On Wednesday night, I got a message from Gabrielle Booth:
“What are you up to on Saturday? I’m thinking biking and skiing…”
Bikes and skis are my favorite things. And someone on Facebook was offering free beer to the first ten people to combine the two, so I was all in. We tossed around a few ideas and then settled on riding up Seymour to attempt the summit. This had the dual function of also being a test run for a self-propelled edition I wanted to do of the annual Winter Longhike (“Winter Longbike”).
Saturday rolled around, and I pulled myself out of bed at 6:00am to put my skis on my bike and ride down to Breka Bakery and meet Gabrielle. To my dismay (but not surprise), it was raining. We went in to get some pre-trip pastries, then continued on our way down the quiet streets.
At 9:00 we reached the base of Mt. Seymour, and after a stop for snacks, the real work began. Google Maps estimated that we’d reach the top of the road by 11:00, but with the heavily loaded bikes, it was slow going. We crept upwards in our lowest gears. Cars flew by us. Gabrielle said the riding wasn’t stressful; meanwhile, I strained my eye staring down each car in my rear-view mirror, ready to jump in the ditch at any moment. After an eternity, we reached the 1km marker. 1km… out of 12. No option but to keep cranking. We talked about sailing, urban transit, various forms of precipitation, and everything in between to distract ourselves from the grind.
At almost noon, a full 2.5 hours after we started our ascent, we finally rolled up to the lodge. Flat ground again! Warmth! Relative dryness! While we dined on sourdough and hard-boiled eggs, a bunch of other VOCers came in – they had come to Seymour (in cars for some reason) for Tele School. After chatting with them for a bit, we started the faff of transitioning from biking to skinning and headed back out into the rain.
Snow conditions were stellar… if you like your snow to have 100% moisture content. It still made for easier skinning than the icy conditions I’d previously seen in the area, and we reached Brockton Point in no time.
Things got trickier as we approached First Pump Peak – a layer of wet snow on top of a harder layer of wet snow made traversing up some steep sections very difficult, as well as potentially producing loose wet avalanches. We looked up at the much steeper slope above us, consulted our Avaluator, and with the lessons of Thursday’s Jared Stanley memorial lecture fresh in our minds, decided that would be our turnaround point. So we ripped our skins and pointed our skis back down the hill.
Gabrielle about to ski down near a small loose wet slide I triggered
By the time we got back to the lodge, we were thoroughly soaked again (not that we’d ever been particularly dry). We went back in, ate the rest of our food, and came out to an incredible surprise.
With the unexpected sunlight approximately quadrupling our morale, we hastily got the skis and panniers back on the bikes. Testing our brakes before we started the decent proved correct her wise words from a previous trip (“There always be faff on bike trips, ‘cause bikes always be faffin’.”), Gabrielle’s skis messed up her rear brake and it took us until almost 5:00 to fix. So we’d get to do the real fun part of our descent – riding down Mt. Seymour Road – mostly in the dark. Luckily the warm temperatures meant no chance of ice on the road, or this would’ve been terrifying. With the freshly clear weather, it was exhilarating – we made it down in about one-fifth of the time it took us to get up.
The ride back through Vancouver was far more relaxing than anticipated, again due to the clear weather. We hit almost every tourist attraction, too: Stanley Park, the Lionsgate, Gastown, Science World, and Granville Island. Maybe this is the ride to take visitors on when they come to town. In Kitsilano we parted ways, satisfied with a very successful first foray into self-propelled ski touring. Time to plan the next trip!