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September 13, 2008

Mt. Fromme: Pipeline

Filed under: BC 2007, MTB Travel — anotherheader @ 4:09 am

The Crew: Becky and Dave

After a day off to lick our wounds, we headed to Mt. Fromme. Everyone we talked to told us that Mt. Fromme is a more difficult place to ride than Mt. Seymour. Perhaps it is a curious decision to head to a harder place to ride after our far less than spectacular showing at Mt. Seymour. With that in mind, we did a little more research on the web upfront and came up with a set of trails that we felt would be more to our level. We purchased a map and cross checked out trail choices at another branch of Cove Bike Shop on Main Street (this time without the frame of mind setting Canadian accent) and headed up Mountain Highway to the trailhead.

Getting to the Mountain Highway trailhead at Fromme is easy. You just take the Mountain Highway exit off of Trans Canada 1 and carefully follow Mountain Highway head towards the hills. Eventually you reach a yellow gate as the road turns to gravel. It seems that the gates open and you could, in theory, drive to the top to set a shuttle but this is not generally allowed. We parked a few blocks away from the gate (parking is restricted closer  in). After organizing our gear, we headed up the hill amongst the numerous riders making the same trek.

First thing you notice on the way up is that there are a lot more six-inch travel bikes heading up this climb. This made us feel like we had more appropriate bikes for the area. There were also a lot more women heading up the hill this way (OK, maybe the bikes were not the first thing we noticed). In fact, the ratio of men to women that we saw on this ride was close to 1:1. For comparison, I’m not sure we saw a female rider at Mt. Seymour the whole day. If Brian had stayed and been along on the ride, he might have never left as all the women had body armor.

We climbed up Mountain Highway for short distance and took Griffin Trail to our right. This was a relatively easy intermediate trail with moderate root and rock drops and a couple of smaller build-ups. It was pretty straightforward and confidence inspiring for Dave. Curiously, Becky had a rough start after riding well on the much harder trails at Mt. Seymour (she was back on form soon after). The end of Griffin put us back on Mountain Highway. Repeating the climb put as back at the top of Griffin and this time we took another intermediate labeled trail—Roadside Attraction. Roadside Attraction was actually pretty easy with only a rooty drop to a narrow bridge over a drainage as a significant challenge.

Back on Mountain Highway, we climbed up higher. On the way up we encountered a friendly local that confirmed that our destination, Pipeline, was a great trail. He said that the trail had had a lot of work recently and was “buff”.

From the yellow gate, the comfortable climb to the Pipeline trailhead takes 20 to 30 minutes. The trailhead is just past the entrance to the famous trail, Ladies Only. After padding up, we dropped in on this intermediate/advanced labeled trail and the fun began. The tread conditions were tacky on dirt and only somewhat damp with decent traction on the roots and rocks. I guess the Canadians have another definition for “buff” than we do, as the trail was anything but fast and smooth. It was, however, a beautiful trail in great shape with rock armored drops and clean, rideable build-ups. The frequent drops had rollable lines while retaining the fear factor of a rocky drop. The ladder build-ups often lured us onto something higher off the ground or skinnier than was comfortable. It was great fun and a perfect challenge level for us today. I pick this as the best trail of the trip. (OK, I had to say that since Brian, Scott, and Dan are gone. But the trail certainly is on the list of the best trails of the trip.)

Becky on Pipeline

Becky on Pipeline

The fun is not over when Pipeline T’s into Baden Powell. Baden Powell is a mid-mountain level trail that extends past Cypress (another riding area in Vancouver) through Mt. Fromme and past Mt. Seymour. This older, long trail, according to the folks at Cove, is often dismissed as utilitarian and uninteresting but is challenging and fun. At Mt. Seymour, from what we saw, the uninteresting description was pretty accurate. At Mt. Fromme, this intermediate trail was very interesting. Built on an old road cut, the trail has tons of armored drops and small, functional build-up bridges. Despite the wider feel, it has plenty of challenge, including a hairball descent at the end onto Mountain Highway.

On the last drop, my cell phone rang with a dinner reservation confirmation. This pretty much put an end to the idea that we would do another loop. So, after more than 3 hrs, 9+ km, and 1600 feet of climbing, we called it a great day and headed back to the trailer. It started to rain soon after our return to camp.

Slick drop on Pipeline over a wood culvert

Slick drop on Pipeline over a wood culvert

Over an excellent dinner at West, we were left with a tough choice of whether to ride Mt. Seymour or Mt. Fromme for our last ride of the trip on Sunday. It is good to have decisions like this to make. Due to the heavy rain, the decision was more complicated as we will likely be facing the dreaded wet North Shore conditions.


A website with pictures and trail maps for the North Shore:

Some Vancouver information:

Good Indian food in Burnaby at Bombay Bhel:

Excellent Fine Dining Restaurant (West):

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