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Adventure by Floatplane

A three-day exploration of the Chilcotin backcountry

Last September, Bike senior photographer Mattias Fredriksson set out with buddies Ross Measures, Anthony Bonello and Stephen Matthews on a three-day backcountry ride through British Columbia’s Southern Chilcotin Mountains Park, starting with an unconventional lift to the first trail on their 90-kilometer (55-mile) route.

They flew on a six-passenger floatplane through Tyax Adventures, which is based at Tyax Wilderness Resort in Gold Bridge, north of Pemberton and about a three-hour drive from Whistler.

The plane dropped the crew at Lorna Lake, where they rode along the shore of Big Creek via Elbow Pass down to Bear Paw Camp, which staffs a host and provides meals, beds and even cold beer.  The next day they climbed over 2,330-meter (7,600-foot) Deer Pass), then descended to Spruce Lake for a night at another backcountry camp, Spruce. The last day sent them over three passes–Windy Pass, El Dorado Pass and Camel Pass–as they made their way back to the Tyax lodge.

The weather turned on that last day and they pedaled in a torrential rainstorm for hours. Although nearby towns had to be evacuated due to the severity of the storm, their rocky route through the alpine and lower-elevation tree-sheltered trails stayed mostly protected.

“It was just that it was so soaked, ” Fredriksson says. “I was still shooting, but I really had to pick my times to bring out the camera because everything was totally wet. I don’t think my camera gear had ever been that wet. One lens even stopped working. I still nailed a cover shot that day and a couple other bangers, but eventually the camera said, ‘Put me down.'”

In total, they crossed five mountain passes over three days of riding and experienced wilderness in its full–though the camps are stocked with food, trails aren’t generally marked so map-reading and route-finding skills are essential, as is bring prepared with proper gear for bad weather or injuries.

Tyax is currently the only outfitter offering adventure by floatplane as a commercial trip, and with more mountains bikers craving the ability to truly disconnect from the noise of everyday life, this sort of ‘backcountry light’ trip will certainly appeal to riders who seek adventure without the burden of fully self-supported travel. Riders can also take a floatplane from Tyax and ride back in a single day–even returning back to the Sea-to-Sky that evening–but Fredriksson highly recommends avoiding a return to reality for as long as possible.

“Instead of just doing another day trip or a day ride–that’s what you always do–spend a night sit there and experience being out in the real wilderness. I really felt like this was the way to do it, so you don’t get back to civilization the same day. Even if the lodge is there, nothing to it, you really feel cutoff from the world. It’s nice to disconnect for a while and hang out there.”

Related:
Back of Beyond: Six Days on Southeastern BC’s Sublime Singletrack