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Preserving Gnarly Trails

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Oct 16, 2019

“I have no interest in seeing our public lands sanitized from risk and therefore sanitized from recreational usage.” - DNV Mayor Mike Little on Teeter Totters.

2019 On The Trails

With good cause, mountain bikers on the North Shore are hair-trigger sensitive when it comes to rumours about land managers' plans to shut down or sanitize the technical trails that give the North Shore its legendary reputation. It was only a short time ago that the District of North Vancouver (DNV) black-bagged Pink Starfish to justify the stack of cash they pissed away on their 'Alpine Rec Study' and in the spring of this year they fully misled the public about their intentions to destroy* the Griffen Switchbacks in a story that will hopefully come to light someday.

These weren't unsanctioned loamers, but rather fully legit, sanctioned, permitted, heirloom trails with builders hungry to step up and return them to a state of awesome. So, when rumours started flying that another legendary North Shore classic, Grannies Trail, was going up on the block the pitchforks came out.

*Inquiries to District staff were met with assurances that there were no plans to 'decommission' the only route out of the forest leading to Mountain View Park, and then one day they were gone.


...then they came for the Teeter Totters with the threat of immediate removal. Photo: Morgan Taylor


Ultimately, the nanny state took a back seat with a stay of execution. Personal Responsibility gets a win. Photo: Morgan Taylor

The word came down from the nsmbA that Grannies was safe (for now). Flasks were clinked, trail builders were toasted, teeter-totters were ridden, everyone bought Mathew Bond a beer, and even the Mayor of the DNV showed up bigly for personal responsibility. Grannies had more traffic than the last five summers combined and it was starting to feel like this season of the soap opera As The Shore Turns was coming to an end and the Fromme #gnarpreserve was safe for another annum.

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The good news - Sean, Pat, Joe, and the rest of the nsmbA builders have been pumping out fresh cedar on Boundary Trail.

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More good news - there's lots of other fresh cedar on Fromme. Check out how the updated Lower Crippler coaster rolls on the builder Andi's instagram.

As long as I've lived on the North Shore there's been a battle between land managers looking to exert their will with impunity and mountain bikers showing up in numbers, and with dollars,* to demonstrate the intense passion for the trails we maintain and share with other users.

Like any community full of intensely committed individuals, there are varying opinions on how those trails should be maintained and altered. Unfortunately, as much as we need an enhanced catalogue of green and true-blue level trails, in most cases the trail networks on the Shore are managed as a zero-sum game. Generally building a new trail involves putting it on top of the bones of an old gnarly one.

*Wherever you live, please buy a membership to your local trail association. Your donation helps maintain trails and more importantly, it's a clarion call to land managers. Riding the North Shore? Here's a link.

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Independent builders are making a huge contribution as well: an interplay of media as cedar flows into perfectly puzzled rock work on Lower Crippler.

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Depending on your disposition, Andi's rock work process is fascinatingly precise or frustratingly persnickety.

Building Boundry

This summer the gnarliest trails on Fromme have been running beautifully: Bookwus, Grannies, Upper Crippler, deliciously precise Upper Digger, Lower Crippler, Ladies Only, and etc. All signed and sanctioned. And surprisingly, I've seen more riders on all these trails than any year I can remember in the last decade. Freeride bikes are back and people are riding them.

Unlike the rest of the trail news this summer, when word came down that Karen was having to step back from her beloved ridden-artwork, Boundary Trail, it came with a panic-reducing plan. Karen asked the nsmbA to step up in her stead and they committed to building structures worthy of her craft.

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Phase one boasts lots of fresh cedar on Boundary Trail.

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Greasy rock rolls being reactivated with fresh ride-ins and roll-outs.

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Solid craft in what is hopefully just the first step in revitalizing this piece of ridden-art.

On our family hike up Boundary this weekend, we saw more riders coming down then any time I've been on the trail, hiking or riding, in the last five years put together. We saw plenty of off-the-bike moments, a few puzzled attempts at breaking foot-long derailleur cages or bending rotors (or where those actually attempts at riding features?), some very intense focused visages, and a plethora of huge smiles. Boundary lives because of all of Karen's hard work and passion over the years, and it thrives again because she stood up and asked for help when she needed it.

If you live nearby, or are planning to visit, I'd highly recommend you check out the new work on Boundary, either by bike or on foot if it's outside your comfort zone. The work that Pat, Sean, Joe, and the rest of the nsmbA build crew are doing is phenomenal. To date, friends of Karen's Boundary have raised $1810 in funds specifically for the trail. There is still plenty of fresh cedar to come and if you have a few bucks adding unnecessary grams to your stash bib or hip pack here's the donation link to stack on the rung pile.

With technical trails, particularly those with wooden features, dwindling by the year, 'preserving the gnar' has never been more important. Trails evolve and tastes change, but the North Shore will always have a reputation to uphold. Thanks to the considerable efforts of the nsmbA, a troupe of talented trail builders, and some noisy and outspoken riders who also vote in municipal elections, for the moment, the future looks bright for the North Shore "gnarpreserve."

Trending on NSMB


+5 AlanB Cr4w grambo Cam McRae Andrew Major
Mammal  - Oct. 16, 2019, 7:02 a.m.

Thanks for the words Andrew. Good summary of recent work, I'm looking forward to checking out all the new ceder on Boundary.  I love these pieces that tie the historic elements of the shore to current status. 

I passed your fine Fam on Dreamweaver, when you were on your way up to Boundary this weekend. Hope I didn't cook past too quickly, but all 3 of you were pretty tucked away inside the switch back quite efficiently. Cheers!


+1 Mammal
Andrew Major  - Oct. 16, 2019, 7:19 a.m.


We had nothing but great interfaces with other trail users and we where treated to a couple ohhhhhhhhhhh sh*t moments which is always fun when it’s someone else!

Did we trash talk you a bit? :-) Say hi next time!


+1 Andrew Major
Mammal  - Oct. 16, 2019, 7:46 a.m.

I don't recall any trash talk, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. I was in that state of absolute bliss-focus after such enchanted trial conditions we had this weekend, like my dog with squirrels.


+2 Cam McRae Andrew Major
taprider  - Oct. 16, 2019, 7:22 a.m.

Thanks Andrew. Good story.

I too was surprised late Monday afternoon how many people were on Boundary (I was riding down this time too)


+1 thaaad
Andrew Major  - Oct. 16, 2019, 1:45 p.m.

Build it and they’ll come. I think it’s awesome how much demand there is for North Shore trails - on the North Shore. 

We’ll have Jerry Willows back building skinnies in no time #jerrywillowshatesmybike


Jerry Willows  - Oct. 16, 2019, 7:24 p.m.

that's a big no.... I've leave it the professionals.


Andrew Major  - Oct. 16, 2019, 7:32 p.m.


Whatever JW - I know you're handy with the tools. I walked your trail once!


+3 Tremeer023 joedirt thaaad Todd Hellinga IslandLife
Jerry Willows  - Oct. 16, 2019, 7:43 p.m.

the problems with building wooden features:

1. Takes a lot of time

2. Does not last 

3. Nails are expensive

4. Sourcing stringers means cutting trees

5. Dirt is more fun to ride.


+1 Jerry Willows person person Andrew Major joedirt thaaad
Silk  - Oct. 16, 2019, 9:32 p.m.

1. Worth the time and proper wood work is art work

2. It does when you build to last. 20 years is possible

3. One time purchase when you re-use all nails when rebuilding wood work

4. Lots of great wood due to each winter blow downs.

5. Every rider has his own favorite terrain.

+3 Tremeer023 joedirt Sandy James Oates thaaad IslandLife
Jerry Willows  - Oct. 16, 2019, 9:56 p.m.

1. Worth the time and proper wood work is art work - 

Definitely art work but worth the time is a matter of opinion.  I think it should only be built if the trail needs to go over water. 

2. It does when you build to last. 20 years is possible - 

How much woodwork on the shore is 20 years and not rotten?  Lucky to get 15 years in real world.

3. One time purchase when you re-use all nails when rebuilding wood work -

Re-using nails is going to be very time consuming and doubt you will get them all out straight.  The initial cost is still  expensive and is still not natural.

4. Lots of great wood due to each winter blow downs.

Non-rot cedar does not blow down.

5. Every rider has his own favorite terrain.


+6 ManInSteel Pete Roggeman upandown Skyzorg AlanB Andrew Major
Cooper Quinn  - Oct. 16, 2019, 10:50 a.m.

Thanks Andrew. Between Imonator and Boundary, we've been working hard lately to ensure that theres still cedar skinny trails to hike your VPS Shore up to (in jeans, of course), than Hans and Hilde can ride when they visit from Germany, and groms to get their first taste of The Shore on. 

It ain't easy to ensure theres adequate opportunity for everyone 10" wheeled run bikes to Thomas Vanderham, but we try our best within the constraints of geology, ecology, environment, and geography. 

Now then; about that zero sum game bit... Clever foreshadowing to the 2020 push out of my camp?


+1 thaaad
Andrew Major  - Oct. 16, 2019, 1:45 p.m.

I have no insider information to foreshadow! More trails is more better though.


+1 Andrew Major
Ddean  - Oct. 16, 2019, 1:49 p.m.

Great article. I think it hints at just what a knife edge some trails might actually be on. Authorizations and signs and history means a lot, until you wake up one AM and they didnt. People need to speak up at every occasion when the Districts take any action that reduces your ability to ride the Shore.

And zero sum game, I hope that doesnt mean that something has to go before we get that route up to the Bobsled switchback from BP. Come to think of it, last time I rode by that area, it looked like that route was already in use! FREERIDE ASCENT YO!


taprider  - Oct. 16, 2019, 3:23 p.m.

^ just say I build a green "ride beside" from the teeter to the hump on Ladies (but let the green be 2 way) and you would basically be there by connecting some existing dog walking trails  ;-)


+2 Pete Roggeman Andrew Major
Stuminator  - Oct. 16, 2019, 7:19 p.m.

Warms my heart to see this happening. Too bad Pink Starfish is dead. UOC to PS to Boundary used to be a great lap.


Andrew Major  - Oct. 16, 2019, 7:33 p.m.

You shame me - I can't believe I didn't put UOC on my gnar list. I road it a bunch this summer and it's in great shape with plenty of solid wood.


+1 Andrew Major
Perry Schebel  - Oct. 17, 2019, 10:10 a.m.

ah, memories of the classic walk in the clouds - circus - starfish - groovula - boundary lap.


+1 Andrew Major
joedirt  - Oct. 17, 2019, 8:02 p.m.

Great piece Andrew. There was actually a queue to drop in to Boundary on Sunday afternoon. Good to see the new work is getting lots of action. It's been pretty cool having the opportunity to rebuild one of the trails that got me hooked on riding as a grom.


Andrew Major  - Oct. 31, 2019, 9:43 p.m.

Thank you; thank you for all the work!


+1 Andrew Major
mikesee  - Oct. 24, 2019, 4 p.m.

Long live hard trails.


+1 Andrew Major
ManInSteel  - Oct. 31, 2019, 7 p.m.

Thanks Andrew for the story.


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