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Old 07-13-2010, 05:18 PM   #1
Mr Sleazy OP
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“Dual Sport” has two sports, right? Ride to climb the mountain: Sky Pilot in Squamish

What do I do with my life? Well, spend time with my 8 year old son (he likes baseball, tennis, hiking, swimming), work my job, and for adventures ride a dual sport motorcycle. 2010 Husqvarna TE510. Great machine.

It’s a dual sport bike, right? I mean, it has a license plate, but was designed for off-road riding and not much else. Dual sport:





So does that mean that riding on pavement to get to a trail is a “sport”?? Does that mean that when I ride to work on my bike I am engaged in sport? When I go get some groceries in my backpack on my bike it’s a sport?

Seems kind of weird, but I guess it wasn’t me that called it a “dual sport”. Enduro seems like a better name, or dual purpose. Whatever. I wanted to do a trip that really did have two sports involved.

First one is obvious, off-road riding. That’s a sport, right? Here is a definition of sport: there is risk of death or injury, you have a desired outcome which is not pre-determined, its mostly useless for any practical purpose, and you perform better with practice, fitness, and experience. That covers the definition of sport, doesn’t it? The riding I prefer is difficult – the stuff that after you make it through (if you do!) you say to yourself “Wow I made it through!!!! Woooooot!” Not saying I am hardcore or anything, I just like to have to work at it.

What about the second sport? Well, how about mountain climbing? There is definitely risk, no pre-determined outcome, it is useless for practical purposes, and is very technical. In some ways much like off-road riding. OK, this is something I have done lots in the past, just not so much in the last four years or so as early midlife sets in. This would change this weekend.

This is what I am going to try to get to the top of, the tall one in the centre:







The photo above isn’t mine and was taken in the winter, not from the past weekend. Good photo, though!

Skypilot, at 2031 m, is the highest peak on Goat Ridge above Squamish, BC. Overall, it’s a pretty small mountain, a day trip for a fit mountaineer. Primarily a rock climb, but with a small glacier to cross on the north side. The classic route is the west ridge, shown in the photo above as the right skyline below the tallest peak. The difficulty rating for this ridge is class 3 to 4, which means that some climbers will use a rope while some will go ropeless (scramble). Climbing moves at this difficulty can have significant “exposure”, which means there will be lots of air underneath your heels. Obviously, since I am on my own, I will fall into the ropeless category.

Here is my complete route, starting just south of Squamish, which is a mecca for the outdoors crowd in Vancouver:







Blue line is where I drove with my bike packed on the back of my Jeep Cherokee, just basic gravel forestry road. Red line is the trail (an old falling apart logging road) which accesses the climb. Its actually pretty heinous. Green route above shows me now non-motorized, hiking / climbing to the top of the lower summit of the peak. Only the blue line was easy.

Packed up late Friday morning, and loaded the bike on the back of my Jeep:






I could have ridden the bike up to Squamish (60 km of pavement) but wanted to have the comforts of car camping: cooler with beer, laptop with movies, folding chair. Plus this way it saves me changing knobbies too often. Drove to Squamish, made sure I had enough fuel and beer, then headed up the gravel Stawamus / Indian road. Parked on Friday afternoon at my favourite secret campsite, unloaded the bike and went scouting for the day. Finished up with some fine honey lager and a horrible movie about Irish prisoners going on hunger strike.

Next morning up at the crack of 8:30 to head off for Sky Pilot. I had climbed this peak about 15 years ago, and my memory was that it was overall fairly easy. Today I would find out the truth, relative to my 40 years of age. Either the mountain has gotten more difficult over the years, or something else has changed…….

Loaded up the bike, and made sure I had a handful of tools in case anything breaks out on the trail. Usual stuff like tire irons, tube, 8mm, 10mm and 12mm sockets, leatherman. Oh yeah, one other tool that you don’t see taken along on too many off-road rides:







My trusty beat up ice axe. This is the tool you need for steep snow climbing. Its early July and still lots of snow up in the mountains right now, so I know I will need it. It goes into a backpack along with food and water for the day, and I make sure to be armoured up for the trail. Now I am ready:







No MX boots this time, I need the mountain boots for the climbing. Knee pads underneath climbing pants, and a good pair of sunglasses. Tunes on the iPod to keep me company on the trail. Forgot the sunscreen, a total dumbass move.

The trail starts off real easy, its just plain vanilla logging road. Lots of that around BC. The roads with recent maintenance are cruiser, while the older ones are falling off the mountain or just don’t exist anymore. I drop down below my campsite about 3 km to turn north onto the Shannon Creek branch of the Stawamus/Indian Forest Service Road. Like I said, just cruiser FSR:







There has been timber harvest along the lower Shannon road in the last couple years, so this part winds through slash piles and has had recent maintenance. Would not last long, however.







Map shows the Shannon Creek road in red. You can see the cut blocks at the bottom, but past that the old road gets progressively rougher and rougher. Its not long until I am on “real” off-road riding, right at the top of the cut blocks where things start to get steep and loose:







We get A LOT of rain and snow here, so when its wet the water just washes down the roadbed and pretty soon there is nothing left but the larger boulders, or maybe just a big gully if its really bad. When these roads get old, the brush, especially alders, also grows in and will eventually block the road completely.







Right in the photo above is where the trail starts to flex its muscle. This spot is a bunch of boulders dumped in place by the Ministry of Forests (MoF) a bunch of years back after some local kids drove their jeep off a cliff up on the Shannon road. MoF closed the road, dumped the boulders in place, and now to get up there you need a dirt bike, quad, or a very heavily modded jeep.

This kind of riding is a Squamish specialty:







Steep, loose water rolled boulders and smaller rocks on an old road bed, grown in with alders, salmonberry, devil’s club, or whatever other green stuff is out there so you can’t avoid the loosest stuff. Trail starts to angle steeply uphill through a bunch of this junk. Back tire spits out smaller rocks, while the front bounces off all the weirdly angled boulders littered over the trail. I blast up with numb hands from over gripping the bars, fall over once into the alders, then make the top of the first steep hill. Lots more where that came from!

Once you crest the top of the first steep hill after the boulder blockade, you go past a memorial to the kids killed in the jeep accident, and then the trail basically turns into singletrack:







No real troubles here except where it gets steep, with a couple exceptions. The tiny little creeks that are just muddy puddles in the summer are raging torrents here in the spring, and when they cross the road they make pretty short work of it, carving huge gullies into the old roadbed.





To be continued later on...........
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Old 07-13-2010, 05:26 PM   #2
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Old 07-13-2010, 08:31 PM   #3
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Nice

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Old 07-13-2010, 08:34 PM   #4
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Continued .....

The photo above shows tip-over number two. I thought I had made it free and clear of this gully, but right at the top my front wheel bounced off something and down I went. Oh well, second try. Up and out.

Next up is the spot where the road fords Olesen Creek. Creek crossing itself is no problem, only up to the axles, but with slippery boulders in the bottom which make it really hard to have momentum for the hill on the far side. I dump over again coming out, and go down on my right side right into the creek!






Luckily that’s NOT the side my iPod is on, so no consequences except for wet gloves and an inverted bike.

Here is where I get the first view of Sky Pilot, still about 8 km off in the distance.






Sky pilot is the peak to the left, while the sharp looking bump to the right on the ridge is called the Co-Pilot. Its actually much smaller than Sky Pilot.

A little past the viewpoint I make a left turn onto the even more overgrown Habrich road, which hardly even looks like a trail when you get to it. Luckily, local climbers have built a huge rock arrow in the middle of the trail to tell me where to turn:






From here the trail goes into utter jungle. Bushes and branches whacking your helmet, and you can’t really see more than about 10 m ahead of you if you are lucky. Lots more steep loose sections, but in here you can’t really see what’s coming up ahead. Bike is performing flawlessly. I don’t fall over any more.











Finally I finish the thrash and park the motorcycle at a clearing. I de-armour, make sure my climbing kit is in order, throw a bottle of juice in the icy creek, and now I am non-motorized. Sport number one finished for a while, on to sport number two!












Above is the first section of trail, though calling it that is pretty generous. Scraggly forest on the edge of avalanche gullies. At this time of year, the avalanche gullies are still full of snow, which is actually a really good thing.

Now the ice axe starts to come in handy. It doesn’t work as a walking stick. If you can use it that way the snow is not steep enough to really need it. The axe is to stick into the steeper snow to give you something to hold onto. But most important, if you start to slide down a snow slope, there really isn’t any way to stop except using the axe for what is called “self arrest”, or alternately, running into something really hard. The second method is not favoured.







Top of the avalanche gully, things flatten out on the bench underneath the north face of Sky Pilot.






To be continued ..........
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Old 07-13-2010, 08:38 PM   #5
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Nice! Mountaineering and motorcycling...two of my favorite things
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Old 07-13-2010, 08:58 PM   #6
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Nice ride!

Nice riding Mr Sleazy...

I'm a noob here, but also a BC guy!

Your pics look like really familiar territory and your life is very similar to mine!

I'm out in Maple Ridge... Great riding out this way.
If you ever want to see some, let me know!

(Hopefully this image loads...)

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Old 07-13-2010, 09:07 PM   #7
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Entertaining!

Downside: now I want a Husky in my stable...
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Old 07-14-2010, 09:04 PM   #8
Mr Sleazy OP
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Hey bcnaturedoc -

I was just trying to figure out where that photo is taken, is it near Seton Portage?

Or is it at Stave?

Hmmmm..

Edelweys - just get one you won't regret it!
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Old 07-14-2010, 09:17 PM   #9
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Continued ..

OK back to the story.

Here I get my first close view of my objective. I will be following the ridgeline on the right in the photo:





Up and across the snowfields and over a small pocket glacier. Snow is nice and firm in the early season, with the odd rock patch sticking out of the snowfields. I try to walk on rock slab whenever I can, because it’s a little easier going uphill on rock. Downhill is a different matter – descending snow is WONDERFUL!

Check the alti watch, making progress – 1740 m. I left the bike at about 1070 m, so have made a little under 700 m of elevation gain so far. 291 still to go. I am running a bit behind because of my late start, but I should be near the summit around 3:30. The watch shows a graph that tells me I have been climbing steeply uphill. Yeah, no sh*t!



As I get closer to the ridgeline the slope increases, and I have to kick steps firmly into the snow to give good footrests. Snow is not icy at all, however, which is nice. Also really overheating, so every 10 or 20 mins I kneel down in the snow and put my head into it. Brain freeze!



Sat down on some sunny rocks to have a quick lunch, and sent a check-in home to my wife on the SPOT messenger:



Green arrow shows where I was. Satellite image taken in the winter, so not near so snowy as that. If I get hurt up here, then the rescue team can start searching from the last check-in.

Right below the ridge, the last snow step is just to the right of this photo, then onto the ridgeline itself, heading up and left:



Up on the ridgeline I get into the rock climbing and leave the axe behind for the way down. Mostly cruiser, until I get to the crux slab:



A “crux” is the hard part, which usually stands out. This slab is intimidating, pretty good holds but the ridge drops off into cliffs on both sides, and the step itself (orange – brown area in the middle of the photo above) is about 40 m tall. The exposure climbs!

Fortunately, the holds are quite positive and solid:



Scrambled up the first slab crux, now I am getting somewhere! Higher on the ridge and the exposure kicks up a notch:






I am almost at the summit, feeling good about myself, when I come to this:



Nasty! I sure don’t remember anything this ugly from the last time I was up Sky Pilot, 15 years ago. Maybe it grew???

I edged around the right side of this steep section (technical term: gendarme) and downclimbed a bit to check out the remaining route to the top. Steep moves in a shallow gully with your heels hanging out over about 800 m of air. A short traverse over a rock rib into another gully. Yikes!

Went up a few metres, then down. Up again, and down again. One important thing to remember about ropeless rock climbing is that its harder to go down than to go up. So if you go up something that seems kind of sketchy, you better get ready for a very scary time on the way down. I did have about 15 m of webbing with me that could be used for an emergency rappel, but I did not want to have an emergency. Ropeless climbing can be very safe, so long as you know EXACTLY what you are doing.

I decided to leave off at this point, and settle for the lower summit of the peak. Victory pose at the “almost top”, with the real top in the background over my left shoulder:



I am starting to look lobster red in the photo. Forgetting sunscreen = dumbass.

Here is the hiking / climbing part of the route right to the lower summit of Sky Pilot:



About 3:45 now and its time to get down. Should take me about 1.5 hrs to get back to the bike, then maybe an hour down the trail to the Jeep. Descending on snow is very very good because you can “glissade”, which means skiing on your boots. Not easy to stay upright (which is where the ice axe comes in) but on the way down you move fast. Really fast. Glissade tracks:



Back to the bike in about a quarter the time it took me to get up, saddle up with gear and armour and back into the jungle:



Way down was much easier on two wheels, no falls at all. It’s the combo of rear wheel spinning and front wheel bouncing that makes hill climbing difficult, which is usually not an issue on the way down. I appreciated the rear brake on the left hand that I get with the Rekluse; much easier to prevent the rear wheel locking up.

Bike onto the jeep again, and back home into the city to find out both my wife and son had done well in their tennis tournaments over the weekend.

Cheers, thanks for following!!!




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Old 07-15-2010, 08:03 AM   #10
bcnaturedoc
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rockin' BC style

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Sleazy
Hey bcnaturedoc -

I was just trying to figure out where that photo is taken, is it near Seton Portage?

Or is it at Stave?

Hmmmm..

Edelweys - just get one you won't regret it!
Actually its just south of Harrison Mills... The forest service road is called Mt Woodside. Down the same trail leads you to an overview of Harrison lake that not too many people know about...



I live close to Stave... so this is the regular stomping grounds...



But it can get a little crowded there... especially on the weekends nowadays. I like going a little further east.

At any rate... not meaning to highjack your thread here!

Your pics look awesome!

Good on ya...
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