Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Up and over a steep mountain pass

15th June: Pemberton to Lillooet

Odometer: 102 km, Start: 9am, Finish: 5.30pm, Avg: 15.2 km/h,
Weather: Overcast and misty, some light rain, Temp: 10-16°C
Bear count: 3, Mosquito Bites: 1, Hills walked: 0 (this won’t change)
Road Conditions: #99 – no shoulder, but very light traffic. Reasonable surface, but becomes a bit bumpy for the 40km into Lillooet. Steep pass (13.5km for 1,050m ascent) 18km out of Pemberton. 3-4km of switchbacks at start are a tough 11-15%. Gradual descent to Lillooet is quite rolling until the final 6km plunge. No services on this 100km stretch.

Just had a very enjoyable day in a masochistic sort of way! I reached my high point of the tour so far at 1,300m, after climbing up and over the mountain pass between Pemberton and Lillooet. It was a tough day and quite cold and damp to boot.

Lillooet Lake after overnight rain.

I was able to take some moody shots of Lillooet Lake as I rolled out of Pemberton along the flat, lake-shore road. It had rained overnight and it was a damp and misty morning. Two racing cyclists were just unloading bikes from a car by the lake shore. They were about to ride up the mountain pass, as was I. I carried on and got a head start…

Lillooet Lake again. (More little stumps in the foreground)!

The pass started with a rather shocking 4 km of steep 11-15% switchbacks. Straightaway, this had me in my lowest gears and at walking pace. I knew the climb was a long one and realised it was going to take all morning! The racing cyclists took a while to catch up and after brief pleasantries they were off and left me to my much slower pace. (I saw them again when they sped past me on the way back down).

Still 10%. At this point I've been climbing for 2 hours.

There’s plenty of time to take in the sights and sounds when you’re climbing a hill for 3 hours! This mountain pass was very Alpine like, with turns and switchbacks through forests, tricking streams by the side of the road and snow capped mountain peaks getting ever nearer as you gain altitude. It did get a bit cold the higher I went, even though I was sweating heavily with the effort. It rained too as I passed through the cloud layer and I was forced to put on a rain jacket.

Warning sign at pass summit

I had lots of encouragement from drivers as I made my way to the summit, especially from the occupants of the RVs that lumbered past me, engines straining as well. At the summit, it was too cold to hang about so I went down, hoping to lose some altitude rapidly. Unfortunately, the other side was no free lunch. Over the next 55km the road did gradually fall, but also, dispiritingly, rose back up countless times! There was also a headwind funnelling up the valley for good measure.

Me at Duffy Lake. It's a bit cold...

About half way the road passed along the shore of Duffy Lake, a beautiful lake at 1,100m still surrounded by massive mountains. I had lunch there and within minutes, I had company in the form of half a dozen birds who were very tame and willingly took food tit-bits directly from my hand. (RSPB guys: What’s this bird?). I expect they’ve been training humans to do this for years!

Very tame birds at Duffy Lake. What species, though?

After lunch, the road followed the Cayoosh Creek, a fast flowing river, all the way to Lillooet. Several times I crossed over the river on thin wooden bridges as the road and river intertwined their separate ways down the increasingly steep side ravine.

One of several wooden bridges spanning the creek

I met my first long-distance cyclists along this stretch of the road. They were Ellen and Ekki, two German touring cyclists. We chatted for quite a while. They had already been on the road for an impressive 3 months, meandering around both Canada and the States. Amazingly, they both have Rohloff hub gears like mine! In fact a lot of our kit choices were similar.

Ellen and Ekki

I continued on, tired now, my patience running out waiting for the fast descent that I knew must come. I was repeatedly kicked in the teeth with short 1km descents and ½ km climbs. The killer blow was dealt as I approached Lillooet. Suddenly the road left the Cayoosh and headed 300m up the side of the ravine for a steep 3km climb! Eventually, the anticipated descent came, but I was impeded by a couple of slow RVs (and a convoy of cars behind) similar to those offering me encouragement many hours previously. It was a shame, the drop into Lillooet would have been a screamer.

Lillooet. Town on hillside on left.


Richard Dunn said...

According to my Sibley "The North American Bird Guide" your bird is a Gray Jay

Shaun said...

Thanks Richard. Unbelievably, I did say "Jays" when somebody at the lake asked me what I thought they were. Before my time at the RSPB, I wouldn't have had a clue!