Freeride Backpack. Kit you need! I LOVE POW! We all love pow! To be honest Pow is what it is all about. Sick lines in fresh snow are just flipping awesome. There is a long learning curve you need to nail to really enjoy baccountry skiing/boarding. There are skills to be honed, fitness to be built up. Don't forget the whole KBYG thing, safety, risk assesment, avalananche awareness courses blah blah blah. There is a butt load of info to be aquired before you head out into the POW! To save you some time, effort and lessons here is what I should normally take as a Freeride Backpack. I say should and normally a little shamefully. I have been know to go out with no bateries in my transciever, an empty water bottle, no gloves no food , even an empty backpack. None of us are perfect and I am less perfect than most. The list is what I would take if I remembered and what you should take as a minimum. 26 years I've been at this so hopefully by now I've got it about right.There is other stuff, like parapet rope, crampons and axes that I sometimes take but only for special reasons. This is my everyday carry for a day freeriding. I hope it helps!
ClothingA few choice items of spare clothing are a must in every Freeride Backpack. The weather can turn quickly in the mountains. We often go from a long hard run, to standing around waiting and having some spare layers makes a lovely difference.
York Beanie and BuffThe weather can change, you can end up hanging around whatever the reason it is always nice to have a beanie and a spare BUFF in your bag! BUFF are versatile, warm and have some cool patterns. Picture are eco-friendly and painfully cooooool!
HardwareThere are some basic bits you will need in your Freeride BackPack. If anyone doesn’t have this minimum amount of kit do not ride with them. They are either stupid, ignorant, suicidal or an egotistical psychopath. Whatever the reason for them to be without this BASIC level of safety equipment don’t ride with them.
- A Backpack,
- Shovel and Probe
Hardware IIOptional extras in the metalwork category really depend on what you are up to. I keep the below in my Freeride BackPack because, well why not! The touring crampons are super light and take up no space, a head torch just in case, water because I am fat and sweaty and the finest sun creams on earth because I’m ginger! lips and skin it’s a little bit expensive but well worth the money.
Medical kitI have played with what goes into the medical kit for years and I am still not 100% sure what I need to I have 3 layers in there. :-
- A basic medical kit
- Survival Kit
Basic Medical KitBuy one from any out door shop these little packs have pretty much everything you might need. Don’t think too much just grab one off the shelf and chuck it in your bag.
Survival KitThis is what I have collected over the years as much as this is apropriate for a Freeride BackPack it is also useful for summer treking. Many adventures/disasters have taught me the vital importance of these little extras. The whole of the list below only weighs a few hundred grams but can make a massive difference when you are in a pickle. A small piece of bicycle tyre stuffed with cotton wool that has been rubbed in Vaseline. With this you can start a fire out of anything. Fire means warmth and smoke so you can be warm and cosy while the smoke leads help to you. Serious pain killers. The strongest you can get your hands on. A hefty does of poppies really helps when you are hurt. Some Prussik cord. Thin heavy duty climbing cord has a million and one uses in a pinch. A knife, something tough and sharp. I love an Opinel knife or something similar. Spend a bit extra if you want but Opinel are spot on. Flint and steel, with a bit of practice you can start a fire easily with one of these and they don’t mind getting wet. Compass and a Map…. Iodine, yes it stings and dyes your skin brown but it kills everything, it even works on drinking water if you can stomach the taste! Tampax are wonderfully absorbent and expand. They make great wound dressings especially if it is a puncture wound. Zink oxide tape is great for making splints, fixing kit and covering blisters. It’s the gaffa tape of the medical world. If you are damaged zinc oxide tape will probably be able to fix it for a while. Space blanket. Looks like tin foil keeps you warm as toast and weighs nothing. A total no brainer. Every medical kit should have one.
Mountain biking Bansko
For the first day of The Road to Nowhere MTB rally I decided to use a totally different part of our region. Traditionally for events concerning Mountain biking Bansko I have worked variations of established trails on the north side of Pirin. Some sort of mix between Perfect day and Dead Dog on day one and then laps sprinting around Foxy Lady for day two.
This year I decided to go into the Rila and use one of our less used tracks, Ponderosa. Normally Ponderosa starts from Predel. The border between our little valley and the outside world. The trail is a long slow climb up into the Rila followed by a fast and furious descent back to the valley floor. For the race we started at Bansko Royal Towers hotel and followed some of Perfect day out to the golf course and then on and up to Predel I love this route past the golf course, the views both north and south are fantastic.The youthful alpine peaks of Pirin rise up almost vertically above you while the more gentle, venerable curves of Rila roll off into the north.
The Profile of the trail looks intimidating with it's great big hump, in reality it is not too bad. It is a long slow climb, I get off and walk a couple of the steeper sections and have the odd rest but all in all it is worth it as once you get to the top the trail rolls along nicely for a few miles and then plunges down towards the valley for 10 miles on a wide well maintained forest road. Pay back time, all the slow sweaty work getting to the top now becomes and heart thumping blood boiling charge!
Mountain biking Bansko doesn't have to be all about Bansko! I'd suggest stopping in the centre of Razlog on your way back to sip a cold one in the park! Razlog town hall has done a great job making the centre a little haven of green tranquillity.
Mountain Biking in Bansko, Bulgaria. It's strange how myths of mountains get under your skin. There is no rhyme or reason to it but one morning you wake up and something has stuck in your head about a particular pass or peak. I've spent 10 years now wandering around the Pirin mountains trying to itch various urges. Djangal, Yalovarnika, The North face of Vihren, Jumgiev rub, Suhodol.. they have all held their sway over me at some point. I would love to describe it as a raging fire, a passion, some sort of all consuming glory filled Shakelton-esque force that drives me on. The reality is more of an itch.
Yesterday I scratched one of those itches. And what a scratch! If you can imagine Baloo in the jungle book scratching up against a palm tree you will get an idea of how good an itch it was! I have been mildly inclined to ride The Flying Scotsman since its inception. The trail looks amazing on paper. A long rolling descent from the Dobrinishtay ski area back to Bansko. The graph shows things just as you want to see them 25kms of top left to bottom right. There might be the odd moment when you'll need to pedal a bit but really only if you can be bothered. Otherwise just free wheel home baby, whoop whoop, la di da yeah ha!.....BLAH....BLAH....BLAH.
The reality is, you need to get to the top to those miles and miles of down hill. Getting to the top wasn't tooo bad, maybe only 20 kilometers of up hill, a 1000 vertical meters of up hill, 20 kilometers of hauling 107 kilos of fat up a 1000 vertical meters of mid day sun baked, up hill. You're getting the idea.
Pretty early on in the forest my urges kicked in and a trail I have not been down before looked like a promising alternative and so started an hour or so of following ancient trails to see if they would link up. Interesting if you are into scrambling lost in the woods carrying your bike through stream and thicket but ultimately futile. We eventually got back on the proper trail and climbed up through some fantastic country. Barely used logging trail running up through beautiful mixed forest, cool shade provided by old growth trees all in a cloud of butterflies attracted to the salt on our shirts. One of the best views down into the valley from near the summit (the photo at the top) gave a glimpse of Dobrinishtay and the extent of our climb.
Eventually after quiet a few sweaty hours we got pay back and off we rolled down the endless descent to Bansko. Wide, hard packed forest roads, little wiggly bits of single track, long straight runs, swooping linked banked turns miles and miles of fun!
On the map I've got they call it Trionska Livada but I have always known it as Trionska Polyana. The name is irrelevant the myth of this scruffy little meadow halfway back to Bansko has been a constant theme in my struggles with the national park. This 1/4 acre of shrub and wild flowers has been debated at ministerial level and has been a thorn in the side of 3 directors of National Park Pirin. The problem comes from the fact that even with all the will in the world not everyone who works in the mighty bureaucratic machine that is the Bulgarian National Parks Authority can know every square meter of land in the parks. Allowances have to be made, accommodations and vaguenesses . However Bureaucracy in Bulgaria is BUREAUCRACY and if a jobs worth feels the need to thrust out his chest and write to the boss and if that letter gets all the way to the top all those accommodations, allowances and vaguenesses have to be ignored and the letter of the LAW must be applied.
The details are dull in the extreme but have been a constant theme of my summers. Trionska polyana lies within the general area of the National Park however the route into it passes through 150m of Reserve. Reserve where no man may set foot, reserve so special, dam it, so sacred that it is the raison d'etre of the entire National Park. Well finally this winter some sanity has descended and a compromise reached, the minister in charge has agreed that mountain bikers can walk the 150m along the road that runs through the Reserve and the trail can now be officially be used.
So yesterday, at about 4 in the afternoon our hero sat. On a wobbly bench in a scruffy meadow. Sweaty, muddy and tired. Listening, to the birds, the little silences, the wind in the trees. He sat in Trionska Polyana and for a few moments that scruffy little meadow took on a whole new beauty.
Here is a link to a video of the downhill section of the trail!
Mountain biking on the Flying Scostman MTB Trail in Bansko Bulgaria. Written by James Hughes from The Hotel Avalon, Bansko, Bulgaria. With many thanks to Rich Walker for support with the MTB Trail finding and guiding.