I survived the Hurley (in winter, on a fatbike)

The title for this blog entry is shamelessly ripped off from the website dedicated to this mountain road in British Columbia, which is the shortest connection between the Pemberton Meadows and Gold Bridge.

Trip planning: Besides iSurvivedTheHurley, I found this weather forecast (and their weather maps) to be very useful, as well as SledPemberton, SheShreds.caAvalanche.ca, and BridgeRiverValley.ca.

My 3-day route is shown here, covering a grand total of 92 GPS miles with 10,500 ft. of elevation gain.

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On a rainy Friday morning, I set out to drive to Pemberton. When it’s pouring on the way, it makes one seriously reconsider going on a bikepacking trip. But nearing Pemberton, the weather improved and a twinkling of sunshine was seen. I parked my car at beginning of the dirt road where there would be a vegetable stand in summer, and started riding the muddy road.

If I would have known that there is a snowpark-like parking area near the beginning of the Hurley, I probably would have driven the dirt-road section, but I believe that a fee/pass would have been required.

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There’s snow up in the mountains!

The first couple ‘bilers that I met coming down were awfully nice – we chatted for a while as one of them was local (just a few houses down) and had a lot of good info to share with me regarding the trails up there. Noel Creek trail apparently was a no-go for a bike. I was still planning to check it out though, just in case.

It was about 40F with a light rain, which made the slushy snow even worse. Mostly, I was pushing my bike, occasionally struggling mightily in the soft mush on the 10% slope. Just before I took this picture below, I was considering turning back. Rain, wind, 35 F, how much more fun can I have on a Friday night? Then, a large group of ‘bilers came up the Hurley, all women, who were going to spend the weekend at the Backcountry Snowcats cabin, I believe. Everyone cheered me on. Ok, I suppose the rain will have to turn into snowflakes somewhere up there…

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The road briefly leveled off and a groomer came down, but riding on _top_ of the groomed mush was still not possible.

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Things finally improved after the bridge and coincidentally after sunset, as the snow firmed up and I was able to ride up to the pass. It was near a full moon, so I was mostly riding without my light on. It felt beautiful being out there, big mountains left and right in the moonlight, the wind had stopped, and all I needed to do was find a place off the road to camp. And a perfect, groomed spot, appeared at the Donelly Creek recreation site. The first 18 miles had taken me 6 hours. Time for a big dinner and a nap.

I awoke the next morning to light snowfall and near 20F. Time to get up and explore a bit!

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My goal was to check on the condition the Noel Creek snowmobile trail. The ride was slow over the crusty packed snow on the Hurley and Hope Creek FSRs.

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On the Hurley.

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It was quite a cloud show – no doubt that this is mountain weather.

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On the Hope Creek FSR.

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The snow held up well after the turn-off for Noel Creek. Sunshine and clouds rapidly interchanged, but the snow was holding. I was happy – even though it was likely that I’d have to turn around any minute if the snowmobilers from the previous day were correct.

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Along the secondary road towards the Noel Creek trail.

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Beautiful plateau up there!

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I loved the shape of the snow here.

I rode for a couple miles, until the up–turn when I found myself looking at a couple snowmobile tracks going off into the woods. Oops – looks like the Noel Creek trail is off-limits for snowbiking after all. There may have been a better way if I’d stayed on the ‘road’ straight ahead, but the snow was getting powdery and I know when I am done for. Time to turn around.

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The Noel Creek snowmobile trail. Anyone up for pushing through 10 ft. deep powder?

The downhill was super fun. Suddenly, I heard ‘bilers and there they were: 2 to a sled, standing side-by-side. Everyone gave me a high-five with their big gloves on as they rode past. How fun!

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After noon, the sun came out for good – which made the riding really bad. Good for pictures, though! My next goal was the Gold Bridge Hotel for dinner! I still had plenty of food if things didn’t work out, but I was sure that I could be there before they closed around 6 pm or 7 pm (I couldn’t remember).

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While riding up to the East Hurley had been slow, I didn’t remember at all that the west Hurley climbs after the fork. Funny, how driving in a car in summer doesn’t make one realize how much climbing or descending is happening.

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Just a few hundred meters up the road, it looked like a gas station at the turn-off for the Lone Goat snowmobile trail.

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The gentle, 5% climb up the Hurley towards Green Mountain sucked the life out of me. The phrase “This shouldn’t be so hard.” got a deft reply every time with “It is what it is – and it’s hard.”   The snow was like velcro and the 4 miles took 1.5 hours to walk. Yikes. Luckily, the views were good.

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Avalanche covered the road. Looked pretty old, I think from 5 Feb?

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No footsteps! Proof that I did ride a little bit on this section after all.

Near the top it was suddenly plowed. Yay for logging operations on Green Mountain. The view opened up over the valley, with Mt. Penrose towering over Downtown Lake.

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A steep descent brought me to the Gold Bridge Hotel for dinner. Though there’s a “For Sale” sign in the front yard and the building appeared dark on the outside, it was warm and bright on the inside.

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Burger, fries, and a couple sodas with desert hit the spot. A little bit of shoe and clothes drying after the long day out in the warmth helped, too.

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After dinner, I pushed in the moonlit night back up to the Penrose Mt. viewpoint. Good place to wait for morning light.

The night brought cold air with it. By 7 am, it seemed to have warmed up even, but I am not sure. There were still clouds around, and I was eager to get going so as to avoid the daily melt. I wanted to ride _on top_ of the snow, not in it!

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My inner shoes and Simple Slipper neoprene shoe covers were a bit damp from the last 2 days, and not as warm as before. On the long downhill to the fork with the East Hurley Rd., I finally broke down and stuffed a toe warmer in each shoe: happy feet within minutes.

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Something was not so lucky in the last 12 hours since I had come by here, and got eaten!

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Heading home.

Though it was bright, the sun never fully came through the clouds and it stayed cold at ~20 F. The snow was pretty good to ride on, especially some smooth and frozen sections off to the side of the road.20160221_08293920160221_09242020160221_093435

I stopped briefly at the first night’s camp to melt some snow when a group of ‘bilers came by. One of them mentioned that the snowmobile trail up to the Pemberton Icecaps would also be something that I could do – indeed, they saw someone there last year. Sounds good!

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Coming down, the snow was initially pretty fun and fast, but turned into utter slush-over-ice farther down. I finally crashed going about 1 mph with only 50 meters to go to the end of the Hurly.20160221_125923

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That wasn’t the crash.

Final thoughts:  Would I do it again? Well, yes, but I’d want better weather: colder and less cloudy for better views! Everyone that I met out on the trail was very nice – and very different from the US: most snowmobilers brought skis or snowboards with them. All the gear worked well. The only issue was that occasionally, a little bit of air was leaking from underneath the tubeless valve stems.

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This entry was posted in bikepacking, fatbike, snowbike, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to I survived the Hurley (in winter, on a fatbike)

  1. Quite a contrast from our summer drive in the car. I know how steep it is! I was impressed even in summer. That was a feat to take a bike over that in snow. Whew.

    LB

    On Thu, Feb 25, 2016 at 11:58 PM, 2wheeltrails wrote:

    > 2wheeltrails posted: “The title for this blog entry is shamelessly ripped > off from the website dedicated to this mountain road in British Columbia, > which is the shortest connection between the Pemberton Meadows and Gold > Bridge. Trip planning: Besides iSurvivedTheHurley, I fou” >

  2. 2wheeltrails says:

    Yes, the Chilcotins. Quite some wild mountains. Remember when we finally reached single track towards the end of the first day out and immediately got stuck in the swampy forest? Wet, cold feet for me – for the rest of the ride. Not so on this winter-biking thing: mostly comfortable 🙂

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