By Heather Pardon
Much as I love climbing and the subsequent celebratory descent by bicycle, I must admit I don’t have the same feeling when negotiating some routes in a 27 foot RV. When I did some online research of the drive through the Rogers Pass, which involves some quite steep sections, several tunnels, winding roads and unpredictable changes in weather, I felt much safer seeking an alternate route for me and “Miss Daisy”.
However, it looked too appealing by bicycle to miss out on. I wanted to experience Rogers Pass and what is considered the crown jewel of the Trans-Canada. And so I settled myself into a campsite about 25 kms west of Golden, BC (which is to the east of Rogers Pass) and smiled at the favourable weather forecast for what would be the 110 km cycle the next day to the top of the Pass and back.
One thing to be prepared for along this section of the Trans-Canada in particular is heavy trucking traffic. This section of the highway is a main freighting thoroughfare but thankfully, you enjoy the benefits of a wide paved shoulder.
My ride began with what would be considered a “moderate” climb in these parts that provided a nice warm-up for what would come on the road ahead. The first 30 kms or so heading towards Rogers Pass passed quickly as I basked in the surprisingly hot 30C temperature of the day and revelled in the mountain scenery.
Then the real climbing began, about 15 – 20 kms from the summit, where it got progressively more challenging. There were some fairly steep sections where you will hear the sound of your quadriceps thanking you for having the foresight to purchase a bike with granny gears.
The ascent included passing through five tunnels which protect you from avalanches, falling rocks and other things you just don’t want in your path on the road. They’re not overly long tunnels but they do take a bit of biking confidence and some safety precautions. A rear flashing light (I actually wished I’d had a reflective vest) is essential as is a front light. One of the tunnels launches you into complete darkness; the tunnels are short enough that you can see “some light at the end of the tunnel” but not enough to illuminate your passage through the tunnel safely. I also tended to “sprint” through the tunnels (great, uphill interval training!) to get back on open road again just a bit faster. I also tried to time my entry into the tunnel at those moments when I didn’t see any trucks or RVs in my side mirror.
Once you hit the top of Rogers Pass, which is located at the summit of Glacier National Park, you are wonderfully rewarded for your hard efforts. There you are greeted by some of the most awe-inspiring panoramas in Canada, surrounded by some of the many glaciers that grace the area and stunning mountainous peaks.
I spent a couple of hours at the summit, enjoying a relaxing picnic, savouring the views and visiting the Discovery Centre which offers you a great overview of the history and construction of the Pass and the Canadian Pacific Railway, natural history of the area, wildlife information, and the opportunity to watch films on avalanche control.
The descent was fun and I felt more relaxed in the tunnels as I sped through them quickly. I reached a top speed of 57 kph at one point! I was cautious of the traffic, had firm control of my bike and kept feathering my brakes as I made my way down.
I felt exhilarated when I got back to my campsite, so glad to have ventured to the Pass and cycled up to the summit. It was one of those rides that I’ll savour for a lifetime, the kind that leaves you wishing you could bottle the feeling. I hope to get the chance to experience that feeling again – I’m thinking I need to cycle it from the Western (Revelstoke) side next time around. I know that if my travels bring me to the area again, I won’t be able to pass up the chance.
Heather’s Cross-Canada Cycling Adventure
Join Ottawa author, personal trainer and life coach Heather Pardon who recently sold and packed up her home, downsized her life, bought an RV and is taking her belongings and bicycle for an adventure across Canada this summer. Each week, Heather will be sharing photos and stories from her cycling adventures en route. You may also visit her personal blog at http://wilddaisy.ca/Blog/ for more frequent updates from the road.
Read Heather’s Previous Posts:
A Day with the Gurlz
A Day on Manitoulin Island, Ontario
There is Cycling Gold in Thunder Bay
Muddy Waters 100
A Prairie Perspective
Cycling in Banff National Park: The Mountains Will Take Your Breath Away