Broken River – Camp Saddle – Craigieburn
Last time I went over Camp Saddle was back in about 1996. I think I was riding a hardtail with 2 inches of flexy front travel. Pretty sure that Grant was along on his GT LTS full suss bike and Sarah on her Rocky Mountain. When we told people where we had gone and that we had ridden down the scree slope they all thought we were pretty hardcore extreme!! I wish I had some photos from the ride back then!
Mike, Sci and I headed for Camp Saddle on Saturday. With us all riding 4 or 5 inch travel full suspension bikes it was definitely a lot plusher than it used to be. Not that full suspension bikes make much difference when riding down loose scree slopes!! It was a lovely day with lots of blue sky and birds singing, which made for a very pleasant ride up the Broken River Skifield access road. Turning off onto the Camp Saddle track and things got steeper and steeper. Everything was still mostly rideable, but I know I was “on the rivet” to get up some of it. We climbed steeply through the trees. The further up we got, the shorter and more mossy the trees got until we popped out into the tussocks above the tree line. We managed a number of stops to enjoy the views and take photos.
There was some rideable trail above the tree line, but it soon got too steep and loose to ride. Bikes were shouldered and we continued on foot.
Of course the saddle was the perfect place to stop for lunch, after ducking just over the brow to be out of the breeze. Crickets chirping and magnificent mountain vistas made for a fantastic stop in the sunshine. From our lunch spot we could see the track a few hundred vertical meters below us. The slope was steep, and littered with tussock and scree. The key to finding a fun way down would be to find a soft piece of scree that would let our bikes sink into the scree on the descent. This would enable us to control our speed on the extremely steep slope. A line was spotted over to the left of the saddle, and we traversed across the scree and tussocks to get to the top of it.
Mike had not ridden down scree before and so Sci was telling him how. Instructions went something along the lines of “you just lock your back brake and your back wheel will sink into the scree and slow you down enough to control your descent”. Off went Sci, showing us how it was done. (Zooming in on that photo I can see braking going on with both hands there Sci…)
Mikes first effort at scree riding was extremely impressive. Mega speed was definitely obtained and he was able to hold it all together!! Video of the first descent
After his first effort Mike discovered that feathering the front brake can in fact help to control your speed quite a lot, and he descended with a lot more control.
We were soon on the track that is known as the “Edge” by the regular Craigieburn riders. A very fun track, just dont look off the side!! Riding the flowing tracks of the edge was a great contrast to the adrenaline and semi-control of careering down the scree.
A quick climb up to Lyndon Saddle from the Edge had us sitting at the start of the track known by the bikers as the “Luge”. I traveled around the world with a mountain bike for a number of years and rode a great variety of tracks. Everything from European Alps trails (France, Italy, Switzerland), to Welsh trails, to Bolivian, Chilean and Argentinian trails. Being away for 5 years and riding all those trails, the Luge track up at Craigieburn had stuck in my mind as one of the most fun pieces of trail I have ever ridden. The trouble was I could no longer remember if that was simply nostalgia for the trails back home, or if it really matched up. My first ride down the Luge when I came back to NZ confirmed that it really was as good as I remembered. It is the combination of curves, flow, trees and roots that just make it a super fun piece of track. We of course ripped down here on our bikes, smiles a mile wide! The only problem with the Luge is that i would like it to go on and on, but it pops out onto the Broken River Skifield access road. Maybe one day the trail builders will get permission to build a trail back to the car park and we will be able to add a couple of kilometers of fun singletrack to the experience! The fact that DOC have approved and are helping build a new piece of track called the Hogsback from Castle Hill village across to the Cheeseman Road is encouraging. This piece of track means that you will be able to ride from the Village via Hogsback to the Cheeseman access road, then ride the Dracophyllum track across to the Broken river access road, then head up to Craigieburn (via Camp Saddle, or up the Luge/Edge, or up Craigieburn Acess road) and return without every having to get on the highway. Fantastic!