The Other Way Around | Across Canada: bigger, further, wilder!

We are Arline and Bertrand, two Swiss climbers who decided to quit our habits and comfort zone to live a big adventure while joining sport climbing crags all over the world by bike. We left Switzerland in April 2021 to travel more ecologically, having all the gear packed on our bikes.

This article is the 3rd part of our adventure. If you missed the previous parts, check them here.

A multi-season start on our way to Penticton: 

Vancouver, the point of departure for our third chapter: cycling and climbing in the Rocky Mountains. Through Warmshower’s (a platform where cyclists can offer and find a place for a night) we got in touch with Gabrielle, and she allow us to camp in her front yard, so we can visit the city and get ready for our journey into the wilderness. But before we get there, we cycle three days through the Fraser Valley to Hope: houses, gardens, farmlands, and beautiful green and mossy forest. They are part of the Nordic Rainforest, and we quickly realized why: once the rain has settled, it will stay humid for multiple days. And this also means snow in the higher altitudes. 

As we leave Hope, we get directly into the wilderness of Manning Park. And what looks tiny on the map, turns out to be enormous: 150 km through no man’s land: no village, unirrigated rivers, and the trees grow and fall in all directions. When we look at the map in the morning, we think that the day will pass quickly: the road goes straight, it turns left, then right, and that’s it… but after a few hours, we are still wondering when the first turn might arrive and quickly understand, that we must change our scale compared to Europe, and especially Switzerland.

After we have passed Manning Park and are cycling towards the Okanagan valley, snow turns back into rain, altering with hale and then stops. We can feel that rain is less frequent than on the west side of the mountains. The air feels dryer and the trees have lost their moss. A perfect climate for some beautiful climbing in the sun on the rocks of the Skaha Bluffs; THE Canadian spot for climbing in early spring.

Climbing in the Skaha Bluffs:

We install our basecamp just next to Lake Skaha at the Burbery Green campground with a magnificent view over the cliffs on the opposite shore. The first day after cycling, we usually have a rest day to chill, look around and get some food and a guidebook for the coming days. But this time, we added a visit to the dentist, as Bertrand must take out the next wisdom tooth (the first one was a real emergency while we were climbing in Verdon, France). And the X-Ray shows that the two left ones must be taken out as soon as possible. But this can wait for Canmore… Bertrand recovers fast and two days later we are back to the crag. 

The Skaha Bluffs are granite formations with cracks, crimps (small horizontal holds) and slopers. To access the different sectors, you walk approximately 30 to 45 minutes through the regional park, and to get to the park we add one hour of cycling around the lake, which gives us some additional exercise and we end up a bit more tired to the crag. We could do traditional climbing (need to put removable protections as we go up) and sport routes, all more beautiful than the others, between 6a and 7c. The return to traditional climbing for Bertrand was quite funny: when he takes a Camalot (removable protection) which is not the right size the first time, he sometimes throws it down on the rope bag because he doesn’t like to hang it on the harness to take a different size… then he continues climbing without putting any protection… before trying again to find the right Camalot a few meters higher. 

During the ten days in the Skaha Bluffs we also had some zoological variety: gopher snake, rattlesnake, or California Quails (funny birds with a small antenna on their head that moves back and forth when they run). But as the rain came back, the snakes hide again, and we hit again the road towards Canmore in the Bow Valley.

Through the wilderness on our way to the Bow Valley:

Doped with some Cinnamon Buns we start the climb up to Chute-Lake on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail (KVR). In the morning of our departure, it is almost sunny, but as we are going on, it starts to rain and keeps getting stronger as higher we go. By the end of the day, we cycle on muddy, wet, and snow-covered roads. At Chute Lake we can dry all our stuff and have a calm night to be ready for the next day. Cycling on the KVR-Trail bring us high above the Okanagan Lake and the bridges of Mira Canyon with sunshine and an amazing view. In Mira Canyon we also meet for the first time the Chipmunks. These small rodents can become really annoying if you keep food in your tent: within some minutes they eat themselves through your bags. So, it’s not only wise to hang the food bags up in the trees due to the bears, but also because of all the small animals. 

During a morning break, we meet Yorka and Patrick, a couple who has done a lot of cycling tours and who gives us plenty of good advice. They even offer to accompany us for a few kilometres by bike and guide us through the city of Vernon to get out as easily as possible. At noon, they invite us for a lunch at their place! A wonderful day. We leave under the rain and can put the tent at Doris and George’s place. The morning after, they even propose us some pancakes. We are overwhelmed by the sympathy and kindness of the Canadians we meet. After 4 days and a half of cycling, we arrive in Revelstoke and decide to stay an extra day to avoid the rain and to be able to cycle under the sun through the Glacier National Park.

From Revelstoke we head towards Roger’s Pass through the Glaciers National Park. We cycle on the emergency lane of the TransCanada Highway just next to big trucks and all the other traffic. The splendid landscape helps us to forget the traffic noise, and we are lucky to see a black bear just next to the road, eating dandelions. He doesn’t care about the traffic, but as we approach, he disappears into the forest. On our way through Glacier’s National Park, we had no opportunity to wildcamp, and all the official campsites were still closed due to the big amount of snow. But there was the A.O. Wheeler Hut of the Canadian Alpine Club, located “just” 1‘200 m next to the road. We thought it was a good chance to spend a romantic night in a hut, but we didn’t check if the road to get there might be cleaned or not. The result: it took us 2 hours to bring all our stuff into the hut, first by trying to push the bikes over the snow, then by locking them against a tree and shuttle our luggage to the hut. On the next morning, due to the cold temperatures overnight, the snow was frozen, and we had an easier way back to the highway. 

From Roger’s Pass we continue our journey on the TransCanada Highway towards Golden and along the Colombia River towards Edgewater where we are allowed to put the tent in front of a house with such a green grass. After a shower and a morning coffee (thanks Nick and Trudi for the great time), we take the road towards the Kootenay National Park. We are lucky to see a black bear and a grizzly just 100 meters next to each other, friendly eating dandelions, regardless of the tourists taking pictures as close as possible, completely forgetting about all security distances against the wild animal or traffic rules. Later, when we talked about that to a ranger, he agreed with us. After having turned in a safe distance around the grizzly and without getting hit by a car we enter the valley of the Kootenay River, maybe one of the most beautiful landscapes we have seen on our journey. Again, we are not allowed to wildcamp inside the park and all the campsites were still closed. There is a Park Lodge in the middle of our way from Radium Hot Springs to Banff, but no one could give us any information if we are allowed to stop there or not. And when we arrived there at the end of the day, we found cabins in renovation, tools were laying around everywhere and it took us half an hour to find the manager. We had to convince him that it was safe and ok for the rangers to camp there. 

In the Bow Valley we can finally quit the Highway and arrive on a road closed for cars. We finish our 1’400 km traverse across British Columbia and Alberta with hundreds of other cyclists. And as the icing on the cake, we meet two cyclists from Canmore who invite us to join their family (Warren and Sarah and their daughters Sophia and Charlotte) for dinner and offer us a shower and a bed. They invite us to have some days rest, but finally we get “adopted” and spend one wonderful month with this amazing family, in a perfect base for climbing.

Arrival at the Bow Valley

How to mix cycling, climbing and wisdom teeth removal in the Bow Valley

It’s been more than a year since we have been on a cycling-climbing trip, but Bertrand has found a new passion: wisdom teeth removal. We think it might be interesting to tell you a little more about how to mix these three disciplines: cycling, climbing and dental surgery. After some research on the internet where we couldn’t find any advice on this subject, we had to learn on our own. Here are three tips: 

  • Make appointments well in advance. Dentists don’t fit your schedule, it’s up to you to fit theirs. However, by insisting a little, you can make their schedule move forward. 
  • Don’t just contact the receptionists, but the dentists themselves, so that you don’t have to wait two weeks for an appointment to be told that they can’t do it once you get there. Imagine waiting two weeks to go climbing in Margalef and then being told that you can’t climb here, the rock is not stable enough… Well, it’s just as bad with your teeth. 
  • Visit several dentists. Again, it is like climbing, it is more interesting when you meet different people. That’s why we recommend that you have one wisdom tooth removed per dentist, while trying to have complications to keep the fun going and progress in your passion. If you are progressing well, you can even end up with the last tooth removed by a surgeon under general anaesthesia, followed by root canal treatment…

After any tooth removal session, it is necessary to count between 1 day and 3 days of recovery. This depends on the intensity of the effort. In principle, it is more advisable to choose the order dentist – cycling – climbing than dentist – climbing – cycling.

Bataan

But back to the original subject: Climbing. From our “Basecamp” we can reach the climbing areas Bataan and Echo Canyon by foot. The access varies between 1h30 and 2h30 and according to the chosen sector, we add 800m of elevation on a steep path in a beautiful forest. Once at the top, the view is magnificent. The first week, the weather remained cold and rainy, and we took the opportunity to discover the two climbing gyms in Canmore. With the return of good weather, we took advantage of climbing outside. On the first day in Bataan, Arline meets some monstrous crows on her first route. One of them decides to land on the ridge and throw small stones at Arline to defend their nest. 

We mixed our climbing days between Bataan and Echo Canyon. The routes are magnificent, often very technical but also requiring a good endurance. We follow more or less all the recommendations of Derek Galloway’s top 100 (in the guidebook) and we can confirm that it is an excellent choice, very varied and with routes that will make fly some butterflies in your stomach. 

As the weather gets warmer, we also climb in the Acephale sector and in Lake Louise: two gems of the valley. Acephale offers routes for the highest level, mostly from 7a to 9b, in pure limestone. The cliff of Lake Louise is in quartzite and plunges on the lake. The view is just incredible!

The last 10 days in Canmore were dedicated to the dentist marathon for Bertrand, before taking the road for the 1’300 km through southern Canada into the United States.

See you again in Wyoming!

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