Going Places: South Chilcotins

February 10 — 2017

A look inside Emily Slaco's ladies-only rides with Tyax Adventures.

Emily Slaco is the nicest badass you’ll ever meet, so much so that you might not even recognize how badass she really is at first. She guides for Tyax Adventures: ski trips in the winter and bike trips in the summer, has raced the Megavalanche and Trans-Provence, and is currently in Chile at Santa Cruz Andes Pacifico. On top of all of that, she’s a genuine backcountry outdoorswoman who has been operating in the South Chilcotins, BC for many years. For the last couple Emily’s been organizing a few women only multi-day guided rides in the South Chilcotins (and in 2017 she’ll be leading a very special Juliana event in the area).

Britt Phelan is also one of the nicest badasses you’ll ever meet—and she’s an Olympic skicross competitor. Based in Whistler, BC for half of her year, and traveling the world for the other half the year, she skis (of course), skateboards, rides bikes, and spends an awful lot of time in the gym doing some of the silliest/craziest workouts you’ve seen. Really, check out her Instagram!

We teamed these two amazing women up together to give you a look at what a ladies-only South Chilcotins trip with Tyax Adventures looks like. Read on for Britt’s take on the experience and a taste of what to expect when you roll with Emily and a group of lady-rippers into the deep woods of Canada.

The Beginning

Going on a trip to the Chilcotins was an amazing experience. I didn't know too much about that zone prior to going there; I had only seen amazing landscape and bike photos from some like-minded adventure enthusiasts that I followed on Instagram.

It was an odd feeling, but a good one, to leave Whistler during one the busiest summer days of the year (right before Crankworx Slopestyle). The craziness of Crankworx is always thrilling and exhausting, so leaving to the wilderness in such a peak busy time in Whistler felt like the perfect escape. Also, getting to go with such an amazing people made this an experience that I cherish.

To start, we drove two hours outside of Whistler on bumpy dirt roads and arrived at Tyax Lodge. There’s a paved route to Tyax too, but the remoteness of Hurley pass offers the best route with the most incredible views—just be sure that you’re prepared with four-wheel drive and good clearance because things get rough! Our float plane out to Lorna Lake was at 9am the following morning, so we camped out and awaited the start of our trip with excitement and anticipation.

Day One: Finding the Wild
26kms / 5-7hrs (575m climbing, 750m descending)

The next morning after a casual breakfast, Katie, Seb, Gary, and I loaded the bikes into the tiny float plane and took off on our three-day, hut-to-hut trip. The flight didn’t take long, and we went straight over the mountains and terrain we’d be riding. It’s not often you get a bird’s eye view of the trails you’ll be riding for three days!

After we arrived at our first camp, Seb said something that really stuck with me (and even 6 months later, I still think about it almost daily); he said, “all we have to do today is eat enough to bike all day”. In a world so fast paced, internet and data reliant, with a million things to get done everyday, you inevitably become disconnected with yourself, and nature. It was the perfect reminder to slow down, enjoy the company you're with and your surroundings, and be super stoked that you are riding your bike in the wild on some unreal trails!

From Lorna Lake the trail was somewhat technical and required crossings of Big Creek. You’re bound to get wet riding in the Chilcotins, so deciding whether to wade or take your socks off becomes less of a problem the further you ride. Eventually we made our way through the Graveyard Valley (with awesome views), up the big climb/hike-a-bike that was Elbow Pass, and then down a long, flowing singletrack descent surrounded by peaks and scree slopes straight to the open meadows of Bear Paw camp.

The long day on our bikes went by way too quickly. We saw all kinds of weather, and vegetation. Every mountain pass we went over was a completely different zone and style of trail. The unknown of what was over the next mountain kept things really exciting. The climbs were long and involved lots of hike a bike, but the descents were also long and very rewarding.

Route Finding

Juliana Bicycles Image
Gary Perkin

Day Two: From Bear Paw to Spruce Lake
30kms / 7-8 hrs (1055m climbing, 1250m descending)

The sun greeted us through the cracks in our canvas wall tent and it was time to start riding. Our second day started off a little like the first but before long we had climbed over 700m and reached an altitude where the weather can be really unpredictable. It’s not unusual to get snowed on, even in the middle of summer, so you have to be sure to pack a waterproof layer at all time. We stopped at Trigger Camp a quick lunch and coffee (it’s prepared for you on the Tyax trips!) and, if we had been feeling really ambitious, we could have jumped into the cold glacier water for a chilly swim. It wasn’t long before we hit on the trail again and made our way through the rolling hills and the next few climbs on the way to our final camp.

Arriving at the huts at Spruce Lake after the long day on the trails was a good feeling. It’s an awesome feeling to have a plan to go from point A to point B, accomplish that plan, and then get greet with hot beverages, snacks, and the chance to kick back and talk about how amazing the riding was and all the funny things that happened along the way.

The wall tents provided some of the best sleeps I've ever had. So good in fact, that Katie and I didn't even wake up when a float plane did a fly-by to drop off a bike part for a different group at our camp!

The next morning we'd wake up with the sun—no alarm, no emails to check, no worries or apprehensions—get our bike gear on and enjoy a few casual cups of coffee and hot breakfast, and then ride bikes all day to the next destination.

Hut Lunch on the Run

Juliana Bicycles Image
Gary Perkin

Day Three: Rolling Home
27kms / 7-8hrs (1091 climbing, 1656 descending)

The last day of riding was another incredible experience. Upon arriving back to Tyax, it felt like our mission had been a massive success. Everyone was happy and had thoroughly enjoyed our adventure into the wild. Dirty, smelly, and completely content.

After a great restaurant cooked meal at Tyax, we hit the road back to Whistler, and civilization.

As soon as we had cell service we were all back on our smartphones. I immediately looked up who had won the Slopestyle event at Crankworx, and then started digging through the small mountain of missed messages and emails.

I try to remind myself of how I felt riding my bike from camp to camp in the Chilcotins, to keep it simple, enjoy it. Being out in the vastness of the mountains in the Chilcotins gave me a sense of belonging to the great whole of which we are a part of.

Getting to explore the place gave me a taste of what I want to pursue in the future, and what I try to do every day. Be happy and love what I'm doing. I think this is why mountain biking is the fastest growing sport right now. It's pure enjoyment, and a means of transportation to escape and explore new breathtaking ground. Being out in the wilderness with no cell service, riding bikes all day, and all worries and pressures left behind.

If you’re doing a guided, multiday trip with Tyax Adventures then a lot of the logistics are organized for you, all you’ll really need, besides some basics, is a good attitude, a sense of adventure and the willingness to push through. It’s worth the effort, trust me!

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