The Mountains Beckon

Exploring the Inside Passage and relaxing into ‘ferry life’ provided a welcome break from days in the saddle. Glaciers, whales and small communities inaccessible by road were the headline acts and the ferry provided a great way of seeing it all. Likened to a poor man’s cruise there was even the option to camp out on the top deck, forming something resembling a mini refuge camp. Naturally I chose this option and by chance pitched up next to two German chaps doing pretty much the same trip as me but by Land Rover (www.road2rio.com). Great guys who’d made the smart move of bringing a sizeable stash of beers on board (don’t mind if I do!).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ice Ice Baby (Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau)

With my coastal jolly behind me it was time to get back to the matter at hand: riding south, or in the case of the past couple of weeks, almost directly east. From Prince Rupert, lured by the prospect of big snowy mountains, I cycled across British Columbia to the majestic Canadian Rockies for a spot of hiking. Following the rather ominously termed ‘Highway of Tears’ (due to a string of missing female hitchhikers) it felt surprisingly good to be back on the bike and for once completely pain free. I’m now able to actually get out of the saddle on climbs without my joints crying for mercy, quite a bonus when your power to weight ratio is as pitiful as mine!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Into the Rockies; Mt Robson’s North East Face

Untitled

Loading up ‘The Beast’ with a weeks worth of supplies before the Rockies (It’s times like this I wonder why I bothered leaving out that extra pair of boxer shorts to save weight)

Now that I’m starting to get stronger on the bike and am less of an exhausted wreck each day, I’ve finally got round to learning Spanish. Generally I’ve been dedicating each morning to the cause, obediently following my audio tutorials and reciting a lot of quite random sentences as I cycle along; “Look! Pablo is very drunk! He is an alcoholic”. I think I’m progressing reasonably well, although I’ve yet to practice on an actual person, instead settling for imaginary role-play with myself. Whilst not quite feature length epics, I’m trying to cover the key scenarios:

“ I would like three of what he is eating please”
“THREE??! But you are small…”
“Yes, but I am VERY hungry!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Apart from the introduction of ‘Spanish mornings’ life on the road has generally continued as before, with my daily routine now a well practiced model of efficiency. Now that I’m starting to pass through more populated areas I’ve been able to escape the tent for the odd night and stay with kind folk from ‘warmshowers.org’ (basically the cycle touring equivalent of ‘couch surfing’). Despite my veneer of grime and general aroma these generous souls have welcomed me into their homes with open arms and have really added to the trip (big thank you to John, David & Megumi and Curtis & Bonnie!). This kind of adventure can often be a roller-coaster of highs and lows, and the day I arrived at Curtis and Bonnie’s farm is a good case in point. Convinced I wasn’t in the right place, it was pitch dark and I was absolutely exhausted, having eaten only a carrot and a couple of cereal bars the night before due to stove issues. So when a very friendly old couple answered the door and ushered me in for homemade pizza and a cold beer, I almost shed a tear! I ended up staying two nights on this idyllic little farm, with Bonnie taking it upon herself to stuff me with home cooked delights until I could barely stand. I am eternally grateful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Curtis’ Classic Chevy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cracking open the home-brew

The downside of populated areas is that, as a grubby cyclist who lives in a tent, I often feel quite out of place. Wild camping certainly becomes trickier and in one small town ‘The Ride South’ definitely reached a new low. I arrived well past sundown and after searching in vein for the seemingly non-existent municipal campground, out of sheer desperation I ended up camping in a small park. Given the limited space I was rather unfortunately located just metres away from a children’s play area and it wasn’t until the morning that I fully appreciated the ridiculous nature of my situation. Emerging bleary eyed from my tent at 9:30am, I greeted some understandably concerned looking mums with the most refined British accent I could muster. I hoped this would go someway to reassuring them I wasn’t a raving pedophile! It seemed to work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’d be the first to admit that there are times when the life of a cross continental cyclist shares a number of similarities with that of a tramp. Take away the bike and the fine line between the two can be barely perceptible. This struck me when I was trying do some laundry but didn’t have the correct coins for the machine. Naturally I headed outside and I asked the first people I saw “do you have any change for the laundry?”. After a series of unhelpful responses, without so much as even looking in their pockets, it suddenly dawned on me; “Bloody hell, they think I’m begging!”. Then, thinking about my phrasing of the question and the fact that I was well into unwashed ‘wild man’ phase at this point, it kind of made sense. I was akin to the chap loitering outside Sainsburys asking whether you can “spare a little change for a coffee?” or in this case for “laundry”, whereas in actual fact it would no doubt be funding my raging crack addiction. Following this realisation I changed tack slightly, thrusting my $2 coin in full view before posing the question. Needless to say I had instant success.

It’s times like this when I often think a little badge wouldn’t go amiss saying something like; ‘I’m a chartered engineer, honest…!”. Likewise when I’m sprawled out in front of a supermarket, devouring half a roast chicken whilst almost simultaneously downing a litre of milk from the carton (probably with a little trickle running down my beard).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Puncture 2 : Curse of the Giant Staple

So, after a week and bit of cycling I finally reached the Rockies and almost immediately ditched the bike to set off on a four-day hike up into the mountains. This was quite a mission in itself as I’m not used to carrying so much clobber, but the views were absolutely cracking. I was however, apparently travelling relatively lightweight compared to the Irish guys I camped with, who, amongst other necessities, had lugged 3 litres of wine with them (talk about stereotypes). Fortunately, given the sub-zero evenings and their dwindling supply of stove fuel, I was able to barter hot tea for a cheeky tipple! Combined with the mystery beer left outside my tent it proved to be a fairly indulgent little excursion. It’s quite a surreal experience sipping red wine whilst overlooking a glacier, listening to chunks of ice breaking off and thundering down into the lake below. Definitely recommended.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

‘Backpacking Mode’ Enabled

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View from Snowbird Pass (Robson left, Rearguard right)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Overlooking Robson Glacier

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Reef Icefield

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Summit of Mt Robson catching the moon’s light

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Berg Lake & Glacier

I’m now resting my weary legs for a couple of days in the tourist hub of Jasper and preparing for the next leg of the trip. The plan is to head down through the Rockies before blasting back across BC to Vancouver. It’s starting to get pretty chilly at altitude, with the first snows on the passes expected soon, so the pressure’s on to get clear of the mountains fairly sharpish. My late start date in Alaska was always going to mean cutting things fine in terms of the weather, but so far I’ve been lucky, enjoying unseasonably good conditions all the way down. Hopefully the Rockies are similarly obliging!

17 responses to “The Mountains Beckon

  1. Another amazing post! Ben nearly spat his cereal out when he got to the learning Spanish bit! Hope you make it west before the snow. Heading to whistler while you’re there? Xx

    • Thanks Ali, yep I’ll be heading to whistler, although I’m not sure I’ll be brave enough to take to the trails…I’ll certainly be glad to get over that way though, it’s getting bloody cold up here!

  2. Hey Paul!! It all sounds amazing, we are VERY jealous! especially of the chicken and milk scenario. We took red wine on all the great walks in NZ and despite judging looks from the “proper” hikers we thought it was an excellent idea too! Take care. Bethan xx

  3. Your writing is excellent and a pleasure to read. But then I suppose you benefit from having excellent material to write about! Your stories are incredible.

    Perhaps if I could lose 10kg and can’t make 9-5 workout then I’ll do something similar.

    Looking forward to more reading.

  4. Hi Paul,
    Another cracking read, you’re stories have the ingredients for an epic HBO production! Good luck for the ride through the Rockies and keep up the Spanish!

  5. Hey Paul. It’s Dan from the Jasper hostel here. Love the website and your way of writing is captivating. I personally love the way you bracket some thoughts. You will definitely help me out for my upcoming trip across NZ (your gear page is awesome) and I’m looking forward to keep reading how your progressing. Keep it up. Sometimes you don’t feeling like blogging but it’s all worth it in the end. Cheers. Dan.

  6. Loving what we’ve read from your blog so far and very impressed with your photos. Hope the icefields weren’t too cold tonight. We passed you on your way up on our hitch out of jasper looking very focused (but maybe that was just the Spanish?!) Hope to meet again from Jess and Tom (Jasper Tim Hortons)

    • Hey guys, thanks for the message, it was cool to chat to some fellow like-minded brits, hopefully we’ll cross paths again at some point. Good to know I look focussed on the bike, I was probably just trying to concentrate on generating some kind of feeling in my toes! Cheers

  7. Another great read, Paul – and mt robson in moonlight is a breathtaking shot.

    looking forward to reading more.

    all the best.

    spencer

  8. Hola Snr Griffiths, muy gracias por sus historias muy interesantes! Glad your injuries are healing and you havent been shot at yet. Looking forward to more

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s