Now we have some action! It’s snowing HARD and there’s already accumulation at our campsite in the nice, safe, comfortable valley bottom. I’ve been talking it over with Monte and we’re both comfortably that we have enough equipment, gear and the right mentality to go for Windy Pass and then over to Lick Creek - 700m up into what might be a bit of winter.
Understandably, no-one else wants to come with us; so we’re a nice fast two person group making tracks.
Winter at Spruce Lake camp
Top picture is Monte at the Spruce Lake – Gun Creek junction. Bottom picture is Mark and Peter the same scene at the same time of the year from 6 years ago but without the snow.
At lower elevations, the trail is in great shape – tacky even. Snow doesn’t start accumulating till 1850m and we’re making good progress.
Monte at the point where snow starts accumulating. The views from here should be breathtaking
As snow starts accumulating, our pace slows and I start revising my time to gain the pass from 1.5 hours to 2 hours then 3 hours.
Monte through a valley which is prime grizzly habitat
Approaching Windy Pass itself, it gets a bit blustery and winds kick up to about 40 – 60 kmh. Wind-transport slows us down a tad more and we start getting into knee-deep sections.
Lee approaching Windy Pass. Photo ~Monte Westlund
Top is the view looking down what we just came up – ie west down the High Trail towards Spruce Lake.
Note the temps! Bottom picture is my brother, Chai, descending the High Trail from Windy Pass three years ago when the weather was a bit better.
Monte getting back to his mountaineering roots.
I was pretty happy when we saw the top of Windy Pass and especially when I realized that knee-deep drifts were as deep as it was going to get. I suspect Monte was just as thrilled.
Top shows Monte approaching Windy Pass. Bottom shows Simon and Steve from three years ago at the same spot.
The descent from Windy into Eldorado Basin was tricky. Surprisingly the snow offered great traction – it was simply too cold for the ground to have iced up. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for our shifting, our gears and our fingers and faces.
Top shows the view descending into Eldorado Creek. Bottom shows the same viewpoint during gentler times.
As we get lower into the Eldorado Basin the snow gets progressively stickier - soon I’m cursing my cleats and wishing I’d ridden flats or toeclips. Brakes still work – thank god for disc brakes but shifting ain’t doing squat when one’s cassette and rings are one big giant ball of snow.
Poor Norco taking its lumps
All through this ordeal I must say that the bike performed like a champ. I tore off a couple of derailleur hangers; managed to twist and tear the derailleur itself, ripped off a piece of the big ring, yet the Fluid kept on ticking. I’m not entirely sure that Pete SS at Norco knew what I had in mind when I said I’d give the bike a good “ass-kicking” but kick the poor Fluid around I did and it held up just fine.
Approaching Eldorado Creek cabins
Finally we get to Eldorado Creek cabins where both Monte and I realize that we’re home free! A short while to warm ourselves up and grab a bite to eat and another short climb to the top of the last pass before we drop into Lick Creek and it’s a long 1800m – 6000 foot downhill to come.
As the snow thins – the descent to Lick Creek shines
More descending down Lick Creek
The other’s in our group have descending the high Gun Creek route down the Gun Creek Freetard Express. They handily beat us down to the Gun Creek Ranch – the trail was relatively clear of snow for them.
Top is the view of the high Gun Creek trail descent looking ESE to the Bendor range. Bottom is the view of that same ride in summer replete with alpine flowers.
Total riding distance for Monte and I was 26km over 1115m of chilly ascending. When we got to Gun Creek Ranch, we were greeted by warm showers, fresh cocoa, coffee, brownies and biscuits and lots of salty chips. What a perfect way to end a great day, a fine trip and a good test of our biking skills.
Map of our routes for the entire trip below