Day 9: Fairmont to Banff (part 1)

Western Canada tour

a mountain vista

I rose and packed camp early in anticipation of another hot day, hoping to get past the anticipated steep and challenging climb out of Radium Hot Springs. I was on the bike by 7:15. The ride to Radium (38km) was uneventful. A short climb, some spectacular scenery, and a early heat provided a indication of what was to come. I stocked up on supplies, not knowing if I would make it to Banff and what services were available prior to Kootenay Park Lodge. The adventures of the day provided many more photo’s than any other day.

I left Radium a little after 10, taking some extra time to prepare myself for some very steep climbing. I stopped again at the sight of Sinclair Canyon, a passage before the start of the 11% grade climb, fueling up an a cliff bar and hydrating. I am not sure how much if it is natural, or how much manipulated my the hands/machines of people. A pretty ominous sight, and one worthy of what follows — It was only a couple minutes later than the sweat began to flow...

Close to 90 minutes and 11km of riding (and a lot of water) later I had crested the first climb of the day and was closing in on the breathtaking views of the Kootenay National Park and the Mountains to the north-east. This was a tough climb. Traffic was not that heavy on the way up, though it was quite busy when I reached the look-out. The photographs speak for themselves...

At the lookout, I crossed paths with a couple ‘credit card’ tourers with their own support vehicle. They were on road bikes and carrying no gear whatsoever (I also bumped into a couple on the outskirts of Banff. They were traveling super lite, staying in motels and buying meals — with plans to make Vancouver in 6 days!).

Following the 300m of downhill most of the rest of the day was steady climbing. It was long and challenging mostly due to the heat. It also seemed to go on and on. Respite came with looking at not just the mountains. The Kootenay and Vermillion Rivers' were a site in themselves. During the day I crossed paths a couple times with two cyclists from Portugal. They were on a Banff-Jasper-Radium-Banff loop.

The 2hr+ from the lookout to Kootenay Park Lodge/Vermillion Crossing (104km from Fairmont, arriving around 3pm) was a long and mentally draining stretch. This was partly due to the heat of the day, and this being my 9th day of riding, not having stopped since I left Vancouver. Aside from the spectacular mountain ranges, the sight of a black bear scampering across the road in front of me was a highlight!

Suffering from exposure, I took some time out at the lodge/store to enjoy some food and rehydrate. I was soon joined by the pair from Portugal again, who were staying at the lodge. After waiting for the better part of an hour for some of the heat to subside, I pushed on. As I continued the steady climbing towards the continental divide, the 9 days of riding, the associated physical and mental drain, started taking their toll...

the road ahead, the distance to cover (Radium Hot Springs)
Leaving Radium, the climb begins
Sinclair Canyon, Radium Hot Springs
details of the morning's climb
The view west, down towards Radium Hot Springs
the descent into Kootenay National Park
looking North-east into Kootenay National Park — what a view!
The Kootenay River — another spectaular view
looking back as I close in on Kootenay Park Lodge, just after seeing a bear!
closing in on the last Pass...
spotted my first Moose!