With the route known, I then digitized the route (nerdy, I know, but helpful). Not only could I plan were I should stop based on distance and elevation gain, but I could have a breakdown printed out with me to know how much distance and elevation gain between various points, which proved very helpful in the trip when I had to deviate from my planned stops (which happened a lot!) and I wanted to make informed decisions. Because there were a lot of ways in which I could break up the route, by having the map digitized on a spread sheet, I could intelligently plan stops so that I could start small with elevation gain and distance, and gradually ramp it up.
As far as climbing, I spent hours poring over guidebooks and Google Earth piecing together potential peaks. Eventually I drew up a list of possible outings (more than I could do, but then allowing for a nice variety of options). One logistic to work out was how I would get to the peaks without a car, so finding routes with reasonable cycling approaches was key. I could cycle out from a “base camp”, climb a peak, and then head back. On peaks further out, but along my route, I could cycle over, climb the peak, and continue on to that night’s destination. The second concern was what I would do with the gear and food on my bike, being left unattended in Bear country.
Light camo- netting would protect my bike from theft (after it was stashed in the bushes, plus the netting could make ‘questionable’ roadside camping easier), but were there any bear boxes at the trailheads, or would I have to bring a bear canister? A call to the ranger office in Banff answered that question – no bear boxes, and the Canadians don’t trust bear canisters. My only option would be to hang food. I was also informed that I didn’t need to make campsite reservations as I should be able to find a site coming in on a bicycle and it being a slow year. When the ranger inquired as to my overall plans and I told him, he warned me that the stretch from around Kamloops all the way to the Coastal Range was a desert that could reach 100o F during August. I had seen the barren areas on satellite photos, but just assumed it was barren and cool highlands – I hadn’t even considered that rain-drenched British Columbia would have a desert! I would have to get across that section of my route fast – and carry a lot of water.
In order to prep myself for the trip while trying to recover from Denali, I tried to cycle at least every other day, if not every day, for the entire month – and when I went out I aimed to punish myself. The emphasis would be hills galore, and as fast as I could take them. Of course I would also make sure my rides were initially at least 20 miles and then gradually increase the distance to 50 miles or so. The 10-mile 2,000 ft climb in Millcreek Canyon got routine and loops from my house in Holladay to Brighton and Alta ski resorts became reasonable outings.
Packing went less straightforward. By the time I had amassed all of the gear I thought I needed, it weighed over 90 lbs. After some thoughtful sorting and inventorying to see where the weight was, I managed to trim it down to 82 lbs – still not a very good number, but it was the best I could do with the unknowns. Spread-sheeting everything, as nerdy as it seemed at the time, was very helpful, since I could make sure the weight was balanced well between my 4 panniers and rear bag. Also, bringing a printout list with me made repacking every day very easy, since everything was packed so tightly and needed to stay balanced throughout the trip.