Shulaps Traverse attempt

I’ve had pretty dismal luck trying the Shulaps Traverse. The first time I did get it but got lost for about 3 hours and just about killed one of the ride partners because we had to move so fast to get out in daylight.

The second time, I flatted the tire on my car and never did get there. The third time, I never even got there; badly hurting my wrist a week before the big trip. It was with high hopes that Sharon and I set out this time.

Pat Mulrooney’s writeup is here We drove in from Lilloet under the arch of a big rainbow in the Yalakom valley

We camped at Marshall Creek FSRS – a very nice spot up the Mud Creek Road. The turnoff to the Marshall Creek and Marshall Lake FSR aren’t marked and are past the private property signs on the Mud Creek FSRS between the 82 and 83 km signs at about 1100m. Then go down another gravel road for about 1.5km to “24 hour surveillance sign” and turn left to go to Marshall Creek FSRS or go straight to get to Marshall Lake FSRS. We camped there because the Brett Creek singletrack finish to the Shulaps is just 2km down the road from the campground.

Joining us on this ride are Pat, Danielle, Zdenek, Todd and Joe. We used directions from Maurer and Vrba’s 1999 “Mountain

Biking Adventures in Southwest British Columbia” guidebook.

Keep in mind the date and the fact that logging roads can change a lot in 7 years.

Later passing through Lilloet I picked up a new guidebook: “Canyon to Alpine: Lillooet Hiking Guide” by the Lillooet Naturalist Society” which is much more current and way more poetic … nay – rhapsodic …. then Maurer/Vrba’s terse descriptions. Italicized quotes are from the Lillooet guidebook.

The ambience of Ainsworth Lumber clearcuts greets us. …. “Winter wrens may serenade you as you admire the wildflowers in season

At km 7.2, 1,110m Maurer and Vrba tell you to “stick to the main road”. At km 7.6 they tell you to “keep left at the Lac La Mere sign”. MAJOR PROBLEM. In year 2006, at km 7.2 there is also a Lac La Mere sign (maybe there wasn’t such a sign in Year 1999). Also at km 7.2, in Year 2006, the road forks, both the left fork and right fork look like main roads. We take the left fork – BIG MISTAKE.

Here we are starting our BIG MISTAKE – or I’d prefer to call it the first EAST-WEST TRAVERSE OF AINSWORTH CUTBLOCK A-37.

As we shoulder our bikes and crunch upwards through this moonscape the Lilloet Naturalists remind us to “…listen for the musical descending song of the Hermit Thrush. Red-breasted Nuthatches, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Clark’s Nutcrackers can also be heard“.

Eager to make the FIRST ASCENT, onsighting cutblock A-37 with purist style, Pat leads outinspired by the exhortation to “enjoy the cool waters and the wildflowers in season

Watch for Golden-crowned and Fox Sparrows in the alpine shrubs.” Listen for humming Stihls and barking Husqvarnas.

We waste a total of 3 hours and 1000m of climbing bumbling around in the woods bringing me (bad) memories of my VOC days. What really sucks us in that the Maurer, Vrba guidebook tells us to look for the hike-a-bike trail at 1510m. There is a trail at 1510m but its a game trail.

The well-worn trail climbs steadily through a mature mixed spruce and pine forest with White Rhodendron shrubs and wildflowers

Photo by Pat Mulrooney

After stumbling upwards for another few hundred metres and then retreating downward back through a mess of slide alder and cut birch I’m reminded that grizzlies, cows and just about everything has thicker skin and an easier time bushwhacking then two-legged humans with bikes on their backs.

So, here is my tip for the day; if you are trying to do the Shulaps Traverse and you see this cutblock, RETREAT. Besides not only did we do the first east-west traverse of Cutblock A-37, Joe and Pat also did the first circumnavigation.

Sometime in the middle of this bumbling, we figured out that there are now TWO signs to Lac La Mere and that when Maurer/Vrba tell you to “keep left at the LAC LA MERE” sign that the guidebook really should have said “keep left at the SECOND LAC LA MERE sign. It’s now 2.30pm and for some inexplicable reason Sharon doesn’t seem think that we can still make the Shulaps Traverse in daylight so she volunteers to drive the remaining car back (Danielle has already bailed).

Well, well. The Lillooet Naturalists have been busily putting up signs. This just about takes away the sense of alpine adventure doesn’t it? This is at the Maurer/Vrba 9.9km, 1400m “Turn left at this junction and follow the branch south” instruction.

Well, we bumbled it again. Maurer/Vrba say at 10.2 km/1410m “Turn right and climb”. PROBLEM - there is no right fork. At 13km (1510m) – “the road levels …look for the start of the trail”. 1580m – no trail – maybe a flat landing another 50m above us. It’s now 4pm. It is about this time that I recall that the elevation given in the book was not always reliable… Let’s see who’s willing to spend the night out at 2200m on the Shulaps Traverse? Only the crazy Czech volunteers

…. RETREAT.

I’m not sure why these guys look so happy. We just rode 20km of fireroad and climbed 1000m on either gravel or bushwhack. And we still have 75km and 1200m of climbing to do to get back to our campsite now that we’ve so smartly sent back all the cars and drivers.

5km down the road and 500m of elevation later Todd and Joe say adios to Cutblock A-37 and the ”harsh call of a Clark’s Nutcracker from the Whitebark Pines or the faint high-pitched song of the Ruby-crowned Kinglets” in their own special way.

Some of that fabled Chilcotin gravel road

Look at where we had to go Todd. Yeah – up there to the right – to that snowfield. That’s 2kms straight up there buddy. You know you want it.

The peloton heads out down the Yalakom canyon.

Where’s my aero bars wonders Zdenek? Shces mrdiat .. last time I let Canadians plan a trip

The peloton takes a break in the canyon. It was only about 6 years ago that BC Hydro agreed to let regular water flow through the dam upstream so that the Yalakom River could flow on a consistent basis. River plants and wildlife are already coming back.

Photo by Pat Mulrooney

Photo by Pat Mulrooney

Uh guys, I forgot to mention that summer thermals in this valley blow west to east. Of course, we’re riding west into the wind

Last 10 km to the last big climb from Carpentar Lake to our campground and the peloton disintegrates due to a combination of headwinds, sheer exhaustion and Joe’s mutant machinelike ability to pull a group faster then any of us can draft. Here’s Pat starting the 500m 13km climb back to the campsite. About 5 minutes later he cracks - later he recovers nicely and we all get in somehow.

We’re all pretty beaten to crap after this ride and can’t be motivate to do too much the next day. Pat does his best to recover.

Picture taken the next day as Sharon and I are driving back shows how far the alpine is above the valley floor

I lost the glorious elevation profile of our traverse and circumnavigation of Cutblock A37 so you’ll just have to make do with the equally exciting stats for our Tour de Shulaps logging road stats from the ride from the JUNCTION WHERE EVERYTHING WENT WRONG to our lunch break at the Yalakom Canyon

This next thrilling segment shows our ride from the Yalakom Canyon back to Marshall Creek. Our total for the day was 95km, 2200m of climbing and 2400m of descending.

At least we got some nice pictures of mountains on our drive back. Here’s the Joffre Group from the Duffy Lake Road

Here’s a sight that will be familiar – the Tantalus Range from the Hwy 99 pullout. The new Jim Haberl hut is at Serratus – Dione col. Skiing anyone?

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