Heath and I packed up dry bivvy kits and headed off at 5:15, only a few miles short of the Wigwam camp, it turned out. The track followed the Wigwam river down to one of the traditional cruxes of the TD, "The Wall", a grungy push up a steep slippery slope which lasts several hundred meters. But as Peter pointed out, compared to Koko Claims, The Wall would be a walk in the park. And so it was, although the boggy single track before, during and after The Wall was another reason to be wary of drive trains eating themselves. The weather was still showery, but we finally got some bursts of strong sunshine. Peter and I reckon we only saw the sun for five hours over the first 2 and a half days.
I was hoping the dull achilles pain of the day before was an aberration. Alas no. I stopped somewhere in the bog to set the left hand cleat all the way back, then adjusted it again once The Wall (also tackled in sneakers) was out of the way, to get the angle right. Soft pedalling the left side was to be the order of the day. It was only day three and I was potentially in big trouble. Further big days were hardly going to permit recovery. Additionally, in the undercarriage department I had developed some painfull wear-points with the "dhb" knicks I had worn during the first two days. I've done enough 24 hr races to know that it was important these didn't get any worse, so was hoping my alternate "Velocio" set, with a different tread pattern, would provide an antidote to such problems. At least so far so good in this case.
Heath, Peter and I all came together near the top of Galton pass where a few snow drifts were encountered, but nothing too odious. The descent down to the Canada/US border crossing at Roosville was a white knuckle affair. Consistently steep and fast on a drifting loose gravel nearly the whole way. The transition from gloomy Canadian wilderness to the sunshine of open valleys and soon-to-be Montana was stunning, like flicking a switch. At the border the customs man was a friendly chap who welcomed me back to the US and wished me luck. Peter, Heath and I underwent a wardrobe change before heading south to Eureka for brunch and resupply. A voluminous "smothered" breakfast burrito and hash browns certainly hit the spot. Resupply happened at the gas station over the road. I was starting to get the hang of this resupply thing. It was here that I started on my regime of painkillers (Advil), to keep various pains in check, including a new one, the outside of my left knee. Off again.
Two more passes were on the menu for the day. The first was over the Whitefish Divide, back into the Flathead valley, which had just the lone drift of snow to deal with at the top. The descent was a long fantastic scything run down a remote dry valley towards the North Fork Flathead River, with stupendous views of peaks of the Glacier National Park adorning the opposite side. After following this river for 15 km or so we turned up the next valley towards Red Meadow Lake Pass, which reputedly did have significant snow issues to negotiate. Sure enough, riding was swapped for trudging through several kms of snow, with the very lovely lake and backdrop perched in the middle. Soon it was back onto two wheels for another fast descent in rapidly fading light.
Heath and I pulled up at Upper Whitefish Lake and were so struck by its beauty we decided that bivvying here was preferable to pushing another hour or two to Whitefish and finding a hotel close to midnight. In hindsight, this is the sort of decision that costs you progress. Do this a few times over and you'll end up a day behind where you might have been. As a general rule if conditions permit you should keep going. But given the state of my achilles, and the tranquil setting, I was happy to aim for an earlier night, even if sleeping with the bears. No regrets.
We bundled our food into a collective bag, hung it off a bridge, and hit the hay. This was actually the only time I had the energy to hang food. In all other bivvy situations I ensured that any food wrappers were buried in several layers of plastic bags that were then stuffed in the bowls of my backpack placed outside my bivvy. Not ideal I know, but in most cases I simply lacked the energy to even contemplate using best practice. One thing for sure, there was no way I could hide my own smell, and if a bear fancied that I was stuffed.
(183 km, 2829 m climbing)
Tim Nipper on Red Meadow Lake Pass
Red Meadow Lake
Upper Whitefish Lake Camp