one of the creek crossings I had to do. Sometimes there were logs I could walk across, and on occasion I wheeled my bike beside the log for balance. This time, I went bare-foot. Yes, that's snow beside the creek. At least I had a half of a tea-towel specially for drying my numb feet on the other side! :)

The ride out went fairly quickly, with the strong tailwind blowing through the Ghost valley, and once I *cycled up the Big Hill on my road bike* (It's about 200 metres, 15% and loose gravel - I'm thinking of putting that on a t-shirt) the ride out was mostly downhill. Unfortunately by the time I got to Waipourous, the wind had all but died, so I didn't do the 50km/h I was hoping for.

After I got cell reception as I got close to Cochrane, the tone of my date, all dressed up with nowhere to go, convinced me that calling for a ride was required (thanks David!), and I skipped out on the last 30km. Still, not a bad day's work!


Thomas said...

Insane! Nice one.

stappy said...

Fricking awesome! You're a bad dude Lockie!

Soul Calibre said...

Amazing! Landed here via your Quora answer!