CYCLING THE ICEFIELDS PARKWAY
DAY 6: Monday, August 19, 2002 RAMPART CREEK TO BEAUTY CREEK
Today was another sunny day, with some moderate to strong winds and cool temperatures hovering around 15ºC. We departed Rampart Creek at about 9:40 a.m., after a breakfast consisting mostly of cereal.
It was 34 kilometres to the top of Sunwapta Pass. After Bow Pass, I can honestly say we werent expecting a real difficult climb. Our profile map, however showed a 1900 foot climb over only 16 kilometres. The first 18 km climbs quite gradually, then the grade rapidly increases. Just before the real steep part starts, we stopped for a break at Parker Ridge, just below the Hilda Creek Hostel. There are many hiking paths evident here, and with more time, we would have liked to have attempted a hike.
Our climb continued As I had passed Paul and Tom on a downhill stretch prior to the pass, I had a good lead. I stopped part way up to take some pictures of an impressive waterfall. I could see buses and cars stopped on a hill about 1000 feet above. That, I thought must be the summit. I timed a bus as it made its descent downhill to where I had stopped. It took four minutes. I estimated it was about five or six kilometres to the upper observation point, and the top of the pass. Boy, was I wrong!
I waited until Tom had caught up with me and we continued on our way. After climbing for another two kilometres, the road made a turn to the left and started a shallow descent. The road made a big u-turn in a clearing, where we were battered by turbulent winds seemingly coming from all directions. The climb then restarted in earnest. After what seemed like hours, we reached the summit. Tom reached the "top" of the pass first, followed by myself, and then finally Paul. After taking some pictures of our conquest, we continued on our way. Around the next bend the climb continued, and continued. The views from the 6676 pass were astounding. It was impressive to see the terrain we had just covered on our bikes. Pictures simply do not do it justice. We thought we had reached the top of the pass, but behind the next hill we continued our climb. The 34 tooth rear cog I had installed the previous week came in handy, and was well utilised. I could have used a smaller inner chainring, however.
The downhill portion of Sunwapta did not seem as steep as Bow Pass, however, I was confident I would be able to exceed 80 kph somewhere along the way. Unfortunately, going downhill I ran into headwinds which impeded my progress.
By 1:15 p.m. we found ourselves rolling into the Columbia Icefields. We ate lunch in the cafeteria because the restaurant side was full. After lunch we decided to take a Snocoach® to the bowels of the glacier. This cost almost $30, but we felt it was a reasonably value. Somewhere along the way, the guide told us about the ecological impact visitors had on the Columbia Icefields, and how Brewster Transportation (operators of the Snocoach® tours) were trying to minimise it. She mentioned they carried anywhere from 4000 to 4500 visitors per day via Snocoach® to the glacier. We roughly calculated that in a year, Brewster would make roughly $2,000,000 before costs in a short five-month season.
We left the icefields behind at 4:25 p.m., and continued the short 18 kilometres to Beauty Creek, arriving at 5:10 p.m., the same time as our American friends were arriving from their southbound trip from Jasper. Roger and Diane, the managers of the Beauty Creek Hostel had done a lot of renovating, including the installation of a makeshift outdoor shower facility, complete with running warm water. Cold water was heated by a large propane burner, and then Roger mixed the hot water with cold in a five gallon holding tank to produce the desired effect. Nothing like a hot shower with a view of the mountains!
After showering, we prepared our gourmet supper for the evening spaghetti with tomato sauce, bread, and a nice bottle of wine to top it all off!
Our total distance for the day was 56.9 kilometres over 3 hours and 19 minutes, for an average speed of 17.1 kph not bad considering the climb at Sunwapta Pass.