It’s nice to wake up early once in a while, focused with the energy of anticipation. A plan long held, finally coming to fruition. I have been wanting to ride the Jumping Pound ridge trail in Kananaskis country most of the summer, but whenever it’s been planed previously it’s felt half-hearted, or the weather has been uncooperative. The thunderstorm – scattered months of July and early- August seemed to last longer than in recent years making it increasingly harder to make plans for anything too epic…but this time it all came together beautifully!
Meeting our riding buddies to convoy to Kananaskis, we turned off onto the gravel road and the excitement began to build. There’s something special about heading out into the unknown and having an adventure! We set up in the parking lot and headed on up the gravel road to the trail head. It’s possible to shuttle from the parking lot to the trail head, but an 8km warm up was probably good.
Arriving at the trail head we were met by a welcoming committee of Rocky Mountain cattle, casually chewing the grass and probably wondering what all these strange creatures were that had appeared in their spot. We paused for some revitalizing fuel ahead of the climb and hoped they would move off – they didn’t – and then set off up the track. It was a technical climb, littered with roots and rocks which focused the mind away from the cardio and kept it on the task at hand. After 2 and a bit kilometers and over 400m elevation gain, we burst out onto the top of the first climb and 360 degrees of panoramic views spread out around us. It was spectacular! I’ve never ridden my bike high up in the alpine before, and I definitely will do again!
We paused to collect our breath, take on more food and marvel at the landscape that surrounded us. It definitely made the list of my top 10 lunch spots! Not wasting too much time, as our buddies had to be back in Banff to work at 6, we hopped back on the bike for the fist of the descents. It always takes me a few minutes to adjust from uphill slog to downhill balance. Reading the terrain is similar but the way you manage it is different, so I was timid at first but soon recalled how to bike and was away! The descent took my breath away. Smooth single track up through alpine meadows and sandy, rocky sections – it was perfect! I found myself taking on more speed and more chances that I usually do, but it’s good to push yourself once in a while!!
The terrain became steeper from here, and we descended down into another valley. Another climb to another summit lay ahead of us, but a mere 150m over a kilometer so not so long or as high as the first. We were joined by other bikers at this summit, both those we had caught up to and those that had caught up to us. We didn’t hang around this time, partly to avoid the crowds and partly to get back to the cars in time for the others to get to work! I took my time over this downhill as it was far more technical than the first, and I’d already fallen off once! I was soon overtaken by others, jaw dropping to the floor as I saw how people can ride steep, loose, sharp-cornered terrain. I wish I’d taken more photos, but I was focused on walking my bike down the hill! I met a fellow walker as we reached the trees, “I’m an expert at walking my bike downhill”, he laughed. “This is the last…interesting bit”, he lied. I let him carry on ahead and tried to get on my bike as much as possible. It was such an amazing, long and varied descent, I had so much fun trying new things and pushing myself harder than I thought I could go.
Driving back in the car I sat, smiling, as the mountain scenery passed by. I felt tired, but so happy. There’s something special about a full day out in the wilderness, body rejuvenated through the exercise and deep breaths of the clear Rocky Mountain air. The sun had been out all day and I had my fix of vitamin D, I was refreshed and ready for the week of work ahead. I need days out in the mountains to reset myself, to gain perspective, reflect on life and allow my brain to file the current events properly. I feel so lucky to be able to get outside regularly and enjoy being in the mountains as much as I do.