Canadian Trails: Whistler’s Epic RideMay 2, 2011
By Adam Campbell
Destination: Comfortably Numb, Whistler, B.C.
Season: spring, summer, fall (snow-covered in winter)
How to get there: The Wedgemount parking lot is 4K north of Whistler on Highway 99. Go through the parking lot and take a left, follow the road for about 500m. Look for the trail sign on the right.
Whistler is world renowned as an alpine playground with several amazing running routes above the trees in the area. But my favourite run is a sub-alpine trail cutting through the beautiful dense forest around the famous peaks. Comfortably Numb is a 25K, challenging, highly technical, but incredibly beautiful, point-to-point singletrack trail with almost 1,300m of elevation gain over the course.
The trails around Whistler, and much of the west coast, can best be described as works of art. Creative trail builders ensured that Comfortably Numb - nestled in the trees of the Coast Mountains - stands out as a masterpiece.
Chris Markle, one of Whistler’s most accomplished trail builders, almost single-handedly established the route. Whistler locals call it an “epic” ride, one of those trails that everyone should experience at least once. It’s now protected as part of Whistler’s official trail network.
Other than generally being a north-south traverse, there is nothing linear about the track. It’s a twisty, tight, hilly singletrack route, with elevated feral wooden bridges over streams, creeks, waterfalls and sensitive areas. It runs in and out of moss-covered, old growth Coastal Western Hemlock ecosystems, dotted with granite rock gardens and sweeping vistas of the valley and local peaks. Combined with the real possibility of bear sightings, and struggling mountain bikers on their over-built rigs, this trail gives you a true West Coast feel.
As a point-to-point trail, it can be run in either direction, but most people start their effort 12K north of Whistler Village at the Wedgemount turn-off. This direction offers a less severe climb to begin the adventure. With most of the elevation gain coming in the first half of the trail, once you’ve taken in the high point views, prepare to dance your way down the roller-coaster plunge into the valley bottom, where the trail spits you out of the forest at Lost Lake Park in the village. Other than a few open rock sections, finding the trail isn’t an issue, so you can enjoy the surroundings as the miles tick by.
After an Olympic-year hiatus, the trail hosts an annual race in June that is a favourite among all participants. It’s a great way to experience the trail, with vans driving to the start, making the logistics of running the route easier to manage.
Adam Campbell is a trail runner based in Victoria and former winner of the Comfortably Numb trail race.