Mountain Biking is generally best in mountain towns with a large enough (or core enough) population to build and maintain trail networks. These are the ingredients, which have built meccas such as Whistler, Sun Valley, Kingdom Trails, the Surry Hills etc.
Bralorne, with its 70 full time residents couldn’t be further from the norm. Located north of Whistler, Bralorne seems to be in the middle of nowhere, yet surrounded by world class mountain bike riding.
First mining claims would be staked here in the early 1890s, with the amalgamation of three major claims in 1897, forming The Bralorne Mine, which leant the town its namesake. Nestled along the steep banks of Caldwalder creek, at the base of the Bendor range, there are over 40 miles of tunnels dug within this narrow valley. By 1914 the Pioneer mine was operational, however the collapse of capitol markets in 1929, and the subsequent price of gold through the depression saw the mine scale five fold in 1932. Fully operational from 1932 until 1971 the mine produced over 3 million ounces of refined gold. The area would be a shining light for BC during the great depression employing hundreds of men and generating over $370,000,000 worth of Gold between 1931-1937. Although there is renewed interest in the Bralorne Gold mines now, the mines and their outbuildings have been vacant and left to the forces of both nature and pillagers for years.
“I honestly didn’t have too many expectations for this trip. Even if I had I would have been so far off. It was a true “Back Country” trip and before this I clearly didn’t even know what that meant. An old Mining town they told us in the middle of nowhere but to have all these amazing bike trails just blew my mind. Who built them and why they did kept coming to mind.”
- Andrew Neethling
Juxtaposition is always fun to play with, so we invited a couple riders who you would never expect to see in an old mining town, frozen in time, a 3 hour drive from Whistler. Brendan Fairclough, Kyle Jameson and Andrew Neethling, it also didn’t hurt that they are some of the most stylish riders around!
With Andrew flying in from Capetown, South Africa, Fairclough had just left the Mt. Saint Anne World Cup and Kyle driving north from Oregon, our pilgrimage north to Bralorne began.
Stopping to fuel up at Whistler’s Hunter Gather, the train rolled on to photographer Blake Jorgenson’s place in Pemberton. Blake has been exploring Bralorne for the last 20 years and would be doing double duty as our guide and the trip’s photographer. When you are chasing light in the BC backcountry there is no better guy to follow then Jorgenson. Blake may as well be the mayor of Bralorne falling in love with the place after riding the Chilcotins for the first time and buying his first house there 20 years ago. Last year he, alongside freerider Darren Berrecloth and snowmobile mad man Chris Brown bought and opened the Bralorne Adventure Lodge, a beautiful cabin that sleeps 12 and has 3 distinct beer fridges. Arriving at the lodge that night, the team had no idea what was in store for them.
With the team’s hectic schedule leading up to our first day in Bralorne a casual morning was in store, slow paced breakfast at the lodge to a mellow pedal exploring some of Bralorne’s local trail stock. First on the list was Michelin Man, a fun local trail above the town site with an extension ending conveniently in Blake’s backyard. No trip here would be complete without a few wrong turns; which thankfully we got out of our system on the first lap. Keying in several locations to shoot later that afternoon the crew was amazed at the quality of the trails. The forest fires plaguing BC all season left a thick layer of smoke, the haze and the sun combining to create a soft orange hue. To save time we shuttled Alphagetti and Carl Creek, two more gems hidden in the hills surrounding Bralorne. Again the team was amazed at the caliber of riding and stoke was high as we compiled our shot list for the afternoon, our cooler full of Coors Banquets.
“Coming from a racing background I never used to be able to go on trips like this. Man I have missed out. Just bikes and buddies exploring!!! A place I didn’t know existed, with an insane trail network, what a GEM. “
- Andrew Neethling on Bralorne BC
Convincing a World Cup Downhiller, a former World Cup Downhiller and a freerider that an 8 hour epic alpine adventure is a good idea was easier then you would think. All you have to do is promise wild game burgers at Tyax lodge! With the carrot firmly in place we headed out for a classic Chilcotins ride, Taylor Cabin to Lick Creek. Lick is regarded as one of the best-sustained downhills in the region; it was only 3 ridges and 6.5 hours away. The climb to Taylor Cabin is particularly grueling, yet our Director of Photography Cam Sylvestor led the charge with ease. We were amazed at his fitness, with a full Red Camera kit on his back, half way up this climb we learned that he is a former Olympian…we never even had a chance. Taylor Cabin gave way to Camel pass, down an amazing short descent into our second major climb of the day, a tight rowdy descent to El Dorado cabin into the last major climb before the huge Lick Creek descent.
The Chilcotins are a network of old prospecting and horse trails and really puts the ‘mountain’ back into mountain biking. Mountain bike rides in this area have the same logistical concerns as do winter ski trips, weather and route finding play major parts in the success of these rides. The Chilcotins have become quite infamous for turning grueling 8-hour rides into soul destroying 12-hour rides from just a single navigation error. Thankfully Blake had made these types of errors 20 years ago so it was relatively smooth sailing for our team. Lick ends on a rowdy fire road descent, perhaps one of the finest fire road descents of all time, loose and fast with fade-a-way jumps, wild horses, grizzly scat and insane turns. A short pedal on Gun Lake road, which quickly turned into a sprint pursuit of the Olympian lead us to cold beers and dinner at Tyax lodge, being the smelliest people in the nicest lodge around is something everyone should put on their bucket list.
“What an all time place. Crazy to me how far out we were yet there are epic MTB trails built. Mountain bikers are a strange bread that is for sure. Amazing trip and can’t wait to head back. Maybe this time with out a camera crew….. so we can take in the full experience and enjoy every crazy last minute of that beautiful zone.”
- Brendan Fairclough
A short drive from Bralorne, situated just outside of Lillooet is (in my opinion) one of BC’s fastest trails, Della Creek. Located in the rain shadow of the Coast Mountains Lillooet is generally dryer and warmer then the climate surrounding Whistler, this day was no different with the temperature sitting at a sticky 37° C. Della is a cult classic for residents of the Sea to Sky, with conditions ranging from perfectly tacky in the spring and fall to perfectly dusty in the middle of summer. The trail starts high on Mt. Askom with a portion generally reserved for the sado-masochist to climb or the clever rider to heli drop. Della is long and fast, starting at the mid point as we did still nets a 15 minute sustained descent. Fairclough put on a clinic redefining what ‘fast on a trail bike’ means, while Kj’s head was spinning at the potential freeride lines to be dug in the lower rolling hills.
With our final drone shot in the can on the infamous luge track section of Della it was a race to get back to Pemberton before the Pony Espressos’ kitchen was to close. Our tour of some the finest riding BC has to offer, found in the remote corners of places you would never expect might become an annual pre-Crankworx tradition.
“I really enjoyed spending these days in the middle of no where with my teammates and friends, doing what we love the most. Removing the hustle and bustle of the everyday life and just getting out in the backcountry.”
- Kyle Jameson