Mountain Bikaneering – MEGASLAB

This has been an amazing summer for mountain bikaneering, with consistent warm and dry days turning into months. In fact, it’s gone so far that some of the trails are in dire need of rain to wash out some of the dust. The other way to manage dust is to search out clean, slabby rockfaces and ride your bike down them.

With a wagon full of adventure gear and gasoline I left early for Fernie. Before long I was devouring Keremeos peaches faster than kilometers and was eager to stretch my legs. After a botched attempt to meet friends in Rossland, I pulled the bike out and headed out for a quick evening session on 7 summits. I was back on the road at dawn the next morning and had learned that Luke was arranging a session on the MEGASLAB. I’d heard weird rumors and seen photos that defied my imagination – could I really push my bike up the highest peak above Fernie and ride down 400m of steep, slabby limestone? Turns out, the answer is yes, and it was one of the scariest and most fun things I’ve done on a bike.

Even being from the Kootenay’s, I forgot about the switch to Mountain Standard Time and rolled up to ConRAD’s house an hour or so late, joining Luke and Travis. With bikes loaded into the truck we headed out to pick up Henry, a task that always seems to eat up more time than should be possible. We’re not slow, we just move at our own pace. The drive up Hartley Lake Rd. is would be hectik in the Sport Wagon, but ConRAD’s truck handles it like a champ and we’re pushing our bikes up Heiko’s trail in no time. An hour later we get our first glimpse of the MEGASLAB, three hours after that and we’re standing on a high alpine ridge overlooking the entire Elk Valley, (not to mention a sizable section of the whole of the Southern Rockies.)

The trail off the top of the middle sister is an off-cambre scree and chundery rock nightmare, which is really fun until you weight your front tire and push the whole scree-berm downhill. Then it’s to the top of the MEGASLAB and 5 minutes of contemplation and photos before creeping into the longest slab of rock I’ve ever seen. The face rolls over a convexity so from the top you can’t actually see the bottom, but you’re fairly sure that there’s a line down there somewhere to right and go for it. As slowly as you possibly can. The photos do a slightly better job of showing the slab, but it’s still nothing compared to the total commitment and fear I felt when dropping in. Needless to say, we made it down without any real difficulties (Henry misplaced his bike near the bottom) and enjoyed the endless scree and beautiful meadow singletrack back down to the truck. Some sketchy steep corners made the beer stashed in the creek at the bottom all that much better.

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