Day 61: Princeton to Hope – Descent from 1,300m in less than two hours

Allison Pass… the last mountain before Vancouver

On the way from Princeton this morning an elk crossed my path. It was a young buck and one of its antlers had been snapped in a fight. I watched it jump a fence and run away from me.

Many people were telling me it might be snowing at the top of Allison Pass in Manning Park today.

Well, it wasn’t, so get your t-shirts off because it’s time for some sun-bathing!

Not really, but it was very warm up in the mountains – we’re cooking on gas at 20°C.

The ride up was an absolute nightmare. Because most people are Westie-easters when they cross Canada by bicycle and I’m an Eastie-wester, the internet has no good descriptions of the route from Princeton to Hope, only the other way. I’ll give you a little description of the journey if your final destination is Vancouver.

From Princeton it starts with a long, slow climb upwards for an hour until you’re literally (not literally) in the clouds. A bit of a flat and then it goes upwards and upwards and upwards until you have to duck under the airplanes crossing above your helmet.

A bit more of an uphill and you can stop cycling because you are now a satellite floating in earth’s orbit.

It’s steep, basically.

When you get to Manning Park ski lodge however, the worst is over for any Eastie-westers. Another short climb is followed by a downhill in which you lose 400m in elevation in a matter of minutes.

It’s terrifyingly quick.

A twisting flat along winding mountain roads with only a little shoulder and then it drops again another 200m. This is where I reached 58km/hr.

The piece de resistance is that once you’ve passed Sunshine Valley RV Park, the road disappeared in front of me and I was flying down the road at 60km/hr as elevation dropped from 700m to 43m in Hope. Booyaaaaaah!

Highway 3 takes you right off into Hope, the town near Vancouver rather than the disposition, although I mean both senses of the word now I have passed the 200km sign for Vancouver.

This is a secret I have kept with me for a month now, but if you had asked me on that cold morning out of Winnipeg if I thought I would reach British Columbia on my bicycle I would have said no. I had 1,400km of prairie road ahead of me and the wind was fierce and in my face. You can understand my lack of optimism. As I glide into the final town before Vancouver, it looks like I’m about to do it.

In Hope I’m staying with Allan and Heather. They took me to McCulloch’s Wonder at Othello Tunnels, a train line built back at the turn of the century through sheets of granite rock,  making it the most expensive section of trainline ever.

The steel they used for the support girders was the same steel they used to build the Titanic. Allan showed me a part of the bridge where a rock had fallen from the cliff and struck the steel beam right through. The beam had shattered like a sheet of paper. This was because the steel they used had too much carbon in it, making it brittle. The Titanic had the same brittle steel, which is why the iceberg punched a hole in the hull rather than a dent. History.

We could see rows of salmon by the rocks down in the river, sheltering from the current to sleep for the night as they make their way upwards to die as part of life on this planet’s rich tapestry. The water was bright blue from the glacial run-off. The entire scene was like stepping back a few mllion years.

I should reach Vancouver tomorrow…

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