The Icefields Strike Again: Day 12 - Jasper to Columbia Icefields - And Then We Pedalled...... Cross Canada 2015 - CycleBlaze

June 14, 2015

The Icefields Strike Again: Day 12 - Jasper to Columbia Icefields

When you wake up and see a dusting of fresh snow on the peaks surrounding Jasper you'd better plan for being cold at the icefields. We did, and we were.

I've done this ride many times before. It always starts out great but it is always crapshoot once you get to the icefields. They create their own weather systems, and since its an icefeild, to no surprise the systems they create are generally nasty.

It was overcast this morning, cold ( about 4 c) with a pretty good wind from the north. Since we were travelling south this was all good. It is 102 km to the icefields with about 1000 m of climbing. For a Sunday traffic was quite light going our way. At the 85 km mark we'd gained about half of our elevation and things were going really well. This is the point where the serious climb up Sunwapta pass starts, about 500 m in the next 7 km's. About 2 km's into this Bill's rear hub decides to pack it in. And the wind changes from north to south. And it starts raining. And then it starts hailing and threatening to snow. Back in the icefields again! (Note to folks who are thinking of doing this ride, it is beautiful and the weather is great sometimes. Even when its nasty at the icefields, its fairly localized to the few km's right around the glaciers).

So we've got 7 km to go to the campsite, Bill's rear hub won't give any forward momentum (seems like the pawls won't engage, and its a Phil Wood hub!). So Bill is walking up the pass, Kirsten and I are grinding up in first gear into the rain / sleat and wind. Pretty wild contrast to the grind up Allison pass on day 3, freezing rather than boiling.

When Kirsten and I get to the icefield centre ( where there a hords of tourists milling about looking at the glaciers), it is just crappy outside. We looked at each other and reminded oursrelves that we said we'd camp when the weather was good or when we wanted too. At this point neither of those conditions were met. There is a hotel at the icefields, fairly pricey but with rooms. Done.

We book a room, Bill arrives just as we are finishing checking in and 40 minutes later we are all showered and warm.and guess what, the rain and wind stop, the sun comes out and the Columbia icefield reveals it's harsh beauty.

Bill has organized to take a bus back to Canmore where he'll get his hub repaired, and Kirsten and I will set off for Lake Louise.

Despite the bike problems it was stll a good day of riding overall.

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Song of the day:

I Used To Could by Mark Knopfler. This came on just as I was starting the steep climb at the 90 km mark. Thirty years ago  on a bike without a granny gear I used to climb this non- stop, .... 'I don't do that anymore, but I used to could....'

Historical Monument of the day:

Storyboard and 'official Government of Canada' monument to David Thompson, HBC and NW Company explorer and surveyor of most of western Canada. We didn't realize how much of the country he explored and 'discovered' for the British Empire

We're wearing a lot more clothing this morning!
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Winter driving conditions? In June? Welcome to Alberta
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Long gradual climb south from Jasper. Traffic pretty light
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When it rains you get rainbows!
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Riding along the Athabasca river
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Looks like s good perch
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Getting closer to the ice and the climb up Sunwapta pass
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Looking back north along the climb. Weather looks ok that way but it's nasty to the south where we are going
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Kirsten waiting near the top of the steep climb section of Sunwapta pass. Hanging out the the very 'touristy' sky walk. The gov't spent millions to build a glass sidewalk that overhangs part of the canyon at the north end of Sunwapta, buses thousands of tourists in each day in the summer and then charges them a small fortune to go for a couple of hundred meters walk. The entrance provided a nice wind break for Kirsten as she waited for us as we tried to figure out Bill's hub problems. If she looks cold it's because it had just finished raining / snowing on her
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Tangle creek on the north side of Sunwapta
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It had cleared up nicely a few hours after we checked into the Icefield hotel. Nice view of Mount Athabasca that flanks he Athabasca glacier on the south
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Today's ride: 103 km (64 miles)
Total: 1,112 km (691 miles)

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