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Helicopters to Explore Remote Alpine XC

Posted September 20, 2012 by Lorraine Blancher . Filed under Trips, Cool Happenings
One of the cooler adventures this summer involved a quick helicopter flight west of Revelstoke, BC.  

It was to an area my sister and I had loosely check out when she was working as a local pilot. I say 'loosely' as our flight path didn't take us directly over the ridge but some general recon was done. 

The below trip came about as a couple days earlier, I had quietly ridden my bike through some of the most stunning mountains I have still to this day have ever seen.  The ride is in  one of my favorite areas.  The trail IS legal, exists on no public maps has been on my hit list to RiDE for many years ... due to it's remoteness and short riding season, it's been tough to make happen.  

To have finally done WiTH my bike, I was glowing!

My sister and I were going over more remote rides I could do on my list, and the one below came up.  The weather was holding and I had few more days to get rides done.  

Chris Hrabb, a good pilot friend had his eye on the below area too.  Thanks to the two of them, it happened.  I was stoked when Chris called one sunny Saturday morning... 'be at the hanger for 10am'.  Things like that have happen with my DH bike, snowboard or pair of skis - never for Alpine XC!   

Turbo to Boulder Mountain, Revelstoke BC

Getting dropped off on Turbo. This is either going to be a really GOOD idea or oh so NOT!Heli Drop on Turbo. This is going to be a REALLY GOOD idea or oh so NOT! Revelstoke is way over there.

Lake I of VIII. After making our way down the little bit of unpleasant terrain it was game on!Lake I of VIII. After making our way down the little bit of unpleasant terrain it was game on!

Lake II and little further along Lake after lake, I felt like I was on a heli hiking adventure with my favorite mountain bike!!!Lake II and little further along.  This ride is going to be sweet!!!

Lake III, you get the ideaLake III, you get the idea... STUNNING! Sweet views to the N & S the entire time!

Finding some funFinding some rock flow and fun

Chris and Mount EnglishChris and Mount English

The knob far back on the left is where we started... still lots to goThe flat knob, far back on the left is where we landed and started our day... still lots to go

Killer ViewsKiller Views

Lake IVLake IV

A little easy climbingA little easy climbing

Still lots of ground to cover... wonder in there is lakes down there!!!Definitely felt like I was heli hike guiding again, just with my mtb...

Hmm, left or right... we need to go right but left looks visually WAY better!Hmm, left or right... we need to finish way right but the left ridge looks like it would unfold way better.  Bet it joins!

Can't wait till this becomes a trail!Can't wait till this becomes a trail!  One of the harder sections to ride before something is carved in.



Dreaming of future adventuresDreaming of future adventures

This is definitely the coolest xc ride I have ever ridden!Lake V - This is definitely one sweet XC heli adventure...!

A little snow fun...A little snow fun...

Breaking trail summer styleBreaking trail summer style


Gettin' close but still not done...!Gettin' close but still not done...!

The last lake and the Revelstoke Valley...The last lake and we made it... Boulder Mountain just above Revelstoke!

We were able to ride 90% of this route as it is and I definitely think it needs to become Revelstokes next alpine trail.  

I have done it a couple times now and have figured out the best way to work the terrain.  If getting a Heli Drop from Paul at 3 Valley - Glacier Heli, don't bother with Turbo. It's doable and neat to be dropped there, but all the good riding happens once you get off the far peak.  IF you go to Turbo ... keep going to the little lakes on the N side of the ridge. 

Stay on the main bench with lakes on the north side and contour ride your way along.  (As the pictures show)  Once you make it to the last set of lakes, it is definitely a bush wack to connect to the Boulder cabin 4x4 road.  The best way is to stay on the south side of the creek of where the last lake drains.  It is dryer, more rock to walk on near the alpine and has less vegetation to battle.  Follow that all the way down and you'll hit the road and hang a left to the cabin!!  

If you want to check it out sans Helicopter and save $150, look up the Boulder Snowmobile groomed route to their cabin.  You can drive to a gate about ... 4km? from the cabin.  Ride up, past the cabin, the bog'ish type area and hit the first mini ridge past the creek. The creek makes a bend towards the cabin but read your contour lines and you'll know what I mean.  It's more open you'll have some huckleberry treats and all the busy unpleasantness will be forgotten once up high!  (The first time we tried to follow the winter route trail with the markings in the trees, but it goes through too much thick vegetation in the summer with no trail ... 

Other alpine gems, Keystone and Frisby are seeing tons of use and are becoming destination trails for many XC fanatics and this area.  (Fellow Big Mountain Guide and Summer Gravity Coach, Joe Schwartz filmed both Keystone and Frisby this fall with Mitchell Scott and Kona Bicycles.  Check their story and stunning video on

If upper Boulder Mountain could be developed, it would be legit !!  It's right above town, all alpine with killer N & S views and features 8 notable lakes.  It could be one big loop with many turn around connectors at key stunning locations.  Families could come up for a short loop and fitness seekers doing various variations and laps, constantly changing their route.   

What would then be legendarys ... instead of going up/down the main FSR road, develop a trail network and connect it to the lower Boulder Mountain bike area with the older FSR.  In the early 2000's there was the DH trails that went down from 14km on the older FSR ...  I wonder how far it is ... and how much work to ensure that FSR road stays good .... more maps to look at, forestry plans to understand ... ooooo so much can happen.  (And we owe a lot to the active mining and forestry roads.  Thank you!!!)

As Revelstoke gains international momentum with all it's alpine mountain bike trail amenities, I can see this area being needed a great addition in the short term riding forecast.  Definitely unreal.   

Joss Pass and McCrae have also become popular alpine rides with the locals looking for more, but are a little more hike-a-bike.  

A future bike/hike trail way up Joss Pass could be easily made from the NW side.  The NW hiking trail is STEEP and advanced, even for hikers.  It's in the trees and you get to the alpine late.  If you continue up the FSR (about 2km past the trail head), you can bushwack up the creek and get into the alpine WAY sooner and be greeted by little alpine lakes.  If you built a mellow flow trail, you could ride/hike into the alpine sooner.  Again, a easy dream connection for accessing an alpine gem.

Keystone to Standard Peak to Holdich West ridge (in reverse) also had some recon.  Check it here.  Old schoolers (myself included) talked about connecting the Keystone/Standard to Kelly Burke but being on the ground best rideable ridge/low vegetaions is Holdich West.  Kelly Burke would require way more trail maintenance, you're in a deeper drainage, down trees etc and then add in the resident grizzly wild life ... Holdich makes more sense, open and dryer west, south west facing all the way to the Hwy.   From the Holdich West Ridge I was able to ride within ... sub 50m ... of Standard summit using the south facing benches.  I then went down the east ridge to Belcher Basin, past the old mine shaft (it's cool!!) then onto the Standard Basin and the tradition Keystone Cabin trail ...  A big thanks to the local volunteer who cleared the trail to Standard Basin !!  SOOoo appreciated.  If you ever read this, contact me through my site and I will personally buy you at LEAST 6 Begbie Tall Beers.  

There's 2 other unbelievable gems, but I'm keeping them close to my heart.  Other missions like the Ski Hill to Cartier or Cartier S ridge from the Wood Lot (old, old route before the trail on the N end) ... the ultimate Frisby ... even Mt Grace (trust me even thought accessing the old mine site is cool - WaY too aldery for the sweet DH / hike and the meadow ride up is a bit boggy.  They're are sooo many.  The mountains around Revelstoke are endless... 

Doing these kinds of things is why I live. 

My first mountain bike heli drop in Revelstoke was during the summer of 2001. 

Mike Aucoin from the local forestry firefighting crew told me tales of a sweet trail they had just cleared all the down trees from.  The trail was legal, NOT in a National Park and looked legit with 1300m of relief in 6km!!! (4300ft in 3.5miles).  There was no way up the mountain, other than hiking your way up to the alpine; the true definition of a heli drop in my mind!  A quick glance at a map, since Google earth didn't exist, I calculated that if I got a lift to the toe of the glacier I could descend 1500m / 5000ft!!!  

I was STOKED.  I had 'officially' moved to a town where summer life could be as rad the winters I had experienced playing, working and living in prior.  (Avi course with Jim Bay / Rogers Pass '93, Fairy Meadow Hut '97, CMH BU'98, CMH GL'99-02, etc )  I  heli drop the trail, I quickly called around to find a DH mountain bike partner in crime and a machine heading that way.  Big thanks to new friend and rider Darrell Musseau and pilot Gerry Richard as they were key in making that dream.  

In 2003 I rode the other notable and legal alpine descent.  Mount Cartier, this one is just over 6k in vertical relief in 15km and has been visited a few times.   

We used to keep these mission on the dl, not for any reason other than ...? ... who do you tell other than you're friends at the weekend BBQ.  I guess it was the pre facebook generation and you just did the adventures to do.  Revelstoke in that time, (and still is) full of unbelievable adventures old school and new.  You'd be amazed at the Himalayean Mtns the older unassuming ski tech did, or the expeditions the older, quiet mtn guide/heli guide just came back from.  My favorite is Parks Canada employee Rob Buchannon.  I will shout him out although he would be embarrassed.  His images in early Bike Magazine are a huge part in why I found myself here.  Thank you all those who inspire.  

fyi - Cycling in Revelstoke has been a rich part of the little towns history for over a century.  The Revelstoke Cycling Club captured this image in 1899.  The little girl (on the tri bike) was the niece of local cycling race legend Eddy Edwards.  Eddy won many races including events the town held on their 'dirt' track in the heart of the city.  The paper would write how he was the big fish in their community.  Love it.

Thank you Rob Buchanon for the print and thank you Kathy English at the Museum for entertaining my inquisitive chats.Revelstoke Cycling Club 1899!  Thank you Rob Buchanan for the print and Kathy English at the Museum for entertaining my inquisitive chats!

Big thank you to Chris Hrabb for the main heli story adventure!!!  (Chris and I met one winter when I was either hitchhiking a hei lift to work at one of the remote Heli Ski lodges with a guest exchange or flying with the lunches to join the CMH Revelstoke Heli Ski program.  We can't remember which adventure it was, we just remember meeting and the subject of our first conversation over the mic!  STOKED he lives in town and stoked he rides MTBs!!!)

*note helicopters and bikes have always been a dream - My first Heli MTB experience happened in 2001 when over 10 days, I was lucky enough to fly over 1000 miles in a helicopter (with my MTB) ALL over the Yukon Territory in northern Canada!!! Dream.  Haines Jct, Ross River, Carmacks, Alaskan boarder, Sawtooth Range, Whitehorse, etc... Everywhere the machine was sent for 'work', myself and my MTB went with.  I fortunate to experienced the phenomenal Territory from a birds eye view and found myself and my MTB in some incredible places.  I'll definitely look at the print pics to see if anything good was captured.  The trails around Dawson City were cool and the gentle peaks during sunset near Carmacks were the highlight. 

Like I said, adventure and riding my bike is why I live.  It's what fuels my soul. SO many rad places to go ...