Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mountain Biking: Jumpingpound Ridge

Tuesday through Monday this past week I camped in Kananaskis with my son. We mountain biked up and down Jumpingpound Mountain on Thursday. This is A on the trail.

The 23 km round trip (south to north) started from Mt. McDougall Memorial. Part of this trail is included in the Trans Canada Trail. The fast open doubletrack along Canyon Creek changed abruptly after 0.7 km when we turned left and began a steep climb up a gravel track, which would likely be more appropriately termed “The Rock Garden.” Were it not for my son’s pep talk and sincerely earnest prayer for me, I would have turned back after 10 minutes. I regrouped after a rest, noted the distance to the summit was 5.9 km and adjusted myself to a more sustainable pace by hiking my bike up the majority of the switchbacks. This took us “through pine forest and meadows brimming with wildflowers. As it crests the ridge, the trail becomes less steep and the views begin.” (1)

We ventured briefly west on a lovely detour, which led to lunch on huge boulders with views of Mt. McDougall. Boundary Ridge, Mt. Baldy and our starting point 500 metres below.

The final climb to the peak was a technical skill-testing section. To reach the actual summit (2,240 metres or 7,349 feet), we parked the bikes and hiked the last 100 metres. The 360 degree panorama rivals anything I have seen. Moose Mountain to the east, Cox Hill to the north, Fisher Range and Compression Ridge to the west. You are looking south past me in this picture on the peak.

As rain clouds began to drop their bounty, we spent only a few moments on the cold wind swept mountaintop. It truly was a lifelong memory - a true bonding moment between mother and son as we descended - singing together in harmony: “You raise me up so I can stand on mountains… you raise me up to more than I can be.”

The 2.5 km ridge descent north from Jumpingpound Summit “provides the most stunning riding in the area, with easy single-track leading across open meadows above the tree line.” (2) This is an understatement. The exhilaration of pure speed, plummeting downhill faster than I ever dreamed was worth every moment of the prior climb. It was just as the book described: we experienced “some of the most spectacular and exciting ridge riding in the Rockies…through flower filled alpine meadows with a sweeping panorama of the front ranges of the Rockies.”(1)

Of course, being an inexperienced rider, I didn’t quite have the skills to handle deep ruts. When my speed got the better of me, my helmet had to come to the rescue of my face as I “biffed” (a 13 year old’s term) and ended up with a face full of dirt and the bike upside down in the pine trees. A washed off the scrapes with his water pack and I patched my knees and shoulder from the first aid kit. The welts from the handlebar goring my thigh didn’t show up until the next day. I am eternally grateful for divine protection during my more extreme ventures.

The left turn at the fork provided an additional 3.8 km of technical riding on rocky switchbacks. With relief, we reached the Powderface Trail, a former logging road of well graded gravel which would provide the most difficult challenge: up and down for an additional 9 km back to our vehicle. It seemed far more level when driving it earlier that afternoon.

One minor complication was the lack of cell phone coverage. As all backcountry bikers should, I had notified my hubby of where we were and when we expected to return. I was 3.5 hours past my estimated arrival time. By the time I was able to reach an area serviced by my soon to be ex-cellphone provider, he had already notified Kananaskis emergency services. My first words were “We’re okay” and he was able to cancel the “missing persons” alert. Novice bikers: double or triple the estimated trip time in the book. The book said 2-4 hours. It took me 6.5 hours.

Would I do it again? Yes. I gained the utmost respect for my son and his athletic ability. We shared an experience that will rank in the top 10 of my lifetime memories. I hope he feels the same way.

(1) Backcountry Biking in the Canadian Rockies, Doug Eastcott, Rocky Mountain Books
(2) Map: Bragg Creek & Sheep Valley / Kananaskis Country, Gem Trek Publishing

1 comment:

  1. CONGRATULATIONS and Bravo!! The scenes are breathtaking. You certainly have a lot more courage than I do.