One bike, 900 miles, two legs.

So this is supposed to be the challenging aspect of the trip – after the warm up of the last few days riding we are going to head over the Rockies via the Icefields Parkway in two days.

So I previously complained I never saw any elk. Last night the campsite was awash with the things, and this morning they were still happily grazing around the tents. Very surreal.

An elk, elking around the van
An elk, elking around the van

Not far into the ride we came across the first set of waterfalls that we would see, the Athabasca Falls. A nice little set of falls, with good access though a little too touristy for my liking. But then this is a major tourist route, as demonstrated by the hordes of RV and caravan traffic that passes us.

The Athabasca Falls
The Athabasca Falls

Then after a few relatively painless miles, and an extortionately expensive sandwich, we went and saw our second set of falls – these were the Sunwapta Falls. Much more powerful than the first set, the river abruptly changes direction and flows through some tight rocks, and drops about 50ft.

The Sunwapta Falls
The Sunwapta Falls

It was a long few miles from then as we slowly wound our way up through the high valleys between the jagged peaks until we came to the final brutal climb of the day that goes over Sunwapta Pass. It started gently but then soon ramps up to about 8-9% and doesn’t stop for a couple of miles. Painful stuff, and I was glad to see the end of it and the road sank on the other side to another high valley.

Please make the pain go away
Please make the pain go away

Once that hell was over, we then steadily climbed back up to our campsite that was at just over 2000m, about a mile away past the main Icefields centre – a horrible tourist trap where they can go on the glacier in a big-wheeled monstrosity, ruining the glacier in the process.

One of the many glaciers
One of the many glaciers

The view from my tent. Not bad, eh?
The view from my tent. Not bad, eh?

Tomorrow we finish the journey to Lake Louise with the second half of the parkway, which drops back down to about 1500m then back up to 2000m. Very tired but had a seriously great day, with awesome weather, spectacular views, and a truly unique campsite at the end. I never thought I would be able to ride in scenery like this. I’ve never ridden at this altitude before. And I’ve never camped in the side of a mountain before. A day of firsts.

GPS stats – 66 miles, 5003 ft ascent

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