Colossal 2015 - B.C. Canada

#1
Part I

Colossal
co·los·sal

adjective:
extremely large.
"a colossal amount of mail"
synonyms: huge, massive, enormous, gigantic, giant, mammoth, vast, immense, monumental, prodigious, mountainous, titanic, towering, king-size(d); More

The word(s) above remain as a fraction of the description for the natural beauty that I experienced this past autumn weekend in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning backcountry.

Over the years I’ve wheeled with a lot of different people, in a lot of different locations, in a lot of different vehicles (lol). Adventure can be had at any time with any of the above, but the more I venture out the more I realize that having the right people with a positive attitude, is the true key to success. The first weekend of October for the past 5 years has been a representation of these sentiments. What started out as “your average” wheeling trip, has now become the staff by which my year is measured. Why this weekend in particular? For myself, this weekend is such a priority because of the combination of autumn colors, cooler temperatures, always tacky terrain, and endless laughter that comes with the social aspect of such an outing. This trip once marked a casual venture, but now acts as a placeholder for myself and my fellow explorers.

This year shaped up a little different as my usual go-to buddies were dropping out due to other commitments. My father had also been bugging me to take him out wheeling again, as we really hadn't got out too much together since our last epic run to NorCal/Moab last spring. I was feeling the pressure as the departure date dawned upon us and I had yet to make any plans for the upcoming weekend’s trip. I had no route, a very small number of confirmed companions, and with my recent promotion at work it was looking like I too, would succumb to the pressures of tight deadlines and responsibility. I tried to keep my attitude positive though, despite the snow looming on the horizon for the weekend's forecast. Tuesday night I sat down at my desk and starting compiling GPX tracks to create a route which would take us overland through the Castle area of Alberta, bear west into B.C. and arrive in the Fernie area. As the week endured, It was looking like my boss would lend a hand and allow me to escape cell phone reception for the weekend – after all I had already informed him that this was the yearly trip that I would not miss, as it would simply be irresponsible. The weather was still calling for cold and snow which was disappointing, but I kept throwing bait out there to see who would want to join in the adventure regardless. The commitment level was growing and I was up to 4 confirmed trucks by Wednesday night. Shortly after, over my nightly cup of tea, I pulled out my Backroads Mapbook and started thinking how I had recently seen some pretty interesting images in an area West of Banff National Park, which reminded me of the terrain North of Kootenay Lake which I had explored a little in the summer during my honeymoon. A couple clicks later and I was scoping the Doppler for the promise of clearer skies in the new proposed direction. I few text messages, PM’s on the local forums, and a phone call to each confirmed traveller, and the original idea was scrapped. We were heading West come Friday afternoon.


IMG_5402.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

Friday arrived and now with 7 trucks confirmed, we were the perfect sized group to remain flexible in our plans yet still large enough for some team spirit and camaraderie. I was late to the meeting location, as usual, and rolled into the Calgary Olympic park McDonalds half an hour behind schedule to see the rest of the group waiting patiently. After my apologies we hit the highway towards our staging area for the night. About 30 minutes into the drive heading towards Canmore, a wall of black clouds embraced our convoy and propelled rain and lightning bolts in our path. Considering the time of year, this is quite unusual and my last minute switcheroo was looking to be a bust. We continued with positive chatter on the radios but there was no doubt we were all thinking about how wet and brutal this night could have become.

We rolled into camp around 11pm in a small clearing next to a gorgeous mountain lake. It was raining lightly but nothing near as bad as the drive out. A fire was quickly ignited and a combination or fire warmth and Jamaican rum seemed to lift everyone’s spirits. Despite the rain and the trip looking like it could be a very wet, smiles were abundant and good cheer spread around the campfire. In my mind I decided that even if it did rain all weekend, I was going to have fun and enjoy the fresh air at our disposal. I often hope that I could do something to control the unforseen, but learning to make the best of all situations is a skill I'm still honing to this day. We awoke at approx. 9am after tucking in around 4:30am (lol…). It was early and we were tired, but we needed to head back into town to meet up with the final member of our crew who could not come out the night before. Good thing for us, he was also running late due to construction on the Trans Canada and we arrived in Radium around 11am to grab a coffee and discuss what lay ahead. With a late start we were back on gravel heading West towards our destination. The ground was damp but the clouds were slowly breaking. The air was crisp from the previous night’s rain and the colors on the trees were showing in full.


IMG_5418.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

We made several stops to take in the scenery and around every corner we were met with a new surprise and a view dramatically better than the last. The epic scenery in conjunction with the warmth of the sun seemed to lift our spirits as we progressed – the silence on the radios was replaced with livery and laughter.


IMG_5421.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr


IMG_5428.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

After driving for several dozen kilometers someone realized that we had burnt all of our fire wood the previous evening. We stopped near a clearing where some road maintenance had once taken place and began working together to stockpile the vehicles for the upcoming night. We new it would get colder as our intended route increased quickly in elevation.


IMG_5446.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr


IMG_5443.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

We eventually branched off the main road and started to gain altitude. The road was wet and windy but in surprisingly good shape. I was in the lead and decided this would be a good time to test out the new Fox's at a higher velocity. Doug screamed to life and the trees began to blur as we approached speeds in excess of 100 km/hr. My good friend Craig usually takes shotgun when my wife can't make the trip and this time was no exception. We giggled like little boys as we rallied through the woods. We rounded a corner at full speed and the rear end let loose. Up ahead was a large puddle across the road but my current rate of speed was to much to try and avoid it, so I pushed forward hopeing to hydroplane across the puddle. The maneuver was executed without issue other than a temporary loss of sight through the windshield. Shortly after our nerves caught up with us and we slowed down to cruising speed once again. We pulled over and waiting for the rest of the group to catch up. Nathan arrived moments later, apparently indulging in the fun as well. A crackle on the radio and Nathan says "Addison, where did your license plate go?". Clearly the hydroplane had been too much for the plate bolts and the hydro power of the water evacuating had caused my plate to blow off the bumper. After backtracking we found the plate in the road near the large puddle and my gimmicky license plate cover 10 feet in the ditch. A couple zip-ties and a few laughs later and we were back on the road.


IMG_5453.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

We rounded a ben further up the road and the scenery turned from excellent to stunning. There in front of us were some of the largest peaks I can ever imagine seeing, with a field of glacial ice capped above. The cameras and poser shots came out in full.


IMG_5481.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr


IMG_5475.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

After indulging the scenery we pursued our destination yet again. The road started to get rougher and rougher in combination with an increased inclination. I dropped the truck into 4-Lo and began climbing the steep goat trail. Around the next bend was the first real obstacle of the trip, with a daunting cliff drop to remind us of the potential consequences of our favourite hobby.


IMG_5495.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr
 
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#11
Excited to see more. Looks like beautiful country.
Epic. Cant wait to read part two. Hopefully next year I'll be ready to tag along ( if your willing to have me )
This is shaping up to be an awesome trip report....patiently waiting :lurk:
Great report. Waiting for more.
Awesome! Can't wait for the next part.
These pictures are breathtaking...can't wait to see more!
great writeup and pics...
looking forward to much more
I appreciate everyones comments and interest. It's a great to be able to share my experiences with you all.

Working on Part II, should have it up tomorrow.b:safari-rig:
 
#14
Sorry for the delay everyone. My computer crashed last night as I was adding all the photo links to my draft. II should have it up today if I can get my computer going!

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!
 
#15
Computer is back in action:

Part II

Moments earlier I went ahead, up from the valley's floor to scout the route. We knew there was an obstacle ahead as a new 1-tonne Dodge Ram passed us earlier in the day and warned us of the impassible. I stepped out of the truck to have a look at what we were dealing with – a large loose rockslide had come down across the road. The resulting test of nerves would put us off camber at ~30 degrees towards the expanse below. The loose earth did nothing to increase my level of confidence.
Another thing I've picked up over the years, is to keep a level head in situations that can dictate the contrary. To look at an obstacle objectively and negate the emotional aspect that might have you push through something that should not even be attempted, just for a chance at the scenic or unknown prize. Always evaluate the risk.

I picked up my radio to alert the others to come on up. Our group was very skilled and I figured I'd give it a go first and test the waters. I creeped forward and began to climb the mound with my front tires while still remaining relatively level. My front end reached the apex of the rockslide before starting to tilt the vehicle towards the mountain's edge. I wanted to keep a smooth and steady forward pace over the obstacle so as not to overuse the brakes and disrupt the trucks momentum in a direction I did not want to travel; down the hillside. A little wheelspin as the rears bit into the rise. As they climbed, the front was moving down the backside of the rockslide getting only more unsettled and off-camber. Rocks began tumbling down the mountain as the weight of my truck displaced them. Despite my gut reaction to stop the vehicle in it's tracks, I just kept moving forward at a controlled pace to keep the momentum going. In retrospect a wise choice, as my front tires reached the opposing side of the mound and started to finally combat the tippyness. In moments I was free and clear. The rest of the group followed with confidence. A couple slight hangups where consistent use began to dig trenches where the tires had been biting for traction caused a few easy recoveries.


IMG_5501.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr


IMG_5499.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

My father, still being relatively “green” was next. He remained quite calm and watched my hand signals as I spotted him over. It's hard sometimes to not get frustrated when someone (especially your old man) doesn't follow your orders, but at the end of the day I look back at the challenges we have both faced on our limited number of trail days together, and I am always impressed and proud of his stubbornness to get better. A testament to his grit as I can see his skills and confidence rapidly improve each time I wheel with him. We were over and rolling as a group in no time.

A couple switchbacks higher and the vegetation began to dissipate and be replaced with rock and a small volume of Tamarack trees (A deciduous tree that turns yellow in the fall; also known as a Larch tree).


IMG_5514.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr


IMG_5516.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

We continued forward, now with the scarred glacial rock consuming the landscape at a dramatic pace as our elevation continued to increase. We crested the next apex in the road and saw the prize in the distance; the glacier and ski hut lay ahead. The cabin seemed so out of place, a tiny square retreat standing atop a vast expanse of destruction from the glacier's receding path. The backdrop was simply stunning. To the west of the cabin lay a 180-degree view of the glacier and jagged rock while the east viewpoint overlooked the valley and expansive peaks below. I have never been to or experienced a place that so easily dwarfs you into perspective, this place was absolutely astounding and honestly felt surreal. It was like we were aliens on a foreign planet, the only sounds to be heard were the breeze blowing through the canyons and the water flowing through the caverned rock faces as the glacier melted away. It was almost as if nature itself had graciously opened its forbidden doors for the day and granted us a day pass.

Going back to the “right people” being on a trip, our entire group was so cohesive during this excursion. Not a single person took this place for granted. It was as if there was an unspoken truth and realization that this pristine place is the very reason why we pursue this hobby. It is the reason we strive to be ethical users of the backcountry.


IMG_5534.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr


IMG_5618.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

We slowly approached the cabin. Craig, my co-pilot and I were giddy with laughter, like little boys climbing up into their tree fort for the first time. The wooden fireplace and expansive windows overlooking the valley below added to the novelty. We poked around the cabin and scoped the terrain for where we would setup camp for the night. The next step was to cook up our dinner for the evening but our spirits of adventure seemed too great, and we decided to postpone the grub and continue up the trail towards the glacier.


IMG_5545.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

We continued to climb and the strata continued to impress with the enduring lateral layers of the earth exposed everywhere. The texture of these surfaces was phenomenal, some of which made the rock look like rotten wood from a glance.


IMG_5550.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr


IMG_5610.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

The pathway wound us through boulder fields as it kept climbing, until eventually, we reached the front lines of ice and a small turnaround at the top. We parked the vehicles and immediately evacuated our trusty steeds in favor of some wandering by foot.


IMG_5599.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr


IMG_5609.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr


IMG_5566.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

After walking atop the glacier, we began to explore the leading edge of the ice shelf. Craig waved me over and pointed out an opening under the glacier – which you can actually see in the photo above… We ducked under the water dripping infront of the opening and snuck inside. Immediately we were astounded. The vivid blue colors were something out of a National Geographic photo. Shiny and slippery ice boulders surrounded us on one side with the rock on our right acting as the backbone, holding the immense shelf from collapsing and crushing us instantly. To our left a small channel screamed for further exploration.


IMG_5577.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

Slowly and carefully, we wiggled through the opening to find ourselves inside of an ice cave, about the size of a large van. The ground covered with jagged ice blocks, which made foot placement very tricky, but the sheer excitement of the moment could not be trumped, despite present dangers. We passed the camera back and forth sure to get the most epic profile pic of all time. We may have succeeded….


IMG_5596.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

I could have stayed in that cave for hours admiring the ice. However the day was growing late and we still needed to setup camp. We crawled out of the cave and back down the channel that had granted us entry.


IMG_5582.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

We took the long way back to the Tundra that followed a 4' channel that had been carved in the rock where a small stream of runoff now flowed. It's amazing how the rock looked so much like wood:


IMG_5614.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

The group gathered and headed back down to the cabin. After some rock shuffling we were all able to get our “vacation homes” (attn. Dave) level for the evening. Cody was the only one without an RTT and opted to stay warm next to the wood burning fire inside the well-appointed cabin.


IMG_5646.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

The smell of a massive feast filled the air as each of us prepared to cure our hunger.


IMG_5648.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

Satisfied we all cleaned up and headed to the fire pit, which stayed lit until the early hours of the morning once again, although this time accompanied by a bottle of Scotch. The night rendered us colder temperatures but it was still manageable.

We awoke to a blanket of fog covering the entire camp in which caused us to debate which direction the sun was actually rising from. As we prepared a balanced breakfast of bacon, eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, and fresh fruit, all of our doubts regarding the days weather were turned and the sun began to peer through the encompassing fog. Within moments, the splendid peaks revealed themselves, illuminated with the mornings light.


IMG_5655.jpg by Addison Rickaby, on Flickr

We carried on with our morning preparations excited for the day that lay ahead. Our incoming journey highlighted another logging road, which deserved exploration, and would be our target for the upcoming day. We all jested that nothing could compare to the previous day in terms of spectacular vistas…. but boy were we wrong.
 
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