Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Watershed Death March

There are big rides that you can do in this part of the world. 
There are massive days on the bike, with bonks, possible slogging. Cold feet, numb hands. Vast tracts of trail to get lost in, and countless back roads to connect. But this 'ride' was one that justifiably made its way into the annals of Victoria Cycling. 

Superbowl Sunday, February 2013. Tom Skinner– Wheeler, wicked fast bike racer, and insatiable explorer convinced a clutch of us to circumnavigate the Victoria watershed by bike. What followed was the closest to serious consequences that any of us had encountered on a Sunday ride.

Tom Skinner's recap can be read below, or found in its original blog form HERE.

Strava Files (Incomplete) can be found HERE.
Chopper Dan & Tom– still all smiles in Sooke

"Lots of people have been asking for a recap, and I laughed at Alex when he asked who was going to blog about this, but I figured this might be the easiest way to let people know what happened on our epic ride turned crazy adventure.

So here's what happened....

Clay, Parker, Jamie, Dan, Halldor and I met at the Switch Bridge at 9am Sunday morning. The plan was to ride out to Otter Point (just passed Sooke) then head north through a series of logging roads and climbs and skirt the boundary to the Sooke watershed. Going all the way around the watershed would have us pop out at Shawnigan Lake, when we'd have to ride home over the Malahat. Ten minutes down the Goose we see Alex ripping along the highway beside us trying to catch up...  so we started the ride with seven of us.

We made good time out to Sooke. Everyone was fresh and as the road narrowed passed [sic] Humpback road, we went single file and the pace picked up. The only place to fill bottles on the whole ride would be in Sooke, only 90 minutes in, so we stopped at a coffee shop and gas station, split two litres of coke, then headed up towards Otter Point.

Going north passed [sic] Boneyard Rd, the road turns to gravel and climbs up for about 30-40 minutes. The weather was nice. Hal and Alex were pushing big gears on their cross bikes, but the rest of us were on mountain bikes so we could still keep a decent cadence. About 45 min from Otter Point Rd we hit snow. We weren't sure what to do first, but when we started to ride on it we realized it was hard-packed and fast. Occasionally we would slip out or get pushed over by someone else into the snow, but we were seven dudes laughing and having a good time, so we continued on.

We climbed up and over through the snow. We crested a peak and started to descend. As we went down, the snow started to get patchy and it disappeared. We were stoked. We cruised on some open, muddy logging roads, and then got to more snow.

This second bit of snow was different from the first. You could ride it in spots, but it was an exercise in futility. We walked lots and appreciated any soggy ditches that we could ride along. It didn't make sense to turn around, because by this point we would have to climb up and over the snowy peak again; at least three hours back to the main road at Otter Point.

Evening came and most of us ran out of food. Hal and Chopper Dan filled their bottles up in a fast moving creek. Then a couple hours later Dan filled his bottle up with snow and put it in his back pocket so it would melt. I thought it was a good idea and did the same. Alex was really starting to fade on the cross bike, so the rest of us took turns walking his bike for him. We past [sic] some amazing little lakes that looked like they should have a cabin on them or something, but then we realized that we were in the middle of nowhere. No one had cell coverage.

We kept walking with the help of Jamie's GPS, and bounced back and forth between swearing out loud, and joking that we should just turn around and make it a ten hour day. We talked about how keeping a positive attitude was the difference between our day becoming a horrible death march, and an epic adventure. We plodded on and used Jamie's only light on the red safety setting so we wouldn't waste the batteries.

At midnight Parker got cell coverage. He instantly got loads of text messages and missed calls. We phoned Jenny and instantly got her voicemail. Her phone had run out of batteries trying to call various people since she phoned Search and Rescue at 8pm. Parker called his girlfriend and Jamie called Danielle. We told them we were all safe and were still planning on walking out. The police phoned us and placed us in Sooke, as per the GPS coordinates that Jamie gave them, but we knew this was wrong. They told us to keep one cell phone on, and to turn the others off. They also said for us to stop and wait if we left cell phone service, which we didn't do because we knew exactly where we were. We descended down into the back of Koksilah Provincial Park, and had trouble connecting the road when it suddenly ended in a giant mound of dirt. After a little bit of scouting, we realized that we would have to cross a river by foot, then rejoin the road further up. Jamie lit the way while we all waded across, and on the other side we found tire tracks that we could ride in, opposite a large barricade. The snow disappeared quickly after that, and the six of us who were lightless, flanked Jamie on either side as we descended down along a steep fireroad towards Koksilah. We saw lights through trailer windows as we kept coasting down through the woods, and we knew we were close to the road. After one last junction we popped out on asphalt and I recognized the turnoff for the Kinsol Trestle. A car approached us and slowed, and it was Shawnigan Lake RCMP. We told them that Jenny and Noe were just up the road waiting to get us, as we finally made contact with them about an hour ago at 2am.

Five minutes later a car blasted up the road and I recognized the lights of the Corolla. Jenny ran out of the car and hugged each of the seven sweaty dudes, and I was actually amused by the fact that everyone wanted to chat about the ride and hang out behind the car and not get going. Once we got in the car we all proceeded to wolf down any and all of the food that Jenny and Noe had brought for us, and I pulled off my shoes to reveal some very cold, clammy and bloody feet.

Now that it's over it was a cool adventure. At about 6pm I was ready for it to be over, and at 3am I was glad that it was. The one thing that I learned from the day was not something about preparedness or paying attention to the weather, but that the attitude of a group of people can be the biggest determining factor in whether something is a success or not. On the whole, everyone in the group was very positive, helpful, and optimistic, which for me made it a day that I won't forget. "

- Tom Skinner
Tuesday Feb 5th 2013

Last coffee at the Stick in the Mud.

Baby-face Hal keeping his coffee cool

Skinner. Dude is a serious dose of positivity. And bad ideas.

Rideable, right?

Trail conditions started to deteriorate about now...

This ride is a big part of the origin story for Old Man Fireroad. 

"There's no such thing as bad weather. Just bad clothing."

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