Remembering Wayne Roberts

The best mountain bikers know how to manoeuvre up, over, and around obstacles without fear. No one ever accused Wayne Roberts of being intimidated by an obstacle.

The best mountain bikers know how to manoeuvre up, over, and around obstacles without fear.

No one ever accused Wayne Roberts of being intimidated by an obstacle.

The long-time Carcross resident, and fixture on the trails on and around Montana Mountain, died last week from cancer. He left his mark on biking, hiking and tourism in the community.

“I think the biggest thing he leaves behind is summed up by the Mountain Hero trail and his vision of a trail-related tourism project in the southern Yukon being a viable thing,” said his friend Derek Crowe.

More than a decade ago Roberts uncovered an old tramway that he would turn into Mountain Hero, the longest trail in Carcross’s renowned mountain biking system.

“I was bushwhacking along the Skagway highway when I first moved up here in ‘98, looking for places to take tourists,” Roberts told the News in 2011.

“I kept seeing this wooden structure up the hillside and one evening I jumped out of the truck with a compass and made a beeline for it. I came across this cut and started following it around and came across tram towers and tin cans.”

Crowe estimates that Roberts’ work, singlehandedly removing trees and overgrowth that had taken over the tramway, is responsible for about two thirds of Mountain Hero as it exists today.

It would eventually be completed by Carcross youth through the Singletrack to Success program.

The International Mountain Bicycling Association inducted the Mountain Hero trail into its Epic Trails category in 2011. It was only the fifth Canadian trail to achieve the designation.

Roberts was running a hiking and biking tourism company the first time he took riders down Mountain Hero. He was approached by Tourism Yukon to lead a group from a national biking magazine down the mountain, Crowe said.

He promised them a trip through the alpine would be organized in two days.

The trail was nowhere near ready.

“For two days, day and night, he basically frantically cleared out that trail. He hacked out a thin little path through a bunch of snarl,” Crowe said.

“But still, at that time, in the Yukon, it was a singletrack trail down from the alpine that was remarkable on its own.”

A month before he died, Roberts sat down with Anthony DeLorenzo and Jenn Roberts (no relation) on the deck of his cabin at the bottom of the mountain. The pair is working on a project documenting people who built the local mountain biking scene.

He spoke about those two busy days, when he worked and slept outside with his dog and was forced to scare off a bear.

“But anyways we got it going, got it opened up and they came out because they were looking for singletrack, not all mountain roads. And, pfft, there it is. That’s when it really began,” he said, according to a transcript provided to the News.

That’s just how his friend’s mind worked, Crowe said.

“He would get these ideas and just sort of go for it.”

After that first group left, Roberts worked to improve the trail. In the early days he led hiking tours up. He wanted to make sure they were comfortable, so he brought a full-sized outhouse halfway up the trail — a 2,000- to 2,500-foot elevation gain.

“He just broke it into pieces, each wall, and packed it on his back,” Crowe said.

“That kind of sums up who Wayne was, he would just do that by himself.”

As mountain biking grew in popularity in Carcross, Roberts spent two years working with the Singletrack to Success program. The crew those years built the 270-metre boardwalk on McDonald Creek and the Nares View trail.

After closing his official touring company, Roberts would still sometimes give impromptu tours of the mountain.

He was at his best when he was guiding and telling stories, Crowe said.

As his health started to fail, Roberts was still able to spend time on the mountain. He continued to ride, this time on an electric-assist mountain bike.

“I rode with him this year,” Crowe said. “Here’s a guy who was a month away from dying of cancer and he was able to ride up the Dei Kwaan trail at a speed my friend Seamus McGrath, who’s been to two Olympics, would have a hard time maintaining.”

During the ride, Roberts mused that everyone should have an electric bike.

“I said, ‘Wayne, it’s just typical you. You’re just ahead of your time.’”

With files from Tom Patrick

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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