Exploring the rugged Chilcotin Ranges on the 2023 Element

Sam Schultz and Margus Riga explore the scenic and rugged terrain of the Chilcotin Mountains as part of a multi-day expedition. 

Earlier this past summer, when daylight hours were plentiful and alpine rides up for grabs, Sam Schultz and Margus Riga packed their bags, headed for the BC backcountry and put the new Element through multiple days of single-track wilderness.

Born and raised in the mountains of Montana, Sam was introduced to mountain biking at the young age of 11. This sparked a career in the cross-country circuit, where he landed on numerous podiums, including a XCO National Championship. After dealing with injuries, Sam was eventually forced to step away from cross-country racing. That didn’t stop Sam from sticking to the sport he loves, as he transitioned into what he refers to as “soul riding.”

Margus is no stranger to multi-day adventures weighed down by a camera bag. The veteran photographer has spent most of his career working alongside the world’s best bikers and keeping up with them when navigating technical terrain. Over the years, Margus has become one of the go-to photographers for physically demanding assignments.

Sam and Margus crossed paths a few years ago and connected through their love for big multi-day rides. An athlete and photographer match made in heaven and the perfect duo to take on a three-day mission through the vast, remote, and truly wild Chilcotin Ranges. What came out of it? A genuine soul riding adventure, stunning imagery and an experience to remember.

Relive the adventure through Sam’s ride logs and Margus’ captures.

Day 1: Warner Pass to Lorna Lake

“9:00 am: Just got dropped by heli on top of Warner Pass. Is this real life? Have I packed everything? Drive in was incredible. Turbo powered dirt road access is the best. Feels good being here with just the right amount of gear. Will the slightly more used than ideal brake pads hold up? So stoked to be out here with Margus.” 

Start of the decent from Warner Pass to Warner Lake. Warner Lake makes for a good pit stop before the start of the ascent. Sam navigating through the remote and rugged Chilcotin terrain. Long days mean taking advantage of any safe water source available! The Chilcotin Ranges trail network offers various single-track descents. The trip synced perfectly with the wildflower season, adding to the beauty of the landscape.Sam catching the last light before arriving at Lorna Lake and setting up camp for the night.  

“11pm: What a day! Margused hard. 6ish hr day turned into 12. So much amazing terrain. Deer flies fierce. Wildlife abundant. So surreal to go from Crankworx to Chilcos. Very lucky to meet the people I have. Wishing I wouldn’t have chucked the tuna. (that I decided not to pack at the last minute) Gonna be tight on food, and very excited for dinner at Bear Paw. 5 am alarm on for tomorrow.”

Day 2: Lorna Lake to Bear Paw Camp

Sunrise on Lorna Lake with a side of instant coffee.  

“6:40 am: Up and at em. Instant coffee never tasted so good. Not easy to get up, but body feels quick to limber. Are we really going to do another day like yesterday? Riga says 8 hrs, planning on 12. Food bag is now 70% trash, but I think just enough scraps to survive.”

The path to Bear Paw camp. Spectacular landscapes are a part of the overall experience, including Mars-like red and orange rock covered peaks and plateaus.

“1:05 pm: Top of false-summit city. Margus is good at carrying his bike. Beauty views. One bar, one bite of melted cookie and chocolate, one bite salami, one Babybel. Will this get me through the day?”

“4:40 pm: Topped out at Elbow Pass. Just ate my last bar. Cooked and very excited to get to Bear Paw. Margus is a machine.”

The last stretch to Bear Paw camp before a warm meal and beers to refuel.

“10:00 pm: Laying in bed at Bear Paw camp. Feels so good. Finished the day w/ the sickest descent right into camp. Beers were in the creek and we feasted on amazing food. Big day planned for tomorrow so we will see how that goes. Margus says 12 hrs so I’m going to count on 16.”

Day 3: Bear Paw Camp to Tyax Lodge

“6:50 am: Last morning, tired legs. Margus snored like a mountain man, but wall tent was nice. Quick breakfast here and then we’re off.”

Quick river crossing to start the final day.

“11:11 am: Top of Deer Pass. Morning feast w/ a chainsaw and pot clanking to scare off griz and two cubs that were very near our tent for entertainment. Legs and body are 10x better than yesterday. Might be able to make our lofty goals. So good to have topped off food reserves.”

Up and over Deer Pass. Next stop: Windy Pass. Blue skies and golden sunshine all along the way. Alongside its single-track trails, the Chilcotins also offer unique ridgeline traverses.  

“4:19 pm: Top of Windy Pass. Margus talking about whether or not we’ll have daylight to finish the route. Uh-oh.”

Chasing the light on the last leg of the journey.

“7:04 pm: Carrot cake on top of Ridge-o-rama. Coolest zone of the trip. Colors are insane w/ ribbons of singletrack through endless basins.”

“10:11 pm: Finished by brail and made it to Tyax Lodge just before 10 pm closing time. Kitchen was closed so burger dreams didn’t come true, but bartender filled our pints and was generous with chips. Happy, tired, and content. What a trip!”

Click here to explore the full Element lineup and updated colours for 2023.