By Christy McLean
“This is real mountain biking!” says Dave an enthusiastic mountain biker from Nelson, B.C. This is the phrase that echoes at the end of an impressive new singletrack just two and a half hours south of Revelstoke in British Columbia’s Monashee Mountains.
An alpine trail network heaven. Wild alpine flowers and high alpine lakes paint the backdrop of some of the most amazing high alpine mountain bike trails that British Columbia has to offer. Sol Mountain Backcountry Lodge has added a new trail this year. South Caribou Pass. The hand built singletrack is a clever combination of short punchy climbs, technical slab-rock and sassy downhill flow. The trail weaves its way through colorful alpine meadows and climbs through sub-alpine fir forest into a high mountainous environment.
Myself and three other friends were lucky to spend a weekend exploring the outstanding Monashee scenery. We started the journey driving 55 kilometres up a bumpy logging road from Shelter Bay, stopping for a refreshing swim at the beautiful Eagle Bay Rec Site. Always be sure your bike is secure! The closer to the high alpine lodge, the quieter the peace and more abundant the flowers. Clear cold rivers and tall lush trees line the roads to the door of Sol Mountain Lodge. At the lodge we were warmly greeted by the owner Aaron Cooperman. He and his family have been passionately operating the lodge for backcountry ski touring since 2005. The mountain bike trails started to take shape five years ago. He and his trail crews have been hand-building trails here since 2012. All the trails have been carefully built, mindfully navigating the natural environment and utilizing the landscape to forge the current trail network.
After a good sleep in the cozy lodge the smell of a hot breakfast and fresh coffee beckoned us out of our warm beds and into the day ahead. Guests from all over are sharing breakfast discussing their day to come. A couple from Jasper here to hike and celebrate their sixtieth wedding anniversary, a couple from Spokane exploring the high alpine and a couple from Nelson with an interest in the structure of the trail build. We loaded up our bike packs with fresh made cookies and bars, our water filled to the brim. It was a hot, smoky summer day.
We pedaled out on the west loop, a 1.4-kilometre flowy XC alpine meadow trail to warm up. The trail is brimming with an an amazing floral bouquet I found it a challenge to keep my eye on the trail ahead, for the beauty that surrounds us feels out of this world. Hummingbirds buzz around us as we stop to discuss the next trail ahead. We change course and pedal towards the new South Caribou Pass Trail.
South Caribou Pass Trail is a multi-use biking, hiking, trail running singletrack. It totals 20 kilometres of incredible riding. A 10-kilometre challenging climb with open views followed by a rewarding rocky descent. As we ascended everyone in the group had smiles and lots of “wow.” The rock features were thoughtfully placed and fun to ride over. The end of the trail greeted us with unrestricted views of Mount Fosthall. This is where we met Dave, a government employee with a special interest in trail work, who says “this is real mountain biking.” We all agreed completely with this thought. Descending down the trail is fun and fast. Berms and rocky features make the ride playful and keeps you on your toes. Lots of ‘wow this is amazing’ from the riding crew today. Before heading back to the lodge we pedaled up to Sol Lake via the Sol Lake trail that is 4.2 kilometres from the lodge. A refreshing swim in the high alpine lake had us feeling refreshed to pedal out to the ridge. Then back down to Beacon Check and Sassy Toe, open flowy alpine mixed with fun rockslab descents. A late afternoon decent back to drinks on the deck offers incredible lighting effects and majestic views of the landscape.
Back at the lodge we decide the only thing better then riding this trail would be doing it again. So we did, deciding to keep recycling the stoke. Everyone who hit the trails that day returned back to the lodge very content. I asked Aaron what is in the future plans for the trails and with a smile he reports “there is good momentum for additional trails.” On the way out of the lodge we met two trucks from Seattle. The trails are gaining international exposure, it will be exciting to see what is to come in the future for Sol Mountain Backcountry Lodge. These alpine trails are a must for your list!
About the author, Christy McLean: Working in the health industry internationally has given me a deep appreciation for the community of Revelstoke. My curiosity for why and how keeps me on the front foot of adventure, mainly with my splitboard, surfboard, bike, hiking boots and yoga mat.
This article first appeared in the September 2017 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.