Chilcotins Day 1 – Little Paradise – Manson – Tyoax



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Cribbed shamelessly from a previous article, here is an introduction to an area that’s getting more well-known by mountain-bikers located just four hours north of Vancouver. Within an area about the size of Belgium lives about 800 people full-time and perhaps as many grizzlies – the South Chilcotin. It’s attraction for mountain bikers is its easy access to alpine terrain and views that have to be seen to be believed. It’s honeycombed with access mining and logging roads that are linked by a network of (mostly horse) and game trails.

The Southern Chilcotin has been getting some play in the mtb media. A segment in The Collective showing riders ripping along velvety singletrack had adrenaline racing and many people saying “Where is that? And how do I get there?” I’ve had the good fortune of knowing the Chilcotin from the days of rigid forks, long stems and cantilever brakes – having embarked on my first expedition there some 12 years ago.

Mountain-bikers are latecomers to this area. While I’ve documented many trips to the Chilcotin with photos and words on my private site (and left just as many trips unrecorded), I’ve always felt protective about the area. Call it elitism, call it secret-trail-society syndrome, the southern Chilcotin has always been my little slice of paradise

shared only with a few other adventurous souls interested in venturing off the beaten path.

Things change, the word gets out and as the sport of mountain-biking has grown in popularity the number of people who are interested in venturing away from the safe confines of the Lower Mainland around Vancouver have increased. Resources like the first decent map of the area, and guided tours have made some trails “crowded”.

Having said that, crowded is a relative term. I now see other people on the Gun Creek grasslands milk-run where I never used to see other tracks. Fortunately it really isn’t that hard to ride for hours and not see another person if you take the time to explore.

The area where most people bike, hike and ride horses is known as the Southern Chilcotin-Spruce Lake Wilderness Area, designated as such by the British Columbia government in 2001 after almost 70 years of lobbying by environmental and preservation groups. A step of protection below provincial park designation, a wilderness area permits mechanized and self-propelled transport but prohibits resource exploitation (ie mining and logging).

Breakfast at the SLWA dude ranch HQ is highly recommended. All you can eat and freshly prepared

Our bikes wait patiently at the hitching posts

Then get loaded in the horse truck for transportation 30km down the road to the end of the non 4×4 part of the Relay Creek FSR

I wrote that intro in 2006 when I first went on a horseback – supported guided bike trip with eight friends to the Chilcotin. It was my first guided bike trip and I didn’t care for the experience. However, I did like the horse-back support. Essentially a horse train would take your overnight gear from camp to camp. You could wander around hiking or biking on trails and when you got to camp, your tent is made up and food is prepared. There are no showers, no wifi, no sat-phones and no TV. The camps aren’t heated. Some might call this roughing it. To me, this is a bit of a step up from sleeping on pine-boughs in a bivy bag being eaten by flies and eating freeze-dried food; in other words luxury!

For those who are interested in cost this is the email sent out with pertinent details

I’m organizing a horseback – supported Chilcotin bike trip for Sept 4th to 7th of next year. Here’s the proposed itinerary.

We ride for 4 days. Each day will have easy and hard options. Easy is about 3 hours of riding. Hard can be between 6 to 10 hours with a lot of hike-a-bike.

We carry just day packs. Horses carry the bulk of our gear. We start from campsites and finish at campsites.

Cost is $ 770 per person.

There will be no guides. We will have a camp wrangler and a cook.

We start pedalling on double track on the Relay FSR. A small 4WD could make it through this section

Just to set the tone someone suggests the lower trail “short cut” which makes for a ten minute bushwhack

As I’ve been there before with Spruce Lake Wilderness Adventures (SLWA) I’m the unofficial group leader. Things go like clockwork. We’re all up and ready to go – chomping at the bit like horses – haw haw. First we are ferried by van and truck to an assembly point where the horses are pastured. Then we are united with out bikes and day gear. While we pedal away the wranglers and horse-handlers take care of packing up.

We rode W from our assembly point along the Relay Creek double-track and then turned S up the Little Paradise drainage climbing to the alpine. I’ve got to say that the Relay Creek – Little Paradise Creek ride is OK but nothing special. Perhaps it’d be better as a downhill but the bush in that area and the bogs in the Little Paradise drainage as you get to alpine makes for slow choppy riding. Of course the views were spectacular. Riding in the valleys at about 1400- 1800m we could see peaks like Tepee, Relay and Red Hill vertical kilometers above us.

Chris gets his feet wet to start the day

Relay Cow Camp

Iori checks to make sure that we’re at the correct junction at Little Paradise and Relay Creeks. Monte forges ahead

A grinding climb up Little Paradise followed by a hike-a-bike then a time out to have a bite to eat

Classic Chilcotin bike trails in the Little Paradise drainage

Sharon on Little Paradise singletrack. Relay Mountain in the backdrop (2709m) has new snow

So far the entire group had stuck together and maintained pretty much the same pace. We got to the junction where one could turn W towards the Little Graveyard drainage and then meander down to Big Creek and over to our first night’s camp at Graveyard Creek. Half the group headed that way. Their ride was a bit shorter and they would get in well before us, as Monte, Rob and I decided to continue S, climb further towards Manson Col and descend to Manson Creek.

Kevin heads to the Little Paradise – Little Graveyard Pass as our group splits

Iori at the pass. The Dil Dil plateau and Mt Vic are far in the distance as the group descents the Little Graveyard drainage

Mark takes in the view. Relay Mountain is the backdrop

Craig drops into Little Graveyard Creek

The group enters the Big Creek drainage valleys

For me, the day really started as we split off from the others. I love riding and exploring the alpine and we had just started getting to the goods. It seemed like a tragedy to descend back to the valleys – Rob and Monte agreed and we wheezed out more effort from our sea-level lungs as we biked, hiked and pushed up to Manson Col. This turned to be an excellent choice; not just for the views (which were the usual Chilcotin spectacular) as for the cherry sidehill goatpath singletrack that wound its way off Mt Davidson’s talus-covered S flank all the way down to Manson Creek.

We barely had to pedal a single stroke and fortunately could concentrate on the sinuous trail as it snaked down and snaked in and out of creeks and natural halfpipes down, down, down.

Four of us split off and pressed on further S to the Red Hill – Manson Creek area. This gets pretty scenic rather quickly

Monte and Rob as we keep climbing to Manson Col

Lee presses on. Red Hill and the Little Paradise drainage make for great views.

The climb leading to Manson Col is full of small weathered creeks and alpine drainages. Rob and Monte drop into and climb out of one.

Rob on the last wee climb to Manson Col (which maybe should be called Manson-Tyoax-Davidson pass). Bit of a tongue twisting name but this minor pass isn’t noted in maps and was our highpoint of the day at approx 2250m.

Monte and Rob take in the view. The backdrop is the Warner Ridge – Mt Dorrie area

Monte drops into the red red rock on the S flanks of Mt Davidson

Rob sticks to this slope even as the crumbly red talus kept sliding in a perpetual cycle of erosion

Lee on Davidson’s S flank

Lee and Rob keep descending to Tyoax Pass and Manson Creek from the pass of Manson Col

Monte dropping down – Sheba’s ridge can be glimpsed in the background

Monte descending to Manson Creek

Rob dropping to Manson Creek

The climb from Manson Creek to Tyoax Pass then over to the S tributary of Little Graveyard wasn’t that hard and went quickly. It is faint in spots and you have to look for the trail as it disappears in tarns and creeks. The area also has lots of fossils so rock-jocks will be suitably entertained. The sun departed as we crested Tyoax Pass (it wouldn’t return for 48 hours) and we knew lots of hot food and dry socks waited for us at camp so we quickly made our way N on Little Graveyard, crossed Big Creek and got to camp before everyone had eaten everything.

My group covered about 36kms and climbed 1900m today.

After climbing over Tyoax Pass (not worth much of a picture – it really isn’t that significant), the weather turns for the worse. Rob and Monte making time down a S tributary of Little Graveyard to the Big Creek drainage

Hot delicious food waited for us at camp.

The direct route in red via Relay Creek (which no-one but the horses took) is in red. Half the group did the short day in blue. Half of us did the long day marked in magenta..


Covered approx. 36km, 1300m elevation





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