To Black Hill Hut and Back
The weather often throws a complete wobbly around the Christmas summer holidays in New Zealand! This year was no exception with torrential downpours around the country. I had been really keen to get up near the Main Divide and ride the Cass – Lagoon loop, but huge westerly storms covering the alps on the days I had free put paid to those plans. Howling Nor-West gales are no fun on the open tops, and so a Black Hill ride was the go as it is pretty much completely in the forest.
Tim and Chris were keen and we headed into the Wharfedale track. The Wharfedale used to be a favourite track of mine, but these days it has been relegated to a trail I ride to get other places and never a destination in itself. The track has quite gentle undulating gradients punctuated with copious bog holes, water flowing down the track and stream crossings. This makes for a mostly mucky slog, punctuated by small pieces of fun flowing trail. In a few places there are sharp metal waratahs protruding from the trail surface which can easily rip an entire sidewall out of a tyre. The tracks above the Wharfedale however are worth the trek.
Starting up Fosters Ridge from the junction past the Wharfedale saddle and it gets real steep, real quick. Bikes were on our shoulders and once walking you soon settle into your own pace. There were some trees down on the way up, which made for a welcome excuse to have a rest as did getting cameras out to play. Chris had a new camera and so was busy snapping away with his new toy.
After the initial steep climb there were undulations in the ridge which give respite from carrying. A couple of the little downhills were quite fun! As you get further up the gradient of the ridge flattens a little and the track is able to be ridden in places.
Near the top of the hill there is a track junction where the 2 ridges meet. From the junction we decided to go up to Black Hill hut for a look. Another 20 minutes of uphill grunt to pop out at a nice little hut in a nice clearing. I signed the hut book and we sifted around for a little eating food and enjoying being at the top of the hill and knowing there were hundreds of meters of descending on technical beech forest tracks below us.
We were soon heading down the trail. The trip back to the trail junction seemed extremely quick compared to how long it took to walk up, and it was but a taste of what was to come. From the junction we pointed our bikes down the ridge which would take us down to the Wharfedale Hut. The fun really started here! This trail has everything I really enjoy in a track. It goes from fast and flowing to weaving through trees, to tight off camber corners to rock gardens and root tangles. The surface goes from grippy loam to loose stone and back again. Unlike some downhill tracks which seem to be over in a flash this one does seem to last a decent length of time, although the number of fallen trees that we had to scramble over and through might have had something to do with this. Pulling up at the very bottom of the trail we all had big grins on our faces. Definitely a super fun track!!
A refill with water at the river and then we jumped onto the bottom of the Wharfedale track and started riding home. Past the Wharfedale hut and up to the saddle. My legs were starting to feel it as we had been out for over 5 hours by the time we got back to the saddle. I think Chris was feeling worse, not being used to the longer adventure type riding, however a couple more rides like that and I am sure he would be storming along. We had a reasonably quick blat back out the Wharfedale track and arrived back at the carpark. The beers that were in the van, although a little warm still tasted damn fine!!