Bikes and Horses in the South Chilcotin – a four day alpine adventure


I wrote that intro in 2006 when I first went on a horseback – supported guided bike trip with eight friends to the Chilcotin. It was my first guided bike trip and I didn’t care for the experience. However, I did like the horse-back support. Essentially a horse train would take your overnight gear from camp to camp. You could wander around hiking or biking on trails and when you got to camp, your tent is made up and food is prepared. There are no showers, no wifi, no sat-phones and no TV. The camps aren’t heated. Some might call this roughing it. To me, this is a bit of a step up from sleeping on pine-boughs in a bivy bag being eaten by flies and eating freeze-dried food; in other words luxury!

For those who are interested in cost this is the email sent out with pertinent details

I’m organizing a horseback – supported Chilcotin bike trip for Sept 4th to 7th of next year.  Here’s the proposed itinerary.

We ride for 4 days. Each day will have easy and hard options. Easy is about 3 hours of riding. Hard can be between 6 to 10 hours with a lot of hike-a-bike.

We carry just day packs. Horses carry the bulk of our gear. We start from campsites and finish at campsites.

Cost is $ 770 per person.

There will be no guides. We will have a camp wrangler and a cook.

We start pedalling on double track on the Relay FSR. A small 4WD could make it through this section. Then we hit some bush. Just to set the tone someone suggests the lower trail “short cut” which makes for a ten minute bushwhack

As I’ve been there before with Spruce Lake Wilderness Adventures (SLWA) I’m the unofficial group leader. Things go like clockwork. We’re all up and ready to go – chomping at the bit like horses – haw haw. First we are ferried by van and truck to an assembly point where the horses are pastured. Then we are united with out bikes and day gear. While we pedal away the wranglers and horse-handlers take care of packing up.

We rode W from our assembly point along the Relay Creek double-track and then turned S up the Little Paradise drainage climbing to the alpine. I’ve got to say that the Relay Creek – Little Paradise Creek ride is OK but nothing special. Perhaps it’d be better as a downhill but the bush in that area and the bogs in the Little Paradise drainage as you get to alpine makes for slow choppy riding. Of course the views were spectacular. Riding in the valleys at about 1400- 1800m we could see peaks like Tepee, Relay and Red Hill vertical kilometers above us.

Relay Cow Camp

Iori checks to make sure that we’re at the correct junction at Little Paradise and Relay Creeks. Monte forges ahead

Classic Chilcotin bike trails in the Little Paradise drainage

Sharon on Little Paradise singletrack. Relay Mountain in the backdrop (2709m) has new snow

So far the entire group had stuck together and maintained pretty much the same pace. We got to the junction where one could turn W towards the Little Graveyard drainage and then meander down to Big Creek and over to our first night’s camp at Graveyard Creek. Half the group headed that way. Their ride was a bit shorter and they would get in well before us, as Monte, Rob and I decided to continue S, climb further towards Manson Col and descend to Manson Creek.

Iori at the pass. The Dil Dil plateau and Mt Vic are far in the distance as the group descents the Little Graveyard drainage

Mark takes in the view. Relay Mountain is the backdrop

The group enters the Big Creek drainage valleys – Craig in the foreground

For me, the day really started as we split off from the others. I love riding and exploring the alpine and we had just started getting to the goods. It seemed like a tragedy to descend back to the valleys – Rob and Monte agreed and we wheezed out more effort from our sea-level lungs as we biked, hiked and pushed up to Manson Col.

This turned to be an excellent choice; not just for the views (which were the usual Chilcotin spectacular) as for the cherry sidehill goatpath singletrack that wound its way off Mt Davidson’s talus-covered S flank all the way down to Manson Creek. We barely had to pedal a single stroke and fortunately could concentrate on the sinuous trail as it snaked down and snaked in and out of creeks and natural halfpipes down, down, down.

Three of us (Rob, Monte and myself) split off and pressed on further S to the Red Hill – Manson Creek area. This gets pretty scenic rather quickly

Rob on the last wee climb to Manson Col (which maybe should be called Manson-Tyoax-Davidson pass). Bit of a tongue twisting name but this minor pass isn’t noted in maps and was our highpoint of the day at approx 2250m.

Monte and Rob take in the view. The backdrop is the Warner Ridge – Mt Dorrie area

Rob sticks to this slope even as the crumbly red talus kept sliding in a perpetual cycle of erosion

Monte descending to Manson Creek

The climb from Manson Creek to Tyoax Pass then over to the S tributary of Little Graveyard wasn’t that hard and went quickly. It is faint in spots and you have to look for the trail as it disappears in tarns and creeks. The area also has lots of fossils so rock-jocks will be suitably entertained. The sun departed as we crested Tyoax Pass (it wouldn’t return for 48 hours) and we knew lots of hot food and dry socks waited for us at camp so we quickly made our way N on Little Graveyard, crossed Big Creek and got to camp before everyone had eaten everything.

Hot delicious food waited for us at camp.

The direct route in red via Relay Creek (which no-one but the horses took) is in red. Half the group did the short day in blue. Half of us did the long day marked in magenta..

Covered approx. 36km, 1300m elevation

About the author: Lee Lau

Lee Lau calls North Vancouver and Whistler BC home. He's had over 15 years experience riding bikes mainly in western North America and in Europe. Unlike many people who learned to ride bikes on North Shore trails, he actually enjoys riding (and sometimes bushwhacking) uphill.

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