A Chilliwack man has done something not done before, and has the video to prove it.
Gary Robbins has mapped out and run a spectacular 177-kilometre backwoods route from Cultus Lake to Chilliwack and back, crossing eight mountain peaks over 37 hours and 29 minutes. Footage from his epic journey was captured by a videographer and will be turned into a short documentary that will be posted to YouTube.
Robbins’ goal isn’t fame or fortune, it’s to highlight the region’s largely unknown natural splendour.
“My desire is to show off how ridiculously beautiful and accessible the terrain in Chilliwack is,” he explained. “It surprises me that we have a backyard that is absolutely world-class, but even our own neighbours within a 60- to 90-minute radius have very little knowledge of that.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a trailblazer, but I would say I’m passionate about showing off how incredible this area is.”
Robbins got his first good look at Chilliwack six years ago and was blown away by the natural beauty.
He saw towering mountains surrounded by acres of lush, largely untouched forested landscape. But as he started talking to locals, he was amazed at how little they knew.
When Robbins and his family moved from North Vancouver to Chilliwack a year ago, he decided to do something about it.
On that trip five years earlier, he gazed up at the stunning summits of Mounts Webb, MacDonald, Lindeman, Slesse, Crossover, MacFarlane, McGuire and Church. He looked at maps and thought to himself, ‘It’d be really cool if you could go up and over all those mountains and back to Chilliwack.’
Poring over whatever maps he could find, Robbins didn’t see evidence that it was possible, but once he moved here and got to look at those mountains every single day, curiosity compelled him to investigate.
“I trolled more maps, did more research and put boots on the ground, and I started to piece together that it was possible,” he said. “Once I realized it all linked together without any out-and-backs or double-backs or loops or anything else where I would see the same section twice, I was excited to see that it all made sense.”
An ultra-distance trail and mountain runner who competes internationally, he’s previously tackled the 100-mile distance. 18 times.
“When I drew it all out on a map and saw that it was 110 miles (177 km) to go from Cultus Lake to Chilliwack and back, with over 10,000 metres of elevation gain, those statistics lined up with some of the most desirable races in North America and the world.
“One hundred miles with 30,000 feet of elevation gain is the barometer of a really amazing mountain race, and I couldn’t believe my good fortune to discover a line that had never been identified before or pursued in the manner of a singular run.”
The next step was to take what was on paper and put it into practice.
Robbins invested more than 50 hours into more recon, and over the weekend of Aug. 28 to 30 he finally tackled the whole thing.
He had to do a fair amount of bush-whacking and off-trail navigation during the 37-hour, 29-minute run.
It was equal parts exciting and gruelling, but Robbins said the sights and sounds helped keep him going when things got tough, particularly after stomach issues hit him hard both nights.
“The more time you spend in your own head the more challenging it becomes, but this route let me externalize a lot of moments because what I was looking at was so stunningly beautiful,” he said. “This route definitely had much more reward than most, and that prevented me from getting overwhelmed contemplating the timeline, elevation and distance.
“The scenery was a necessary distraction.”
Robbins is calling his route ‘The Big Chill,’ and hopes his story and the video that is coming soon will inspire others to follow.
In the meantime, he’s already thinking about his next project.
“My initial big allure was the Cheam range, and how to link that up in a single pursuit, but this stole my attention,” Robbins said. “It shows how spoiled we are that I’ve done a 170-kilometre mountain run, and yet I still have another entire side of the Chilliwack River Valley to dive into.”
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