Mountain biking at the Kirwans Reward Track – Easter 2009 Part 2
Waking up on the West Coast to the sounds of native bird song is a lovely way to start the day. Knowing that you can go ride your bike on some fantastic forest single track instead of heading off to work is an even better feeling!!
We met Tim, Angela and Bevan at Capleston, which back in 1877 boasted 7 Hotels and 1000 residents, but these days it is just a gorse lined paddock with a few nosy cows. Kirwans Reward track is named after William Kirwan who discovered loose gold bearing quartz back in 1896. These days the workers are long gone, but there is still gold for us who enjoy mountain biking in the shape of graded and benched pack tracks that the miners left behind!
Leaving the cars the track gently climbed on a wide 4wd track for a couple of KM’s before a quick drop through a water tunnel that popped us out to a swing bridge to cross the river. From here there was about 30 minutes of undulating track alongside the river to test our skills, with many slips and slumps, sheer drops into the river and slippery roots to navigate. After going over a couple of foot bridges the climb started for real and with a starting altitude of around 200m and the hut at about 1200m we had a fair bit of altitude to cover along the way!
The track started off gently, but it was not long before we found ourselves clicking down to the lowest gears with our lungs and legs getting a real work out! Like many tracks of this nature with challenging roots, rocks and steps on the way up, it meant that we had to put in effort to gain enough speed and momentum to clear obstacles as we headed upwards. Such efforts (as we know to well) left us all panting for breath and trying to recover on the flatter bits between the roots and rocks. As we went upwards it seemed that there were less sections to recover but even more challenges!
As we climbed through the dense rain forest it started thin out and the canopy got lower and lower with an abundance of moss covered trees and track. There were often trees that had fallen across the track too, and while some of these had been cut away and cleared, many of them simply had a step cut into to allow us to climb over. With the girth of some of these trees being 2m or more I was not surprised to see that they had not been moved at all! The forest was really enchanting and alive with native birds and vivid greenery.
After about 3 and a half hours we reached Kirwans Hut and there was a liberal dose of snow coating the top of the hill. This would be a great hut to stay a night in with a commanding view out over the Paparoas and Victoria range. Apparently on a clear day you are able to see Aoraki (Mt Cook) from this hut. We took 20 minutes to eat some food and put on warm clothing for the downhill run, and then pointed our wheels downward!
On the way down, Kirwans Track had some fantastically long flowing sections of trail where we had great visibility to see what was coming up, so we were able to really let go of the brakes and float down the curvaceous single track between the moss covered trees. Lofting the bike over roots and humps in the trail and drifting in the leaf litter put huge smiles on our faces and the downhill just seemed to go on forever!! The flow was only interrupted by having to climb over trees and slips, but such breaks were a welcome breather as we exclaimed to each other how good that last section was!!! After an hour or so of descent there were a final 30 minutes of undulations along the river. After the adrenaline and flow of the downhill this part did seem a bit unnecessary, but we were soon at the car for a very well earned beverage and salty snacks. Seven hours of riding definitely filled the riding quota for that day!!
There is a short video clip of the descent over on Vorb if you would like to have a look http://www.vorb.org.nz/kirwans-reward-t94990.html