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Road Trip Week Three: The Rockies

May 20th, 2015
Robbie, Ciaran, Dian, Lara watching the sunset in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Robbie, Ciaran, Dian, Lara watching the sunset in Dinosaur Provincial Park

Wow! The few days that have passed since we last wrote have been intense! We arrived at Dinosaur Provincial Park on the evening of our last post.  The park appears suddenly and in stark contrast to the pleasant, but remarkably unspectacular surrounding pastureland. As we crested the low hill from which the first view into the park valley is revealed, the sun was close to setting; we had maybe an hour of light left. Sense told us to pitch camp and start cooking in daylight but our gut had us running out and climbing the tallest hill that we could find with a view to the west.

Ciaran and Lara coming down from the hill after sunset.

Ciaran and Lara coming down from the hill after sunset.

After two days of prairies and almost 20 hours driving it felt so good to be out of the car. We ran around jumping, shrieking and laughing as the sun lit the surrounding prehistoric clay and rock mounds in a golden orange. We stayed out long after the sun had set and the orange and reds had cooled to blue and purple before finally making our way down to pitch camp and cook in the dark, energized by what we had just experienced.

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Sam went out after the others had gone to sleep to take some photos of the stars above the moonlit landscape.

The next morning we watched sunrise from the eastern side of the same hill. The rest of the morning was spent packing. We do a lot of that. It’s also largely pointless. It seems that however much we try, within about half a day of us having packed all our gear and ourselves neatly into the van, it’s complete mayhem again. We know we have too much stuff and we should probably have bought a roof box or just been more ruthless in stripping down our gear to necessities but in some ways we’re growing to like the clutter. It’s slowly becoming a vaguely functional collection of clutter too. For instance, it’s now instinctive that the box packed to the right of the ukulele contains our oatmeal, two propane bottles, three tennis balls, the first aid kit and all of our spoons. We like to think that with more time we could have done a better job of organizing what to bring but with 25 exams between us we think it’s fair to say we did at least an alright job.

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We also packed bear spray, which seemed like a necessary investment after seeing seven bears just on the drive over.

In the afternoon we drove west across Alberta, skirting north of Calgary and entering Banff National Park. The day had turned grey and rain fell heavily as we drove up into the looming dark masses of the Rockies. Luckily the rain had stopped by the time we arrived and we spent the rest of the evening walking around the woods and small hills near our campground at Tunnel Mountain. We’ve come to really appreciate the fact that we’re visiting these places so far off-season. We’ve had the chance to explore with no crowds, empty trails and room to ourselves. Banff was the first place where we realised why this was possibly the case. Our naïve European sense for the seasons led us to think that by May, surely spring would have arrived and green, grassy summer meadows would be just around the corner. Silly Europeans.

A little less blue than we had hoped for.

A little less blue than we had hoped for.

Of course, in Canada and at altitude snow remains well into June and the summer. Unfortunately that meant that a lot of the more interesting, longer walks that would take us out of the valleys and onto the ridgelines were inaccessible to us. A shame, but no problem! We’ve shifted things up and are going to leave the Rockies a little earlier than planned. We’ll dot about a little bit between Jasper and Vancouver before taking a ferry over to Vancouver Island where we expect much milder weather and the opportunity for having some fun in the Pacific – see you there!

 

Dian and her Osprey Packs Sirrus 24 near Johnson Lake, Banff.

Dian and her Osprey Packs Sirrus 24 near Johnson Lake, Banff.

 

Road trip. Two months. Five European friends across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver and through the States from San Francisco back to Toronto via as many cool places in between as we can find. We’ve used cities as way-markers but our interest is in the land we’ll travel through between them. Along the way we’ll pass through more National Parks than you can shake a stick at. Camp stoves, beaches, forests, mountains, waterfalls, adventures and waking up in a tent somewhere new every morning.

Keep up with us throughout our journey via the weekly blogs posted here that we’ll be writing for Osprey Packs or follow us on Instagram:

SamLeakey

RobbieTravels

CiaranTragheim

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Road trip. Two months. Five friends.

May 5th, 2015

Road trip. Two months. Five European friends across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver and through the States from San Francisco back to Toronto via as many cool places in between as we can find. We’ve used cities as way-markers but our interest is in the land we’ll travel through between them. Along the way we’ll pass through more National Parks than you can shake a stick at. Camp stoves, beaches, forests, mountains, waterfalls, adventures and waking up in a tent somewhere new every morning.

Left to right: Sam, Ciaran, Robbie, Dian, Lara

Left to right: Sam, Ciaran, Robbie, Dian, Lara

Introductions. We are Ciaran, Dian, Lara, Robbie and Sam – we’ve spent the year on exchange at Trent University but now exams are finished, school’s out and summer’s nearly here; time for a change of scene. You’ll get to know us along the way but for now:

Ciaran, 20, from England studies history – his most recent big adventure was climbing Africa’s highest peak, Mt Kilimanjaro.

Dian, 21 from the Netherlands studies psychology and is our most seasoned road-tripper – having driven all over Europe in what’s possibly the world’s tiniest two door hatchback.

Lara, 20, from Germany studies environmental sciences, we’re all convinced that if she’d been growing up in the 60’s she would have made a great hippie.

Robbie, 21, from Scotland studies archaeology and spent his childhood scrambling up the Munros of northwest Scotland.

Sam, 21, from Scotland studies astrophysics and spent last summer hitchhiking and walking around Iceland. Very rarely spotted not carrying at least one camera.

It did all fit, eventually!

It did all fit, eventually!

Four of us met at the end of last August at an orientation camp organised by the university just south of Algonquin Provincial Park. We were driven there directly from the airport late at night, in darkness. We can still remember waking up early the next morning just after sunrise and walking outside to find that we’d been delivered to a log cabin built on the shore of a huge lake, steaming in the sun and surrounded on all sides by thick spruce forest. We’ve haven’t stopped smiling since! Dian joined us in January for the winter semester. I think it was only about three minutes before it felt like she was another old friend.

It took until the end of February or so for us to realise that time was actually passing very quickly. We had all spoken of summer travels, and ‘going out west’ but never in any more specific terms than those. We had to get a move on! For Lara and Sam, the next month or so was spent navigating the used-car market. Steep learning curve and lots of obstacles. In the end though, after exchanging their British and German drivers licenses for Ontario, hours of insurance policy hunting, blocked bankcards and actual fraud on one account, we were successful. Parked just outside is the 2002 Chrysler Town & Country minivan that is going to carry us across a continent and back again. We haven’t named her yet – we’re waiting for something to happen on the road to tell us what she’s called.

The cabin we stayed in at Magnificent Hill

The cabin we stayed in at Magnificent Hill

Our European sense of distances and idea of what a ‘long drive’ is often amuses our Canadian friends. We find it hard to believe that we can drive for two straight days and still not have left Ontario! Despite that, our idea is to drive straight out west to Alberta. Sorry Manitobans and Saskatchewanians but we heard your prairies just aren’t as interesting as what lies beyond! Once in Banff, we’ll travel north to Jasper and then southwest via Kamloops, Whistler and Squamish to Tofino on Vancouver Island.

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The view we woke up to on our first morning in Canada at Camp Timberlane.

The next leg of the journey will take us south into the States, the plan at the moment being to head towards Yosemite. From Yosemite onwards our itinerary gets more and more vague but we expect to spend some more time on the Pacific coast, visit the giant trees of the redwood and sequoia forests in eastern California, the deserts of Death Valley, and well, beyond that, things really do become vague. In planning this trip it was important to us to stay as flexible as we could. Over the eight weeks we have only four dates where we are tied to being somewhere. For the rest of the time, if we wake up to beautiful sunshine and decide we really don’t want to leave where we are, we’ll stay! No schedules, no appointments; just our tents, backpacks, us, and the road.

Lara on fire road_1

Keep up with us throughout our journey via the weekly blogs posted here that we’ll be writing for Osprey Packs or follow us on Instagram:

SamLeakey

RobbieTravels

CiaranTragheim

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Osprey Athlete Alison Gannett’s favorite places to ski…or MTB?

March 28th, 2015

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“My Favorite Places to Ski, Part 2″ was to be the subject of this post.The weather has been so strange this year (I’ll save that rant forlater), that I pondered writing my favorite places to mountain bike instead. Then is started snowing again! So instead I’ll write about where I’ve skied and biked recently. Quite a year it is when you can do both in the same day!

Whistler, BC, Canada has long been a favorite place for me. Big alpine lines, impressive backcountry access, beyond-stellar views, big big big…the list goes on and on.

 

Since I’m a small town girl, I adore staying in Pemberton, BC instead of in the fancy Whistler resort. Only a half hour away, Pemberton’s lush valley is surrounded by animal, veggie and berry farms, with mountains like Mt. Curry rising 8,000 feet above. For food, don’t miss Mile One – burgers with local Pemby Beef that are to die for, especially with toppings like handmade goat cheese.

The Whistler/Blackcomb resort is so massive that finding a local guide is essential to link the goods together. They do offer free guided tours (check the map/grooming report/big boards for info) or just post on Facebook before heading there and find a friend or friend of friend to guide you. Unless you want to spend a lot of time on lifts or looking at vistas, choose either Whistler or Blackcomb to ski for any given day.

The backcountry is vast, and often requires a sled, but I’ve found plenty great stuff via skins as well. The Duffy is one of the local classic places to go tour. This video below is of Alaska, but it reminds me of the alpine terrain in that area:

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So while there last week, the skiing was, well, just ok. Temps had gotten so warm the week before, going above freezing in the valley and all the way to the summits way above. BUMMER. Alas, Whistler and Blackcomb are so extensive, that we even had fun cruising all the groomers. I had fun testing my new Meier Skis – a new women’s prototype that we are working on together that will launch next season. Like our new graphic? Its in the photo above. Venturing off piste was sketchy, slide for life conditions to say the least. So we puckered ourselves just a bit anyway – why not?

Since our backcountry plans got stuffed (no snow on the approaches), we turned to mountain biking those areas instead. Why not? Since my plush Juliana was at home in Colorado, I demoed a more appropriate gravity bike 65 degrees of slackness and 6 front and back to ease my fears from Bike Co. Even though I make a living teaching Mountain Bike camps with Osprey Packs, I wanted to push my own riding. So my friend Susan set me up with Pro-Downhiller and MTB Coach Sylvie Allen and Sweet Skills Mountain Bike Coaching. Whoop, whoop! She took my riding to a new level, with a bit of boosted confidence from my plush ride. One line in particular, to the side of the main Cream Puff trail, had me puckered with its slanting fall line but with some help, voila! Thanks Sylvie! Here is a short video of some of the splendor:

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Up next this year: KEEN Rippin Chix Mountain Bike Camps with complimentary Osprey Packs hydration pack demos. I’m hoping the new Osprey Zealots will be in the mail this week, so that you can try them in my upcoming MTB skills and singletrack camps in Fruita, followed by Eagle/Vail, Paonia, Crested Butte, and Moab.

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This hydration pack not only has all my favorite great looks and features (bite valve/hose magnet, rigid reservoir, helmet carrying fixins, special tool compartment/carrying system, etc), but also enables carrying of your more gravity oriented equipment.

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Earn Your Turns: 101 Months in a Row

March 1st, 2015

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From suncups to blower pow, huge peaks to bunny hills, North Vancouver brothers Mike and Andy Traslin have been consecutively earning their turns every month of the year for the past…wait for it… 101 months. They’re not alone in the endless pursuit of ‘turns all year,’ but they sure are passionate about it.

The quest for earning your backcountry ‘turns all year’ is especially popular with zealous skiers and riders in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and of course here at home in BC. With huge peaks holding snow year round, especially the Cascade Volcanoes, it almost makes you wonder why every skier doesn’t do it.

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Like Mike says — if you’re really jonesing for some ski turns in the fall, why wait? Just go do it!

In celebration of Mike & Andy’s 101th month (and hopefully hundreds more to come) here is a quick freeflow of thoughts from Mike, and some image highlights from the last 30 or so months: Read more…

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A Snippet of Singletrack: The BC Bike Race

August 8th, 2013

Eagles soar overhead, and I fixate on countless coves I wish to build my dream cabin on as we sail across the scenic Strait of Georgia to the isolated northern Sunshine Coast on the BC Ferries Queen of Burnaby. Powell River is a town that has ridden the tumultuous wave of boom and bust for years, starting when the first pulp mill was built there in 1908. With the last downturn in BC’s forestry industry, the town saw significant job cuts, and another cycle of depression. More recently, Powell River has turned to other forms of industry, such as eco-tourism. The BC Bike Race is the perfect fit, as proven by our reception upon arrival. We depart the ferry on foot, walking up the main street toward the start line, crowds of locals cheering us on. Tiny cheerleading squads toss each other in the air while teenage boys smash out rhythms on drums. Storeowners hand out watermelon to racers, while bagpipers stand at attention on a street corner. We make our way to the start line, which is also our campsite for the evening, located right beside the ocean on the green grass of the town park.

The singletrack of the day’s stage proves to be equally welcoming. We quickly dive into flowy singletrack winding through the temperate rainforest surrounding Powell River. The riding demands full concentration, but whenever I raise my focus from the task at hand I am rewarded with a beautiful view of a pristine lake, river or some other natural wonder. The community spirit overflows onto the trails as well. On the first of two timed Enduro sections of the day, hundreds of people line the freshly-built track called Death Rattle, yelling encouragement and smashing cowbells. There’s even one fellow railing out rock anthems on his guitar and battery-powered amp. The energy is electric as I rail turns down the mountain, carving up berms of dark coastal dirt, cascading my way through some of the most enjoyable trail I have ever ridden. The stage ends right where it began, next to the ocean, and many racers take advantage of that fact, soaking tired muscles in the cool waters of the Pacific.

That evening we convene for dinner at the local sports complex. The hockey rink is devoid of ice, and now features cloth-covered tables and silverware, complete with candles and decorative white lights adorning the sides of the rink. Girls on rollerskates float around serving local craft beer and wine while we dig into barbequed pork roast, shrimp and asparagus pasta, local organic veggies and caramel-glazed cake for dessert. While we loosen our belts and sit groaning from the herculean amounts of food we have just ingested, local talents hit the stage for the evening’s entertainment. The night is capped off when an awkward, chubby teenager shuffles on stage to sing. He starts off with Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You” and has the crowd on its feet cheering incredulously after the first few pitch-perfect notes, like a scene out of an American Idol audition. Later, as the sun sets over the ocean, and I fall asleep to the sound of waves on the shore, I marvel over how this was just one of seven amazing days of this race. Each day is an experience unto itself, and the whole week an incredible adventure.

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Two Days in the Mountains: Climbing and Skiing Mount Baker and Mount Cheakamus

May 19th, 2012

We live in a pretty spectacular place, so earlier this month, I hatched a plan to take advantage…

Day 1: climb and ski the Coleman Deming route of Mount Baker in Washington State.

Day 2: Do the beautiful Spearhead ski traverse, and if the stars align, ski the North Face of Cheakamus Mountain in British Columbia.

To prepare for a trip like this, it’s important to study the weather forecast and avalanche stability. It’s a lot of hurry up and waiting for a two-day weather window.

Even then, there are no guarantees in the mountains and success is not just in achieving goals in terms of summits and descents. It’s all about new experiences, meeting new people and maybe a new sense of purpose and energy after returning to the real world.

Here is a short video and photo gallery after our trip to the mountains…

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Special thanks to Matty Richard, Tim Grey and Dominic Melanson who unbeknownst to us had the same aspirations to ski Mount Cheakamus, but started from Whistler Mountain (the other side of the traverse). Lucky for us, they were friendly and set a good boot track up. Good vibes! Thanks for your humble offerings and gracious boot pack.

Mike Traslin grew up skiing on the North Shore Mountains of British Columbia. Starting on plastic skis at the age of 3, his passion has remained steady ever since. Being Canadian, it was always ice hockey and skiing for Mike in the winter, but soon it turned into racing gates and then freestyle skiing. And once he discovered powder and backcountry skiing he was hooked, and never looked back.

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Three Years, Three Million Ridiculous Feet of Climbing

February 16th, 2012

Over the past three years I’ve been keeping track of my vertical feet of climbing, backcountry skiing and mountain biking. I have now climbed a total of three million feet.

Read more…

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High Pressure Bonanza at Rogers Pass, British Columbia

February 13th, 2012

Inversion in the Pass

From my last post you might think that all it does is snow up here in the Selkirks of BritishColumbia. Well, usually it does and for most of January it sure did. Alas, last week the snow hose shifted its focus, and squinty eyes and sun burned noses returned to the mountains of BC.

With my father in law, the original owner of my backcountry ski lodge Valhalla Mountain Touring, in place as the hut keeper, I knew I needed to get out of my neck of the woods and go play in the big peaks of Rogers Pass. A quick 2.5 hour drive from home (not including the snowmachine ride to my truck and the half-hour ferry ride inland), Rogers Pass is the number one place I go to play when I have some time off.  If you haven’t been, its time to change that, as it is host to some of the best road-accessed ski touring in the world, hands down.

Read more…

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Skiing Mt. Seymour: Keeping it Real in Our Backyard

December 9th, 2011

Mt. Seymour one of the first places my father  took me to ski — once to be exact.

Years later, when I’m short on time I find myself back at Seymour for dawn patrols. After 20 years of skiing the backcountry, it feels like I have skied every chute I could find and all the nook and crannies in between. Looking back now I have realized Seymour has kept me in shape for skiing all over the world and parts I still dream of. Sometimes the size of the mountain doesn’t matter, it’s best to just get out there, have fun and do it.

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The Unsung Heroes of the BC Bike Race

July 26th, 2011

A race, in its most basic form, breeds heroes. These heroes usually take the form of the champions, the athletes that rise above to conquer his or her field, besting all contenders.

The demanding format of the BC Bike Race allows for new heroes to emerge. These are the folks that may not be the fastest of the day (heck, some of the heroes end up being some of the slowest riders out there). But these unsung heroes are the ones grinding and toiling out on the course, leaving behind their day jobs and lives back home to focus on one thing and one thing only: getting across that finish line each day of the race.

There are people like Dave, who spent the whole first night in Cumberland overcome with a vicious flu. The night was passed curled up in a dirty bathroom, alternating between bouts of vomiting and fitful sleep. He crawled to the start line in the morning, and fought through the day. The next day his flu subsided and he kept going strong on course.

Speaking of overcoming challenges, there was the couple from Austin that was looking forward to a week of racing without their kids in tow. Their nanny fell through at the last minute, and undeterred they changed their race entry to tag-team, brought their kids, alternated days of racing and had a great BC Bike Race family vacation. Not Disneyland, but the kids didn’t seem to mind.

Read more…

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