Back in 2012, the Whistler Bike Park proudly opened the Top of the World (TOTW) trail, finally linking Whistler Peak with the Garbanzo Zone trails. It was the first time Whistler Blackcomb had officially included alpine riding withing its terrain boundary and four years later, TOTW remains a bucket list item for both locals visitors to Whistler.
But with the Whistler Bike Park’s expansion to include Creekside base last year, a new trail system has opened up to lift access. Peak to Creek is a popular winter descent from Whistler Peak to Creekside, and it now has summer version that allows mountain biking the Whistler Mountain backcountry.
Mountain biking Whistler Mountain’s backcountry links six different trails, both within and outside of the Whistler Bike Park boundary. It begins on Whistler Peak, which requires a special add-on ticket to access via the Peak Express Chair with your bike. The ticket costs $19 if added to a Bike Park day ticket or season pass, or $34 for a single ride up from the valley to Whistler Peak.
The route follows TOTW before exiting the boundary onto a trail called Khybers Pass. From there a second trail forks off called Middle of Nowhere which empties out straight into Kashmir. Kashmir links up to Kush before a quick fire road traverse to re-enter the Bike Park and descent BC Trail, finishing at Creekside.
That’s a total of 1,530m of vertical descent. And as I’ll mention later on, even if you have lifts whisking you to the top, the descent is quite demanding.
Let’s start with the bike. TOTW is fine for downhill bikes, but for the Peak to Creek Backcountry you’ll want an enduro bike (160mm of suspension travel is ideal) fitted a with dropper seat post. This is because sections of these backcountry trails have climbs and traverses in them and it’s much more fun to pedal your bike through those sections.
For protection, I wore a pair of flexible knee pads (easier to pedal in than leg armour), gloves and an open face helmet. A pair of breathable elbow pads would also be worth wearing if you prefer to ride with arm protection.
Peak to Creek Backcountry should be treated like any big cross country ride, meaning you should bring a pack with some food, at least 1.5 litres of water (more if its hot), a couple of spare tubes (TOTW is notorious for pinch flats) and tools to make basic repairs. Having a first aid kit for your group is also a good idea in case someone gets injured on trail.
I rode the Peak to Creek Backcountry a couple of weeks ago with two friends. I had ridden this trail link-up once in 2015, but neither of my friends had ridden TOTW and were extremely excited to try it for the first time.
We met at the Roundhouse around 1:30 pm and after a quick bike and equipment check, we trained down to the Peak Chair uploaded. It was a busy Saturday at the Whistler Summit with plenty of mountain bikers taking advantage of the great weather.
We dropped into TOTW, already warm from a lap of the Fitzsimmons Zone earlier in the day. The trail is rugged and rocky on its best days, but dry conditions meant taking it easy when entering dusty corners. Before long we arrived at the turn off to Khyber’s Pass and exited the boundary. The single track here doesn’t experience the same level of traffic as TOTW, so the dirt was already feeling (and looking) nicer under our tires.
Khybers Pass winds its way down the western flank of Whistler Mountain with some steep switch backs and several technical sections. We were checking out Trailforks map regularly to make sure we didn’t miss the turn off to Middle of Nowhere. Following Khybers to the end takes you to the decrepit and extremely burly old school trail Babylon by Bike. Pausing a few times to rest and jury rigging a dropper post, we arrived at the Middle of Nowhere turnoff around an hour into the ride.
Middle of Nowhere traverses 1.8km from Khybers back towards the ski area with a flowy, rolling descent. It descends 222m and climbs 44m, so dropper post trigger fingers were at the ready. It was also a welcome relief from the constant braking needed on TOTW and Khybers.
But the relief did not last long. Kashmir was soon upon us, challenging us with burly rock faces, pinch climbs and steep chutes. The view of the Whistler Valley opened up for the first time since we entered the treeline, a great place to pause and soak up just how far we were descending that day in one shot.
With arms, legs and backs beginning to ache, Kush was little relief. The steep chutes were longer and looser than on Kashmir, but we were soon through the most difficult sections. Emptying out onto the Kushy Love connector, we had one last short climb before re-entering the bike park at the top of BC Trail. Now exhausted, we carefully picked our way down the technical sections before exiting out onto the ski slope above Creekside. A relatively quiet Dusty’s patio was exactly what we were looking for when it was time for the mandatory post-ride beers.
Some important notes on riding the Peak to Creek Backcountry trails:
Make sure every member has the endurance and stamina for such a long descent. It’s a lot more difficult than two Garbanzo laps on a downhill bike. Allow around four hours from the top.
There’s very few opportunities to pull out after entering Khybers. The first is at the end of Middle of Nowhere by hiking up hill to the access road, the other is at the end of Kashmir and again at the end of Kush.
Make sure your bike is in good shape. Mechanicals can cripple a fun afternoon of riding and the hike out is long and arduous
Ride as if you are in the wilderness. Rescues in this area can get very complicated and extractions will often require a helicopter longline. Don’t push it, especially when you are tired near the end.