Lord Nerd Beta: Iron Pass
10/06/2015 | Chilcotin Range, Coast Mountains, British Columbia
I Iron Pass: Prospectus
In early September of 2015 we spent four days riding/pushing/pulling/carrying/dragging/shoving/sliding/portaging our bikes over a series of arduously steep passes in British Columbia’s Chilcotin Range. If you look at the place on the internet (for example, on Yonder Journal) it is Nat Geo pretty. It’s also very steep, very accommodating to grizzly bears, and usually very snow covered. So before going into this adventure we couldn’t help but make few assumptions:
- It will snow. All of our previous Dead Reckoning experience up to this point tells us that it will snow. At this point, we’re convinced that were we to do a Dead Reckoning trip to Aruba, it would snow on us while we snorkeled through the dazzling colors of the island’s coral reefs.
- There will be be bears. These bears will be grizzly bears, and grizzly bears are alpha predators. Essentially what were are going to do is we’re going to lash food to our bodies and to our bikes, then tease the bears while sleeping/eating/playing/defecating in/on their front lawn. Don’t worry, we’ll have some bear mace, aka anti-maul pepper spray, and bear mace has a better than 60% efficiency rate of stopping an ursine attack. This is not confidence inspiring; 60% is flunking, 60% is a poor chance that you’ll survive disease, 60% is an Everything Must Go sale. 60% is not what you want from the little spray can you’re supposed to use to fend off a mini-truck sized fur tornado with a hardcore knife obsession. No, you want more than that; but you take what you can get.
- We’re going to take a float plane into our start spot, tactical insertion style, sounds cool right? That’s because it is cool. Visually it reminds us of the opening scene from the movie Predator, you know, all these bad ass tactical dudes get flown into some remote place and then get systematically murdered by a space assassin? (see B.C. Chilcotins #2).
Were we correct? Well, if you read the full account you will get a sense of exactly how close we were in our predictions. What else do you have to do? Work? Take care of your kids?
BC is MTB hallowed ground. For the past few decades big travel mountain bikes have been de rigueur for shredding and blasting the well known trails of B.C.’s coastal range and beyond. But B.C. is big, and the Chilcotins are a mountainous area with minimal access, rugged terrain, and hordes of serious animals enjoying seemingly endless wilderness. Getting around here is difficult and road access is very limited so we devised our route around float plane access, a few established trails, and all-terrain compatible bikes that would be capable of tackling a route that criss-crossed a long series of passes over four days and nights. Some of the passes that we rode/pushed/struggled over included; Iron Pass, Shoulder Pass, Deer Pass, Windy Pass, Eldorado Pass, and Goat Bone Pass(?). We started at Crystal Lake and over the next four days we struggled our way back to floatplane HQ, Tyax Lodge.
Because we aren’t 100% certain about our route; Google Earth and on-the-ground knowledge vaguely agreed that our proposed path was possible but hard specifics were not forthcoming, we wanted a set-up that would handle unknown-unknowns as well as unknown-knowns and known-unknowns. Also, we wanted to maintain our policy of being fully self-supported, i.e. no pack mules, no drop points, no behind the scenes porters hauling espresso drinks up the side of the mountain, etc. Hey, we love espresso drinks, we have no beef with mules, and we tip porters generously, but in the spirit of the project, we carried our own shit.
Single, limited edition of thirty 18×24″prints. Art by Sam Taylor. Screen printed by hand in Brookyln, NY by LQQK Studio.
II Route Map
Brief Histories: Iron Pass/Graveyard Valley Researched & Compiled by Dillon Maxwell
- Subdivision of the Pacific Range.
- Many glacial features can be seen in the region.
- Geologically complex with many different sedimentary rock, ancient ocean deposits, evidence of lava flow, and granitic rock.
- Fairly low precipitation.
- Wolverines have been spotted in some of the remote areas of the Southern Chilcotin.
- Two large lakes that out flow to the Taseko River.
- Taseko comes from the Chilcotin word Desiqox, which means mosquito.
- Also known as “Many Roots”.
- Between the Chilcotin and Bridge River Basins.
- A War between First Nations groups was fought here in the 1840s between the St’ am’imc and the Tsilhqot’in.
Big Creek Provincial Park
- 67,918 hectares of protected lands.
- Established in 1995.
- According to British Colombian Park Service, the park is not patrolled regularly, and visitors should be cautious.
- There is no paved road access to the park, only trails and logging roads.
- Cattle grazing is permitted in the park as a part of the land use management plan.
- Many of the trail systems in the region come from First Nation groups.
- The Region is a borderland to three First Nations Groups.
- Also known as the Chilcotin.
- Had an extensive trade network pre-European contact.
- Began to trade with Europeans in the late 1700s, which eventually lead to disease epidemics which took out large populations of the group.
- Known mainly as a hunting tribe.
- Also known as the Shuswap.
- Their name is a reflection of their connection to the waterways in the Fraser Basin.
- Also known as the Lillooet.
- Broken into two main groups, Lower St’ Am’imc and Upper St’ Am’imc.
- In 1911 signed the Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe ensuring sovereignty over their lands.
- Part of a child’s inheritance is knowledge and wisdom passed on by Elders.
- Prospectors in the 1900’s set forth to the Chilcotin Range to strike gold
- The area did not see any large scale mining, nor did any small time prospectors hit it big
The St’at’imc and Tsilhqot’in War
In the mid-1800’s the St’at’imc and the Tsilhqot’in Nations fought a short war after several raids took place after the Tsilhqot’in raided several St’am’imc bands. The decisive battle took place at Many Roots, known today as Graveyard Valley. The St at’imc won the final battle and Chief In-Kick-Tee, also known as Hunter Jack, initiated a peace treaty between the groups in 1845. Each First Nations group involved in the war holds Graveyard Valley in high importance due to the great losses on each side. Despite the formal peace treaty, tensions between the groups remained until 2003 when representatives of the St’ at’imc and Tsilhqot’in met in the name of peace and reconciliation to erect a memorial to the fallen warriors of each group in Graveyard Valley.
Bike Setup In Two Parts
- 1. Load the heaviest items closer to the seatpost for the best weight distribution.
- 2. Excellent for light but bulky gear; the Mr. Fusion is stable as a rock
- 3. Ideas: sleeping bag, clothing, camp shoes (e.g. sandals, slides, Lunas).
- 1. Clearly the correct choice for a 4 day full self supported riding in the Chilcotins.
- 2. Insane traction for climbing up pre-bike/pre-mule designed trails.
- 3. Excellent braking capabilities. So you don’t fly off the side of a mountain. Run the tires at 13psi and you get comfort, performance, and traction!
- 1. Best for your heaviest/densest objects.
- 2. Ideas: food, stove/kitchen, tools, water.
- 1. Remove them and then tape over the bosses to reduce wear on your framebag.
- 1. Lash Anything Cages to the fork for necessary additional gear carrying capabilities.
- 2. Use Porcelain Rocket stuff sacks to hold any leftover dense/heavy items, like fuel and parts/tools.
- 1. Pelican Case bolted to a front rack provides the ultimate protective storage for Daniel’s Canon 5D Mark 3.
- 1. Waffle sole provides excellent traction for all in camp purposes. Easily lashed to seat bag with long toe-straps.
- 1. Any type of outdoor survival gal/guy/person will tell you that, for your buck, a full tang knife is what you carry in the outdoors. Erik knows that, he's not stupid.
- 1. If you are committed to knives as a essential part of the utensil family, then prove it, get one tattoo'd on your leg. Erik's got one, and it is BAD to the BONE.
- 1. At this point in the development of bicycle technology, legs remain a crucial element for bicycle mobility.
- 1. There are so many beautiful little stones, and pebbles, and pieces of broken sticks, and weeds, and other assorted elements in the world. Lord knows they have their place, but he also knows that their place isn't in your shoes. That is why he/she/it gave someone the idea to invent gaiters.
- 1. This rope type was specifically invented to hold a person to a parachute, while the whole deal–person/chute/cord–is being violently, but very consistently, tugged at by gravity. You have got to be tough to tango with gravity.
- 1. Erik has taken this waterproof-ish pack with him on every trip that we have been on together. Its basically a square sack that he lashes to his rack or stuffs inside his panniers. FYI - Fjallraven means Artic Fox, just like Erik.
FYI Basic/Assorted Tips
BRING BEAR SPRAY. I don’t know how to put this delicately, so I won’t. Grizzly bears don’t mess around; given the chance and the proper provocation they will happily tear the limbs off of your body. One minute your arms and legs are there, the next they’re National Forest ornaments. The thing about grizzlies is that they are Bears; I mean they are land-based alpha predators the size of VW bugs with steak knife teeth, Boy Scout knife claws, and the acute senses one is blessed with after thousands of years of genetic honing. Being alpha predators they have had the opportunity to position themselves on some pretty nice property; natural resource rich plots of land where they can live a charmed life of binge feeding and passing out; grizzly bears live the life that every stereotypical freshman jock aspires to; get into a fight, slam some ‘za, and then pass the fuck out.
If you’re like me, then you value life and your limbs. And because of this you should do your best to avoid getting involved in a confrontation with a griz. Hey, do you like riding bikes, brushing your teeth, playing slow pitch baseball, and managing your Facebook account with the easy breezy nonchalance of functional appendages? Well then let’s keep those arms and legs around. This means that if you are traveling in a bear village then you need to come prepared, and coming prepared means carrying bear spray.
Bear mace is highly concentrated ghost pepper extract that has been compressed in a small canister in such a way that it can be discharged towards a target with reliable accuracy. You spray the bear in the face and the ghost peppers temporarily melt its eyes. The idea being that the bear’s temporary blindness is better than your permanent dismemberment. We at Yonder Journal agree with this assessment. We want to keep our appendages, and if you are like us then you’ll carry a canister of bear spray with you when traveling in griz country. Because it’s the right thing to do.