Part 4: Ghost Bears & Cross Ditches


Part four of a solo trek to the Shulaps area of British Columbia… Previously published on Overland Canada in 2014.


I decided to have some fun while setting up my home for the night. Here I go setting up the trusty North Face Rock 22 tent. This tent has kept me and adventure partners dry and cozy during numerous wild thunder storms in the Coast Range and winter weather in the Rocky Mountains over the years.

I was satisfied with my home-sweet-dome for the night and sat back to take in the views some more:

So…. the night in the tent… Did not go so well. I expected wind being right there on the ridge, but not as much wind as what hit me! I will not be overly dramatic, and I did not fear being blown off the cliff to my lonely death, but the wind ruffled my feathers. I figured it would die down after sunset and the ridge would afford me fantastic views (which it did), however it turned out to be a long, cold and noisy night without much sleep. I’m guessing if I camped on the peak it would have been the same outcome. I didn’t have time to build a wind shelter out of rocks, and the only alternative to pitching the tent on the ridge was going back down halfway to the Sequoia to a flat spot on the rocks. I was by myself and didn’t really care so I guess that’s why I overnighted on the ridge.

All night long the gusts were rocking the tent and whipping the fly, no matter how tight I had it. I could hear rumbling rockfall off the peaks around me, and I even heard the wind blowing rocks along outside my tent, causing me to look outside to ensure it was not a bear or goat pawing at the rocks! Around 0600 hours the sun breached the horizon and the gusts really picked up. It was already below zero and even cooler with the windchill, so I just buried inside my bag. I slept for short periods on and off throughout the night until the beginning of sun rise.

The wind direction changed and the wind was coming up the valley I had ascended the night before. The tent finally couldn’t take it anymore and the long sustained gusts ripped my guy wires for the fly, which had been anchored to small boulders. I can’t knock the tent because the guy wires were unknowingly rubbing on the rocks due to the way I secured the tent. It bowed over during the gusts and was pushing against me inside.  The fly was flapping and cracking like a whip – there was no way I could sleep and I didn’t want the tent to suffer any further damage. It was time to pack up.

I held onto the tent with one hand while I dressed in all the clothes I had. Sweatpants, hiking pants, shirt, hoody, ski jacket, gloves, toque etc. I managed to get the tent all wrapped up without having anything blow away. No time for breakfast, I made a beeline downhill. Despite the wind and cold, it looked to be another beautiful day. I hate to take these “selfies” but I thought it would be funny. Again, I don’t love being behind the camera, but I thought I’d document my unhappy morning expression:

I suppose the night sounds pretty dramatic, but in reality I was having a good laugh at it all. I didn’t feel very rested but I knew I’d be in the truck the next night and would have a good rest.

On my way down I spotted movement near my feet. Do you see it?

Looking back up to where I spent the night:

I found the truck as I had left it. Before starting up the previous night I had chalked each wheel with big rocks and it hadn’t budged. The tricky part was turning around on that boulder trail…. I backed down about 100 ft and then pulled a risky move in a spot about as wide as the truck is long. I reversed into the uphill side, crunching the rear bumper (not the first time) in a few spots. I then did the so-called Austin Powers turn around where all I could see out the windshield was down the steep rocky slope. After some careful tire placement I made it around and was happy to eat the damage rather than back all the way down that mess.

Once back at the lake I celebrated with some java and a grilled chicken sandwich and skipped some rocks. I figured for the rest of the day I’d mainly leave the maps alone and drive the trails in the area. There were many quad trails leading to the alpine, and zero garbage or evidence of meadow bogging observed. Of course I didn’t see anybody up there all day so I had the area to myself.

That trail led me into this alpine area, a few basins over from where I camped. For scale, you can see the truck in the lower right corner:

This area was pretty cool and would make a decent base camp for future hiking trips. I decided I would probably return next year. The snow likely doesn’t melt here until late July or early August due to the elevation.

There was a lot of above treeline access in this area and the views just never stopped.

I took yet another tight trail which intersected the main road. It led me up to a 2000 m elevation bump which was half sand and half dirt.

I continued and the trail went through a burn area from a recent forest fire:

Then I ran into more trouble. As I had to be home the next afternoon, I decided to start heading south before it got dark again and leave some of the exploring of this area for next time. I pulled out the map and noticed another way back to the main road system from this area. It was a trail that dropped about 5000ft out to the Yalakom Valley below and consisted of numerous switch backs. Once at the bottom, I could follow the Yalakom main road back to the Moha area and then to town. I thought it would be more enjoyable to complete a loop rather than re-trace my steps along the way I came in.

I didn’t take any pictures of this portion because I was pretty busy driving and trying not to get stuck. I started downhill, in 4low with the brakes on as it was pretty steep in some areas. I began to encounter numerous cross ditches as I went downhill. They appeared to be recently created, perhaps deactivating the road after dealing with the forest fire. The ditches slowly became deeper and deeper until I found myself having to stop before each one, get out and walk up to pick my line. Basically they were big and deep enough that I couldn’t see into them from inside the truck.

At first they were fun, but after the 30th one they were becoming slightly annoying. In hindsight I should have turned around and left the area via the way I came in. At least I knew the road in was driveable and it was relatively 2wd travel. I continued on as the valley bottom was getting closer and I didn’t want to back track through all those ditches.

Then the ditches got deeper. Out came the shovel and I found myself “smoothing out” the ditches so I could get through. I noticed that all other tire tracks through these ditches stopped long ago. Even the ATV tracks stopped awhile back so I was making “first tracks”. Even with the use of the shovel, going down into the ditches my front bumper would scrape, and then the rear would scrape coming out. I was up on three, then two wheels a number of times and was really working the centre diff. Even after crossing the mother of all ditches (3 big ones directly after one another with no flat in between) I came to an even bigger ditch. I was quite close to the valley bottom and the main road system, but this ditch would have been too much work. To top it off, it was in a clear cut area and none of the stumps would have been solid enough to winch from in the event I became stuck somewhere.

Looking at the fuel gauge, the big ditch, and realizing if I busted something it would be a very difficult fix given the circumstances, I decided to turn back. I knew I had made a bad decision as I would have to cross many of those ditches going uphill now. Perhaps I would have a winch fest and really put the winch to task, or at least get more exercise when shoveling. I took out my 5 gallon spare fuel can and put it in the main tank (afraid of stalling out with the truck at such angles through the ditches). I took my time and scraped, hopped and bounced my way through the bigger ditches and was able to get through without any disasters. I was probably up on 3 wheels for 75% of the ditches but managed to crawl through and climb back up the ridge. Nearing the top, knowing I had been through all the hard obstacles, I ended up taking a quick video going through the last ditch. Looking back, I wish I had taken pics of the ditches!

Here are some screen shots of the last ditch, which was like a speed bump compared to the others which swallowed my truck whole. The quality is lower as they are only screen shots:

Returning to the top of the cross-ditches I could breathe easy. All I had to do now was cruise and enjoy the music.

Continued in Part V: The Kookipi.