To the last frontier
February 12, 2024
After arriving in Seattle I felt I needed a break. As planned I went back to Belgium. This was meant for some quality time with my loved ones and preparing for the last stretch to Denali.
It’s been a huge preparation for this part as I’ll be cycling for about 4000km through cold dark and remote areas. Then it’s on the skis for another 14 days before I can even start to think about climbing up. Luckily for the approach part and the climb I’m teaming up with Jeroen, a climbing friend from Belgium.
My physical preparation consisted mainly of endurance training (running and cycling), interval training, climbing and strength training. This all combined with enough rest and recovery so I’m not tired before setting off.
Another important block was to organise all the gear and go over the rope techniques we’ll need in Alaska. The gear list is immense and it gave me a lot of stress figuring out what to take, not only for climbing but on the bike as well! Luckily I’ve got some great sponsors helping me attain the best possible gear and I even got a new one! This year Petzl will provide me with all the necessary climbing gear.
The mental state
Being in Belgium gave me a mental boost and after all the preparation I feel ready to get this final stage done. It won’t be easy as I’ll have to cycle for 2 months alone in winter. I’m expecting temperatures down to -40°C, long dark rides and icy roads. As said before, I’m ready to go and full of new energy, the good time with friends, family and my girlfriend Valerie have helped me getting lot’s of motivation back! I feel like I’m getting more and more support by doing this so thank you all for reading and sending in those messages
The last start to the great north
By the end of January I started cycling again from Seattle. A big thanks to my friends David and Nathalie for helping me out in their hometown! With a loaded bike, full of winter gear and very excited I start for a couple of days riding in the rain. Not very pleasant but by using Erden Eruç (he did the same traject and climb 21 year ago) advice I got out of the city pretty safely.
The first couple of days go great and very soon I’m in Canada. Because of soutern wind systems, I’m getting rain, but tailwinds as well. Just before entering Canada there are some floodings and it’s not easy to find a place to camp. I’m wet and tired so I decide to cross the border at night and continue cycling to a motel to dry my stuff. It’s still a long and hard ride to come. The border crossing went fairly easy and I feel immediately welcome in Canada!
A whole new country
Cycling in Canada feels different, I get closer to the mountains but it still stays pretty warm (up to 10°C, yes it’s metric, or partially here!), but wet. The roads feel a bit more relaxed although many people are still driving huge cars compared to what I’m used of. I follow highway 1 to Hope, where I’ll be heading North. I can’t really wait to get more north as it should be drier over those mountain passes.
It got a lot drier over the hills, and colder. Which feels good in a way and I’m up to make good progress. I’m following highway 97 all the way to Prince George. There’s no real alternative and I’m expecting much harder conditions further up these roads so I’m pushing to get a good headstart. After a couple of days it gets colder and I need to adapt.
I start to wonder how will I ever pull this off??? It seems so far away and so very tough cycling, realising I’ll be out in sub zero temperatures for months! But like most things, I get used to it and the first time -5°C feels hard, but after -10°C it feels a lot nicer. Regularly I get to see beautiful views, which help to get me distracted. Because the long boring roads in winter make it lonely rides during the day. Distances between stops are growing and I feel like just one gas station in a day is a luxury.
Let it snow
While cycling I get to facetime a lot with my girlfriend which gives some extra distraction. For now I can still do that as the phone reception is okay in this area, so happy and grateful for this.
In Prince George I take a day off, I feel after 10 days of cycling it’s not a bad idea and I had some snow during the cycling. I got away with my gravel tires, but on some occasions it got pretty sketchy. I swapped for my winter (studded) tires and did some maintenance for the extreme cold. I make a change of route planning and I’m heading west before going north, just to have a safer and more scenic route.
Smithers is the last decent sized town I’m passing by, so another time to get a day off and prepare for the long stretches of nothing. During my cycle here I saw some beautiful places and it got colder, one night down to -22° which was a bit chilly. But strangely it’s warming up again. Good news for me that this is a very mild winter, bu not so good for the environment here…
As I’m in Smithers preparing and eating a lot I feel nervous for what’s coming up. Most people here think I’m crazy and have never seen a cyclist here this time of year. I know I’m in for some serious long stretches and taking food for more than a week on the bike at least. Next big stop will be in 1200km (whitehorse), see you on the other side!
Thanks to all my sponsors who make this adventure possible!