The day starts with a "false flat" along the river ~ a road that appears flat,but you find yourself struggling, as if you're climbing a hill. You are. After that, the real deal kicks in ~ four kilometres of ten percent grade made more challenging by bikes that have run out of hill gears.
You find some reprieve at the summit ~ as well as glimpses of mountain goats, bighorn sheep and car drivers who run Michelle down in their attempt to pull over and photograph the terrifyingly tame animals standing on the side of the road.
"Excuse me," you say through the open window of a idling car, "While you're appreciating nature, would you mind turning off your engine?" The driver looks at you blankly, then mutters something about his weak battery.
You bundle up for the downhill cruise into the Columbia Icefield valley, but are hit by glacier-fed winds that are so strong that they stop you dead in your downhill coast.
As you near the castle-like tourist centre, the wind magically changes direction and literally pushes you towards the centre's parking lot. The weather and terrain mellows as you approach the Rampart Creek hostel, where manager Owen and a small Moose Network tour group start up a warming campfire.
This wilderness hostel makes do with solar panels and a well-appointed sauna complete with candles and a gravity-assisted steam-bath shower. You've gained altitude and lost some heat, but at this moment, you feel as if you're at the most luxurious of hotels. View photos.