The Squamish Triple Crown: Kings & Queens
In late July, a group of riders embarked on the Squamish Triple Crown, an event organized by Lucas Greenough and the Squamish Gravel Cycling Club. The ride spanned 71km and three local climbs resulting in 3417m of elevation. Join Sarah as she recounts her journey, replete with chunky gravel, pristine beauty, and unintended flatulence.
Over the last few years, gravel riding has exploded in Squamish and folks are obsessed. It should come as no surprise that the sport would blow up in the recreation capital of Canada. Squamish is a town nestled between Briatannia and Whistler along the breathtaking views of the Sea to Sky Corridor. Many people live and visit for its endless mountain terrain and outdoor activities. The mountainous town attracts climbers, mountain bikers, hikers, alpinists, photographers, deep water divers, marine biologists, backcountry skiers, kite surfers, fishers—the list goes on.
The Squamish Gravel Cycling Club was founded by Alex Morgan, Zach Delgreco and Pat Valade in an effort to bring the Squamish gravel community together. In November of 2020, Alex and Zach started by organizing Thursday night rides leaving from the Cloudburst Cafe. With a tremendous increase of participants by February 2022, they announced an official club in January of 2023. Around the same time last year, Alex, Zach, and Lucas Greenough organized the first Squamish Gravel Triple Crown. With the combined growth in the gravel community and general interest in riding Squamish terrain, Squamish Gravel Cycling Club and Lucas collaborated in organizing the second annual Squamish Gravel Triple Crown—a 12-hour ride over 71km and 3 local climbs for a total of 3417m in elevation.
Early to arrive at Cloudburst, I sat anxiously and watched each rider roll up to the cafe with a similar look of diffidence on their faces. Peering around at the other 30 participants, trying to spot a familiar face or bike, I was both timid and certain that I’d make some new connections. Seeing such an array of gravel rigs informed me that the Squamish Gravel Club had inspired many to ride the acclivitous terrain.
Before we rolled off, Lucas made a quick and impudent speech that the ride is meant to be ridden at a slow pace and that if getting a KOM/QOM (King/Queen of the mountain) is your goal, then best to choose another day to do the route on your own. More importantly, everyone was expected to be prepared and self-sufficient. Lucas was thoughtful in planning the event and planted a dangling carrot at stage two pit stop—a cooler of beverages and a box of various snacks.
All 30 riders eagerly departed from Cloudburst cafe towards Mamquam golf course to start our first long and slow pedal to Red Heather Hut. Moving at a steady pace, the group reached the gravel trail that I like to call the “Squamish back alley”. It’s a wide gravel road that fast tracks riders to Garibaldi Mountain Road. Garibaldi Mountain Road itself is pretty rough with washboard sections from continuous shuttling to the high elevation mountain bike trails, which makes for a lot of meandering.
Turning over pedals and watching people group up with new and old faces, I’m reminded of Lucas highlighting that this would be the more reasonable climb out of the three. Having done this climb a few times, I agreed with his sentiment,“enjoy riding your bike now and be ready to push your bike later”. From personal experience, climbing up to Red Heather would be a great deciding factor as to whether to continue onto the next two stages.
With Lucas leading the pack, he encouraged numerous breaks for riders to catch their breath, stretch, snack, and to share an anecdote or two. The consistent breaks brought a sense of ease into something that would easily be described as stressful. Group rides can go one of two ways, a race pace where numerous people get dropped or a test of everyone's patience. This ride saw none of that as people were prepared, self-sufficient, and helped those around them.
As we reached Red Heather hut, with 30 bikes lying chain side to the sky, we had a brief snack. Being mindful of time, Lucas slowly ushered folks back onto their bikes and encouraged us all to practice our best trail etiquette while descending. Feeling a bit rushed, I inhaled one of my croissandwiches as I watched restless riders turning their bikes around to descend. With one croissandwich in my gut, I took a big gulp of water and turned my suspension to party mode. Coming in hot to the main Elfin lakes trail parking lot, everyone paused to regroup before heading towards the infamous Northside Connector trail. Northside Connector Trail is a 7.8km multipurpose green trail that reaches Alice Lake to Diamond Head trail network. Neither easy nor extremely hard. Pulling up to the intersection of Mamquam FSR (forest service road) and Indian Arm FSR, Lucas had cool drinks and snacks for all.
Fuelled by Coca-Cola
With a stomach full of Coca-Cola and random salty items, the second climb would take us up Mulligan Access Trail. 5.7km and 752m of elevation—the most taxing vertical of our 12 hour day. Whether you’ve been lucky enough to see the Eiffel tower in person or on a postcard, imagine climbing the entirety of that on loose chunky gravel. Acknowledging it was beyond my fitness to do this vertical seated climb, I surrendered and pushed my bike for the majority of the way. Hanging in the back of the crowd, my friend Raasika and I were at the point of the day when you’ve likely not drank enough water or consumed the right amount of calories. In our loopy state of mind, looking at what lay ahead had us laughing hysterically at how ridiculous this climb was.
Struggling to stay motivated and keep pushing my bike to the top, we turned a corner to see that the trail had begun to narrow with the timberline exposing the blue sky. Raasika and I, both feeling stoked to be nearing the top decided to ride our bikes for the remaining distance. When we reached the group, we were greeted with high praise and electric encouragement. The fellow riders clapping on our arrival was a significant moment in the day. It really encapsulated the true essence of SGCC and Lucas’s intent of comradery and community.
Regrouping for the last climb, everyone appeared to be in good spirits and keen to stay on the 8:00 pm completion at the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola for a fully loaded poutine. Shannon Creek Road is 9.1km with 665m of climbing. Fortunately we’d only be climbing 5.4km of its length. Bear in mind, this road was comparably just as steep as Mulligan Road. In a float state of mind and nearing the home stretch, I was motivated to finish the route and enjoy a well earned plate of chicken fingers with fries.
Bursting with joy as we cornered a steep and sun coated switch back, I giggled with joy. With that giggle followed a gut wrenching cramp. Surprise! I paused to let out a colossal fart. Vulnerable and unrepentant, I shared with my fellow riders, “Guys, I’m not entirely sure that was just a fart.” With great comfort, I provided some comic relief from a relatively tough day of riding and the space for others to share similar experiences. Real talk! If you’ve spent long days on the saddle in a deep hinge at the waist, and consuming random food, the chances of an unauthorized evacuation is high.
If you’ve spent long days on the saddle in a deep hinge at the waist, and consuming random food, the chances of an unauthorized evacuation is high.
As we carried on pushing our bikes up to the yellow gate, we were delighted by the view of Howe Sound and the skyline of Squamish. Through the yellow gate, the remainder of Shannon Creek road rewarded us with a consistent rise and fall. Approaching the S2S gondola, I saw the Wonderland trailhead archway in the distance. Chicken fingers and fries here we come!
Despite arriving last to the bike littered teardrop shaped grass plot; everyone was zealously cheering. The kind of cheering that resembles a warm embrace from your favorite aunt at Christmas time. A hug that softens your edges and brings tears to your eyes. Although that may sound dramatic, it’s events like this that provoke big emotions. Those emotions are a reminder of being alive and having gratitude towards yourself for doing hard things. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for being able to explore the breathtakingly beautiful Squamish terrain and for riding alongside such a kind community of gravel misfits.
If you're stoked on riding gravel and sharing good times with like minded folks, please take a peek at the SGCC link on their homepage to join the club! Happy pedaling!