"Is it open yet?"
The frequency with which this question was asked in the last few weeks/months became a running joke on local MTB channels. It's not like there's a shortage of other riding options around here, but I get it; I've been religiously checking TrailForks every week, waiting for the magical day when the full ascent into the alpine would open.
And then, last Thursday, it did:
The next question I had to ask was "can my body do this?" Specifically, my left hand. For the past three weeks, I've been dealing with a sprained thumb and index/middle fingers from going OTB. If you've ever played volleyball, you probably know the feeling that accompanies your fingers being jammed backwards after botching an attempt at setting the ball. It's taken three weeks to be able to make a fist again and I still didn't have full grip strength back, but I figured a rudimentary taping job would let me get through the day.
This is a ride I've wanted to do since I fully embraced the knobby-tire life last summer, but the province got smoked out from the wildfires and by the time I felt comfortable enough with my own skill level, the descent down Lord of the Squirrels would have been torn to shreds.
So, with a few days notice, a small crew was gathered for an all-day adventure into the alpine. We parked near a lake at the bottom and began our slow-but-steady slog across the flank of Mt. Sproat for about an hour before even getting to the ascent trail proper. Everybody came well stocked with plenty of fluid and snacks, so it was just a matter of making steady progress upward, punctuated with a few short downward traverses to give the legs a bit of a break.
We really couldn't have asked for a better day; temps were warm enough to be pleasant without being stifling and most of the climb was done under tree cover, and once we reached the sub-alpine and things started to thin out, variable cloud cover and a nice breeze kept things manageable and the worst of the bugs away. There were still patches of snow left high up, incredibly useful for stuffing into my helmet vents and down my back for nice refreshing time.
There are a few grunty sections where I would have appreciated a lower crawl gear, but nothing is overly technical. My injury mostly held up, but the constant jarring of the bar into the web of my hand over 45 minutes of descending, along with the accumulated effect of arm pump was not ideal. Also, 45 minutes of descending is a long time. Think you've got strong legs? Do you like doing wall sits? Well, this is kind of like doing wall sits while you're getting bounced around during a really long earthquake.
If you're considering this, just be prepared for a long day. The view up top is worth the effort.