Planning the Tour

Back in the summer of 2000, I spent a few days at the (now defunct) Hilda Creek youth hostel along the Icefields Parkway. I was using this hostel as a basecamp for some climbs in the region when I met a few cyclists who pulled into the hostel for an overnight stay. One of them happily explained his adventure through the Rockies as I smiled and nodded my head as I listed to his itinerary. What he didn't realize was that I was actually thinking You are one crazy son of a bitch ! What I didn't realize was that I'd be doing the same thing six years later !

Well, I guess I should say that I'd be doing something "similar". The cyclists I met at that time were on a supported tour which meant that they carried nothing more than a water bottle and camera with them. Their personal gear and food was carried in a minivan while cycling guides roamed the highway in case they needed some assistance. That type of touring is usually referred to as credit card touring.

The tour I was planning would probably be considered light touring since I'd be carrying all of my personal gear less tent and sleeping bag. I'd also be carrying a full assortment of repair tools along with some emergency food and a shelter but I'd always be planning on staying in a hostel at all times.

I really liked the idea of a fully self sustained tour but since this was my first tour, I decided to take it one step at a time.

The Route

For this particular tour, I decided to combine both the Columbia Icefields Parkway with what's known as the Golden Triangle which consists of Golden, Banff and the Radium Hot Springs. Doing so would cover most of the major parks of the Canadian Rockies (Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay) and would simplify the logistical nightmare of accomodations and food since each day would end in either a town or youth hostel. As an added bonus, the tour could be done in 8 days which would only require 5 days of precious vacation time.

The route would consist of the following :

Day 1 Calgary to Canmore 97 km
Day 2 Canmore to Castle Junction 60 km
Day 3 Castle Junction to Radium Hot Springs 106 km
Day 4 Radium Hot Springs to Golden 105 km
Day 5 Golden to Lake Louise 82 km
Day 6 Lake Louise to Rampart Creek Hostel 95 km
Day 7 Rampart Creek Hostel to Beauty Creek Hostel 57 km
Day 8 Beauty Creek Hostel to Jasper 83 km

The Participants

Once the route was planned, it was time to look for some potential partners. I quickly put up a website describing my tour and mass emailed a bunch of friends in February - half a year prior to my departure. To my delight, I received around 10 replies indicating some sort of interest in this tour. However, from past experience, I knew that only 20% or so would actually end up coming. Surely enough, the interested individuals slowly started dropping out until one remained in the end - David Pe. Dave was a friend I've known for over 10 years and although we shared a great interest in the outdoors, this was the first adventure I'd do with him. I really have to hand it to him; not only was he flying from Toronto to particpate in this tour, he was getting married a month later !

The Logistics

In retrospect, having only one partner was a really good thing in terms of logisitics. The biggest headache was finding a way to get back to Calgary from Jasper on Day 8. Since my car was able to handle 1 passenger and 2 bicycles, I simply drove to Jasper a week prior to the tour and took the bus back to Calgary. If I had more than 1 partner on this tour, it's quite possible that we'd all have to take the bus back to Calgary. (I use the word "simply" very loosely because my car suffered a flat tire on the way to Jasper and I nearly missed the bus back home.)

The other logistical problem was food along the Icefields Parkway since there were limited facilities along that stretch of road. To address that problem, I simply dropped by each hostel on the way up (in my car) and dropped off a parcel containing food, snacks and the oh so important Mountain Sized Koknanees.

Although drinking water wasn't a huge concern, I decided to bring a pair of 750ml bottles along with a water filter instead of lugging around 3 to 4kg of water. The MSR Waterworks filter I brought along did a great job of filtering the tasty glacier runoffs and mountain streams.

Finally, I also brought along my Optimus Nova white gas stove for boiling water. We'd use this water for our ramen lunches and as a backup in case my filter failed for some odd reason.

The Bicycles

For this tour, both Dave and I decided to use a mountain bike instead of a touring bike... mainly because we didn't have a touring bike.

I thought about using my super lightweight Kona hardtail with a BOB trailer but in the end, I chose to use my Bianchi Lynx hardtail instead since it had eyelets for a rack and a chromoly frame. A few weeks before the tour, I swapped out the cheap Fastrax fork with a chromoly rigid fork along with some new wheels, rim brakes, etc. The last thing I needed was some sort of equipment failure 50km from the nearest town.

Dave decided to bring his modified Specialized Rockhopper from Toronto. Unfortunately for him, the ground crew at Air Canada must have had a game of "Let's see who can throw this box the farthest" since his rear wheel was completely warped. His front fender was also cracked in around 4 places.

I ended up mounting a pair of paniers on my rack along with a rackpack while Dave used an ingenous set of homemade paniers (made from drybags) and a handlebar bag.

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