Spending the Day Heli Biking Mt. Cartier

Words: Devin Knopf
Photos: Ian Houghton

Any day that includes a 7,000ft. (straight) descent on a mountain bike is going to be a good one.

Throw in a rad group of guys and a helicopter ride to get you to the top and it’s going to be amazing.

Visible from pretty much anywhere in town, Mt. Cartier looms in the distance enticing adventurers to come explore, and since moving to Revelstoke last fall, the mountain had been beckoning me. So, when Revelstoke Mountain Resort and Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing announced they would be offering guided heli tours to the Cartier trail starting this summer, I knew I needed to be on the first flight and I knew who I needed to invite. Lachlan Sillitoe is an Australian living in Kamloops, he loves riding in Revelstoke and since he had never been in a helicopter before, I knew he’d be stoked.

Dropping off the second group on the ridge of Mt. Cartier

The trail up Mt. Cartier was originally built around 1920 to access a forestry lookout at the top of the mountain. Since those days, Cartier has evolved into a trail that has attracted many hikers, and in recent years, dedicated mountain bikers willing to spend eight hours pushing their bikes up the gruelling incline for the downhill reward. I would have eventually sucked it up and gone the hike-a-bike route, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was stoked when the heli-option presented itself.

The best way to start a day that will be dropping 7,000 feet over an 18km trail is with a lot of bacon and lucky for us Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s Revelation Lodge was happy to oblige. We joined the rest of our crew for a breakfast buffet and some great views to get us fuelled and amped for the day, before meeting our guides and pilot at the base of the gondola.

The final approach to Mt. Cartier

No one in our crew had been on a heli mountain bike tour before and Lachlan was going up in a heli for the first time, so the collective stoke levels were high. Minds were unanimously blown as our heli took flight across the valley before reaching our final landing point exposing the amazing views of the surrounding mountain ranges. With the clear view of what seemed like mountains all the way to the East and West borders of B.C., it was clear why this spot was chosen as a fire lookout.

Dropping off the bike rack on Mt. Cartier

We quickly scrambled to the summit to get the best views possible (and add a few 100 more ft. to our final descent) and check out the still standing fire lookout. I’m very scared of heights but the small hike was just fine for me. Revelstoke is right in between the Selkirk and Monashee mountain ranges and from that vantage point you can take in all its beauty.

Scrambling to Mt. Cartier’s summit

Once geared back up again, we headed down the trail. Since the trail was initially built as a hiking trail, you definitely need to be an advanced mountain biker to enjoy its full potential, but if you have the skills to navigate it, you are rewarded by breathtaking views and high alpine singletrack.

Enjoying pure alpine singletrack

Trying to stay on the trail is not easy, but that’s just because you are constantly stopping to check out the ever changing view.

Long benched straights in the alpine

Further down the trail, the alpine singletrack gives way to an amazing ridge line, with Cartier peak bearing down on you and Revelstoke Mountain Resort as the foreground. Our mate Lachlan did some freeriding and found a really cool steep drop in, pretty safe to say that no one had ever done it before!

Freeriding on Mt. Cartier’s rocky ridgeline

The singletrack was amazing. Considering the long life of this trail and the hiking history, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, but with over 100 hours of work on the trail to get it ready for tours, it’s safe to say it was running perfectly. You could really get your speed up and there were even a few good lips to launch yourself off.

High speed singletrack through alpine meadows

After a pit stop at the midpoint cabin, the singletrack was back on. There are a few small pedalling sections, but anyone would be happy bringing a downhill bike or an all mountain bike. My only recommendation would be to bring what the rest of the crew has – If your buddies are all on downhill bikes, bring your downhill bike and vice versa.

Taking a pit stop and enjoying a packed lunch at a lovely creek

Crossing the creek before the last climb and descent

The singletrack never gave up and was uninterrupted the whole way down to our shuttle, and I couldn’t have been happier to get delivered right back to the Revelstoke Mountain Resort Village where a well-deserved Begbie pint was waiting!

Shuttling back to the Resort village

Well deserved cold beer at Rockford wok | bar | grill

Heli Hiking Ghost Peak

Heli Adventures with Selkirk Tangiers are available from July 3 – September 7. Join Liz Craig (Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Media Relations) on a preview flight to the alpine basin below Ghost Peak.

Looking down from the helicopter at the valley below, it is hard not to be blown away by the beauty that surrounds the town of Revelstoke; the meandering Columbia River, the lush green of the flats, and the wall of surrounding mountains.

The Columbia River Valley

Revelstoke’s Columbia River valley

This is the first time that I’ve ever flown in a helicopter, so I’m having a hard time not grinning from ear-to-ear.

A group of us are heading into the alpine for a sneak peek of the new summer heli adventure products that we are launching this summer in partnership with Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing.

As we make a sharp turn and start climbing higher into the mountains, my jaw drops even further, and by the time the helicopter touches down and leaves us high in the remote alpine, I am beyond excited to explore this remarkable expanse.

Revelstoke alpine wildflowers

Revelstoke alpine wildflowers

The wild flowers are just starting to bloom and are poking out in little bursts of colour amongst the spongey moss and lichen adding to the overall beauty.

Once the rest of the group has been shuttled in, we set off on our half-day hike.

I have to force myself to focus on the ground in front of me to avoid spraining my ankle while I ogle the jagged peaks that surround us.

Hiking in the Revelstoke alpine

Hiking in the Revelstoke alpine

After nearly an hour of hiking, we follow our guide down an embankment and come out at a stunning azure blue alpine lake where we take a moment to sit and take it all in while simultaneously devouring a tasty lunch.

Blazing trails to Revelstoke's alpine lakes

Blazing trails to Revelstoke’s alpine lakes

Fueled by our quinoa chicken wraps and freshly baked cookies, we are ready to continue our climb. A quick ascent brought us around to two more lakes nestled below the impressive Ghost Peak.

Hiking below Ghost Peak

Hiking below Ghost Peak

One last scramble and we are at yet another fabulous vantage point where we relax and snap a few last shots before our helicopter arrives to whisk us back to reality.

Taking off from the alpine

Taking off from the alpine

Back at my desk, I’m already reliving the magic of the day and I’m ready to go again… only this time I think I need to do the full day hike!