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Bottom of the World - Surviving Whistler Top to Bottom
Conquering Whistler's Top of the World Trail
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Bantry Bay (Northern Beaches, Sydney)
Bruce Ridge (Canberra)
Bungarra Alpine Centre (Snowy Mountains)
Currumbin Border Track (NSW/QLD Border)
Daisy Hill (South Brisbane)
East Kowen (Kowen Pine Forest, Canberra)
Forest Pipeline (Northern Beaches, Sydney)
Fred Caterson Reserve (Castle Hill)
Golden Jubilee Field MTB Park (North Shore, Sydney)
Hassans Walls (Lithgow)
Hinze Dam (Gold Coast)
Jindabyne (Snowy Mountains)
Kiwarrak State Forest (Tarree)
Majura Pines (Majura, Canberra)
Manly Dam (Northern Beaches, Sydney)
Mt Joyce (Gold Coast Hinterland)
Mt Kosciuszko (Snowy Mountains)
Nerang State Forest (Gold Coast)
Old Man's Valley (Hornsby, Sydney)
Ourimbah (Central Coast)
Oxford Falls (Northern Beaches, Sydney)
Pilot Wilderness (Snowy Mountains)
Red Hill (Northern Beaches, Sydney)
Rotorua Redwoods (New Zealand)
Silver Mountain (Kellogg)
Singleton (Hunter Valley)
Sparrow Hill (Kowen Pine Forest, Canberra)
St Ives and Belrose (North Shore, Sydney)
Stromlo Forest Park (Canberra)
Terrey Hills (Northern Beaches, Sydney)
The Oaks (Blue Mountains)
Thredbo Resort (Snowy Mountains)
Thredbo Valley Trail (Snowy Mountains)
Whistler Bike Park (Whistler)
Wingello (Southern Highlands)
Wylde MTB Trail (Cecil Park - Western Sydney)
Conquering Whistler's Top of the World Trail
The Top of the World single track trail video was shot on our second run down, but I’ve added few bits of additional footage from our first run. It's easy to tell the two runs apart, the first run is bright and sunny while the second run was in thick smoke. The smokey haze was immensely helpful as reduced the intensity of the shadows providing greater visibility of the chewed out trail surface and ultimately a clearer trail video.
I'd watched about a dozen different Top of the World trail videos in the year leading up to my trip but despite the countless hours studying the trail while I worked out on the trainer, commuted on the bus or sat in the lunch room dreaming of the day there were a number of things that came as quite a surprise.
The idea of this post is to give you the no-bullshit accountof a ride down Top of the World.
Top of the World is a black trail. They don't exaggerate the trail ratings in Whistler - if a trail is marked as black it’s really a black trail not an “Australian black trail” (if you ski you will know what I mean). If you aren't up to black standard you shouldn't attempt Top of the World, not only for your own safety but the safety and enjoyment of other riders.
There is quite a bit of steep, rough, loose and rocky fire road before, after and in the middle of Top of the World. Those trails are hard going, it’s definitely worth doing a bit of training on fast loose fire trails before heading to Whistler, it will serve you well.
When I rode Whistler the trails were exceptionally dry and blown out from the competition season, specifically the EWS and EWS Challenger events that saw thousands of riders chew up the trails. I've never seen so many bomb holes (potholes) on a trail, nor had I seen this sort of carnage in any of the Top of the World trail videos I'd watched in the lead up.
While watching the video look closely at how many rocks and roots are exposed and how many bomb holes there are immediately after them. This was pretty stock standard on this trip.
It was next level rough but also super slippery which was making me even more nervous. Whether it was the pools of talc, loose corners or rocks covered in a teflon-like film of dust the trail was very skiddy despite running Magic Mary/Hans Dampf. I’m not used to these conditions so I found it very intimidating (throughout the whole trip).
The top section of Top of the World has some steeps, they are much steeper than they look in videos, made exceptionally more difficult by the large exposed rocks restricting line choice difficult and the super slippery rock armouring.
Notice how difficult it was for me to keep a good line and speed on the right hand turns in the top steep sections. I couldn’t understand why riders in other videos were so hesitant on those corners, but despite psyching myself up to ride them quickly (especially on run 2) they were incredibly challenging to hold speed on.
I'm sure that after a few runs getting a fast line would come however you pay a high price for fucking up! Super sharp rocks line the trail from top to bottom enhanced with super big boulders and in the top section some nice drops off the side of the mountain. The cost of coming off adds to the intensity / stress of riding Top of the World, conversely it makes surviving Top of the World immensely satisfying.
Despite only running a third of the way down the mountain, Top of the World is a long trail! Our second run was just over 22mins riding time but over an hour on the trail (7 breaks) but it was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. And it was those things that lead to my moment of laziness and painful #FAIL on the first run - see the video.
After completing Top of the World it’s a LONG way to the bottom. Access down via Freight Train, No Joke and Duffman (video to come) is just as difficult as Top of the World. You can however ride down Expressway and onto the blue jump trails however this is not without challenges either as Expressway is largely a loose, rocky and bumpy access road with an uncomfortably steep gradient. It's a very unpleasant way of getting to Blueberry Bathtub. First runs in this section could also take you an hour to get down. “Bottom of the World” video coming soon.
Other things you need to know about Top of the World
Top of the World is an additional fee on top of any other pass you have. You must pre-purchase / pre-book before going up.
Unless you are super fit or used to riding massive descents then a couple of warm up runs in the Fitz (lower) area and a full top to bottom run will probably be as much as you can handle in 1 day. Consider that before launching into a full day pass + Top of the World ticket - there are cheaper options.
Check the weather, there can be a massive temperature difference between the Village and the Peak. You will spend enough time on the mountain to suffer from exposure if you don’t have the right clothing - not to mention not being able to brake in freezing conditions. (JFTR it was over 30°C on the day we left Whistler and 3 days later ToTW was covered in snow!!).
What bike: Very doable on a Downhill or Enduro Bike. There are short sections of pedalling and one “climb”, but if a DH bike is what you have then you’ll be fine.
Comparing Top of the World to other trails
All the fire roads:Thredbo Downhill Fire Road - Not dissimilar in that it's heavily corrugated, loose and faster than you want to be going. But generally any loose corrugated fire trail practice will help you.
Rollercoaster, B-LineStromlo - but a whole lot harder, rockier, looser, slipperier
The very top section:
Mt Narra - but looser, slipperier
Serrata (descent) Bantry Bay - but a whole lot harder, looser, slipperier
Blue Upper Loop (descent), OMV - tight rocky corners, little pinches and steep rocky sandy shoots.
Pork Barrel, Roller Coaster or Slick Rock, Stromlo - but a whole lot harder, rockier, looser, slipperier. Bigger!
Middle flowy section above or just getting into the trees:
All Mountain Trail, Thredbo - similar to sections near the Antons t-bar and below Merrits but but a whole lot harder, rockier, looser, slipperier.
First switchback section in the trees:
Eagle Vs Shark, Billy T, Exit, Rotorua Redwoods - fast flowy trails into tight berms. A few roots and rocks to deal with but for the most part a chance to really let the bike run.
Last flowy tree section:
Blue Descent (the original), OMV - had a really similar feel to the flow of the original Blue Descent
Trail Centres and Trails featured in this blog
- Old Man's Valley (Hornsby, Sydney, NSW)
- Rotorua Redwoods (New Zealand, NZ)
- Stromlo Forest Park (Canberra, ACT)
- Thredbo Resort (Snowy Mountains, NSW)
- Whistler Bike Park (Whistler, BC)
- Wingello (Southern Highlands, NSW)