In NZ the most deluxe and exotic mountain bike trips are done by helicopter. In Canada they are done by Float plane – in this case by a 1962 de Havilland Beaver . We had rolled out of our tents to a bluebird day and stuffed our packs with sandwiches. We had a mission planned that involved flying to the far corner of a map we had. The route involved 4 large mountain passes and huge amounts of singletrack glued together with a modicum of knowledge gained from hearsay of others. Mark and I were so excited we had a nap in the sunshine on the wharf while waiting for the float plane to arrive.
Turned out we were asleep on the wrong wharf… but a quick rearrange had us sorted
4 boys and 4 bikes were soon packed into the Beaver. A quick taxi down the lake before a rip roaring takeoff gave us fine views of the camp beside Lake Tyaughton. Most float plane biking trips head for Spruce Lake, or if you are more adventurous they drop you at Hummingbird Lake. The pilot confirmed that we wanted to go to Lorna Lake – more than twice as far as Hummingbird and then asked us what route we were taking. We started rattling off pass names, starting with Lorna Pass and Deer Pass and the pilot said that if we took those passes and then followed Gun Creek down from Hummingbird Lake that it would take us 6 to 8 hours if we were fit. We then mentioned that we were also planning on heading up and over Windy Pass and then following the Cinnabar trail up and over the El Dorado ridge before getting back to camp. He reckoned we were up for a big day out. We confirmed we were and that we had packed a lot of sandwiches. Appropriately he found ACDC – Highway to Hell and piped it through the headphones to get us amped for our day out.
A quick circle above Lake Lorna (1930m) gave us a good look around before a buttery smooth landing. Float planes are great! Taxiing along to a rickety makeshift wharf the pilot cut the engine, opened the door, jumped out onto the float and was able to jump nimbly onto the wharf and secure the plane. Very impressive! We were quickly out, unloaded and waving goodbye to the Beaver, with a nagging feeling that we had been abandoned in the middle of nowhere – which was pretty close to the truth!
We rolled off down the valley, in search of a vaguely explained way to cross the river flowing out of Lorna Lake. A little route finding and backtracking soon had us shuffling across some very flexy trees above the river and heading straight into the first pass of the day.
The climb was 100% ridable for about 5% of the time. The other 95% was 100% walkable.
The first sandwiches were consumed on the top of Lorna Pass (2250m) and we were soon flying down through the wildflowers. Long snakes of singletrack put huge smiles on our faces and took us down from the pass to the valley floor where the kilometers quickly flew beneath our tyres as we cranked our way down beside the headwaters of Tyaughton Creek. We quickly passed one of the horse treking camps (1700m) and hung a right up a valley towards Deer Pass (2300m). It was a couple of hours of riding and walking to get to our second lunch stop at the top.
A quick digestion nap at Deer Pass and we were once again flying through meadows of wildflowers on ribbons of singletrack. There were big fat marmots scurrying off the trail, whistling like mad as we swooped past.
After a couple of kilometers we dropped out of the meadows into forest and ripped down some awesome loose steep and dusty trails. Mark managed to catch a stump with some spokes and was soon up and riding with the remaining 28 spokes holding his wheel in some semblance of round. We dropped into the valley floor and sidled around Trigger Lake (1550m). Some fun singletrack lead us further down the valley and around the very picturesque Hummingbird Lake (1500m).
More fun valley singletrack sidled above Gun Creek until we started climbing towards Cowboy Camp past the trails that led to Spruce Lake. We were starting to feel the 2 passes we had come over and the hours on the bike, but it was a beautiful day and there was more singletrack to be had. We had a confusing conversation with a lost horse trekking guide who had no idea where she was and told us we were in a completely different valley to what we thought we were. 5 minutes further down the track we met our float plane pilot riding a mountain bike towards us saying “Hi – I’m your pilot today”. Kind of surreal, but he was looking for his lost horse guide and on the right track to finding her so we duly embarked on the climb towards Windy Pass (2200m) in beautiful light as the sun got lower in the sky.
Windy Pass was lunch number 3 or 5… after a quick discussion of which trail we should follow we were dropping from Windy Pass down to El Dorado creek (1700m), where we startled a number of marmots who whistled down their burrows before popping up to inspect the visitors and whistle to their mates about it all.
The kilometers were starting to take the toll on the group and the 500m climb to the El Dorado ridge had us strung out along the trail. Being a lovely evening lounging in the sunshine was not a big hardship however.
Sitting on the pass was very tranquil as the sun set over the mountains that we had crossed that morning. The thought of another 10 km of downhill singletrack without light was a little disconcerting however.
Descending from the pass was one of the most fun bits of trail of the day with long loose swooping switchbacks flowing down the mountainside. With the fading light the singletrack soon became a slightly lighter ribbon to follow while not really being able to see details. Dropping off step downs and popping off roots through clouds of dust in the dimmer and dimmer light was very entertaining. We eventually exited on a forestry road in almost complete darkness and floundered for a while. Finding promising singletracks and then backtracking when we decided they were heading in the wrong direction. It took about 30 minutes before we steered ourselves onto the right track where we rode another few kilometers downhill and popped out onto the road back to the camp. The last few torturous kilometers of road undulated back towards the camp with some of the group needing a bit of a tow to get up the hills. We arrived back at the lodge at 9.20 PM knowing that the kitchens shut at 9.30… and stumbled through the door after 11 hours of riding. I am sure the sight of 4 dirty, sweaty and disheveled lads deliriously raving about being feed would have given the waitress a start at 9.20 on a very quiet Sunday evening but we somehow managed to arrange 4 burgers and fries to appear whilst summoning pitchers of beer from the bar. A very awesome day of riding! 60km or so of awesome singletrack while ascending about 2500m and descending about 3500m. Definitely a great day out on the bike with mates that will stay imprinted on my mind.
After 4 days of stonking trails in Pemberton we hightailed it over to Taughton Lake in the Chilcotin area to camp. They have a little campground just beyond the big flash lodge and spa there… which is also conveniently located for getting onto a float plane.
After a restful evening of camping we were awoken to the sound of a de Havilland Beaver first taxiing and then a roaring to takeoff down the lake beside us. It was a sound we got very used to. It was a long weekend and there were a lot of mountain bikers flying out to lakes in the mountains.
First day was good ole standard ride out, up a valley (Taylor Creek), over a pass or two (Camel and the up onto the ridge above Cinnabar creek) and down some singletrack (Cinnabar trail) to get back to camp.
A hut we found well up Taylor Creek.
From here it was further up, over barren high passes (Camel Pass) before dropping into meadows.
Then up further onto the top of a ridge before dropping along and finding some super fun singletrack on Cinnabar trail to drop back to camp.
I used to ride all the time here in NZ with Charlie. All the out the back of beyond fun type of missions! Charlie went to Canada a little while back, which made me kinda sad because I missed the motivation of his suggestions for missions, but every cloud has a silver lining. Now that Charlie lives in North Vancouver I have someone in Canada to show me all the trails that I would love to ride!
So. August 2013. 3 weeks off work. Me, my bike and a simple plan to ride my bike a lot!
I landed about 2pm and by 5pm was out and riding some North Shore trails with Charlie. Up Fromme and onto sweet trails such as 7th Secret, Leppard, Crinkum Crankum, Kirkford, Ceder Trail, Upper Griffen, Lower Griffen, Griffen Switchbacks etc. Great way to blow some jetlag type cobwebs and get a taste of the shore.
I jumped ship for Whistler the next morning leaving Charlie to be a wage slave. I spent 3 days checking out the valley trails, bumping into other kiwis and watching Crankworx. Half a day of lift accessed trails on a DH bike was enough park for me and I bailed back to Vancouver.
Back staying with Charlie and Veronica there were more people arriving. First Barny and Fenella who were also on holiday from NZ. We did some more riding on Fromme exploring trails getting a bit lost and thoroughly enjoying ourselves before exploring supermarkets and bottles stores. There is lots of tasty craft beer in Canada and it is cheaper than craft beer here in NZ! Yes I know that there is a bunch of USA beer there… but it is available in Canada.
After introducing Dugall to Fromme as well we headed for Mt Cypress to soak in a bit more North Shore riding. Fromme is very close to town and the trails, while difficult are well groomed. Many many trail fairy hours have gone into armoring with rock and wood and making the trails sustainable. Cypress is a different story. It is a bit harder to get to and so we were able to find trails there that were a lot more “raw”. They had loam and sketchy steep moves and rock slab rolls. Very seriously fun trails in there!
Back to Fromme for a day while Mark arrived. More fun riding on trails like Espresso and Ladies Only.
With Mark now on board we were off to Squamish. Nothing much of a town, but far out are there some trails to be found there! Had a very fun day doing all sorts of trails, ending with a couple of shuttles up to some gnarly downhill tracks. First run was ok, second I was starting to get a bit tired (8th day straight of riding) and blew a dusty corner on the lower part of the trail. Brushed myself off and kept going, but should have taken note. Blasting along through a fast section while following our local guide I popped off a rock and managed to clip my bar on a rock while in the air. I crashed pretty hard onto rocks and roots… jumped up thinking I had got off pretty lightly and then noticed my right ring finger was at a pretty strange angle. Crap! Now lets see. Does not hurt like it is broken, so I guess it must just be dislocated?? I grabbed it, pulled on the finger and it popped back into place. Hand was working again and did not feel too bad so I rode out the last 5 min of trail to the car. For some reason I have no photos of this…
Anyway I found ice while the guys did another run, where Jeremy our local man managed to badly tweak his ankle by hitting something wrong, hyper-extending his ankle and then being ejected off the bike.
Next day the finger was sore, but I could still mostly grip a handlebar… so it was more Squamish riding. We found all sorts of fun.
From Squamish we bailed to Pemberton for 4 days. Even smaller town, but much nicer vibe than the town in Squamish. The mountains around Pemberton have many great trails. We hit up trails like Gravatrout, Cream Puff, Jack the Ripper and PhD. There were a bunch of others as well… but I cannot remember all the names!
The big features of many of these trails is the big granite rock slabs that you end up rolling down. The trails tend to seek out these rock slabs and they are rather heart poundingly good fun! A track called PhD seemed to be made almost entirely out of these rock rolls.
Anyway. That is enough photos for one post. After 4 days in Pemby we trucked off over the hills to the Chilcoatins. Home of the float plane bike trips. I will write this up in my next post.
Finding shoes that are good for both riding my bike as well as walking up hills has been a bit of a challenge for the last few years. I had a pair of trusty Lake 165s that did well for a few years before the stitching went and while they were ok with a good grippy vibram sole, a reasonably comfortable upper for walking and a stiff enough sole that did not flex on the pedals I wanted something better.
I tried a pair of the Pearl Izumi X-Alps. They certainly look like they are built for what I want but I have been pretty disappointed with them. The upper fabric tears easily, the heel cup design gives me terrible blisters every time I walk up a hill and the soles are too flexy and give me sore feet on long downhills. Also having a ratchet on the side of the shoe is a silly idea if using the shoe for walking or blasting down technical trails. I hit the ratchet on a rock on about my 4th ride and busted it off the side of the shoe. A bit of ingenuity had it reattached but things like slippery rocky river crossing bash the ratchets into the side of my foot.
I was looking at the Shimano MT71 shoes, or even the Shimano MT91 boots, but did not want something as big and clunky as a boot, and the shoe did not look aggressive enough for my taste.
I finally decided on getting a pair of the 2012 Mavic Alpine XL shoes. While they look a bit gay with all the white on them at least they have a decent amount of tread on the sole and look like they were designed to be good on the bike and walking up hills.
I have had them out for one decent ride, but have not yet walked up a hill carrying my bike. First impressions of them are good. The sole seems stiff when clipped into the pedals but comfortable walking around. The cleat is recessed enough that it does not touch the ground on the flat. The heel cup holds onto my heel very well and I am unable to get my heel to rise out of the cup which is great. There seems to be plenty of room to wiggle my toes in the toe box while the lace and strap system holds the shoe fast on my foot. My foot has no “float” inside the shoe unlike some other shoes I have.
I do intend to wander up a hill in them sometime soon and I will report back with my findings, but so far I am impressed with them!
Ok, first ride/walk impressions here https://mountainbikingzane.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/evening-blowhard/
I went riding yesterday. Away early with 3 others. A quick stop at the Artisan Bakehouse in Rangiora for yummy goodies and we were soon wandering up a steep hill… An hour and a bit later we were on the tops surveying the hazy Canterbury plains and the forested hills below us. Sitting around in the sunshine munching on food, with smiles in anticipation of the sweet singletrack that lay below us.
Food in and pads on it was time for the fun to begin. A nice steep lumpy rock garden to warm up on before diving into pure beech forest goodness. Getting down the hill takes almost as long as getting up, and the lovely techy trails seem to go on and on. The riding is too much fun to stop and take many photos, but it does look something like this
While Richard and Charlie could not keep from bubbling over about about how much they liked their new Marzocchi 55 RC3 Ti forks we were all happy to have some lovely singletrack under our belts we returned to Christchurch via the ice cream shop. Then it was off to vote and I was off to Pomeroys for the announcement of the SOBA New Zealand National Homebrew Competition which had a fantastic surprise for me.
Yes, it has been a while since I posted here, but there really has not been any riding that was blogworthy for the last while. It is ok though, you don’t need to worry. I have not lost my love of mountain biking although my bikes have not been ridden much over the cold dark months. One reason there has not been much biking is that many of the Port Hills tracks are still closed after the Christchurch earthquakes due to rockfall danger. It is hard to get much motivation to ride up the hill when there is no way to exit the hills on singletrack. With daylight savings having arrived I can only hope that they are able to complete their rock blasting and rolling sometime soon so that we can once again enjoy all the trails at our back door! At least Worsleys and the Flying Nun are still open and keeping those who need a biking fix sane!
There was plenty of snow this winter, including a couple of decent snowfalls that blanketed Christchurch. The snow might have been late, but there was plenty of it! As usual we got up for a few days skiing at the local fields. It is always nice to get up in the mountains and find some speed on the way back down the slopes! The snow is now dissappearing from the foothills, which means it is time to be out on the fabulous beech forest trails by bike again. I had the first trip of the season in the North Canterbury foothills on Saturday and it was fantastic to be back out on real challenging singletrack! I am really looking forward to being back out on the bike in the mountains after a few months off.
I have started brewing my own beer, and this has taken a fair wack of my time over winter. I am getting some good tasting brews as I refine my recipes and the amount of beer evaluation I have done over winter means it is high time I was back out on the bike and burning some winter padding off. The first few times back up the hill are always the worst, and I have started suffering my penance already!
I have started a blog of brewing over here http://inzanebrew.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/its-alive-where-it-all-started/
In other news, the Kennet Brothers have picked up a couple of the photos from my mountain bike blog for the latest version of their guide book “The eighth edition of Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides”. Being an iconic book I am very happy to have some of my photos selected for use!
Anyway, all going to plan there should soon be more biking blogs with photos up here very soon! Happy trails!
As you have probably heard there was an Earthquake in Christchurch on the 22nd of February 2011 which destroyed many buildings in central Christchurch. Being close to lunchtime on a workday many people were in the city and many people lost their lives. We were lucky and all of family and close friends are physically ok. Our house seems ok, but we know many people who have lost family homes etc. We have power and water on again and just had to deal with shifting large piles of silt from the liquefaction around our house. Post earthquake things are generally pretty stressful and being kept awake by aftershocks each night really does not help the situation. Usually I would jump on my bike and go for a ride to clear my head, but with the earthquake epicenter very close to where a lot of the trails are the tracks have been closed because of the danger of rocks falling in aftershocks. 2 people were killed trying to return to their home on a walking track soon after the earthquake. More info and a set of photos that will give some idea of the destruction in Christchurch http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/02/earthquake-in-new-zealand/100013/ or for a more personal view my friend Veronica’s blog describes it well http://thesouthernviking.blogspot.com/2011/03/another-christchurch-earthquake-this.html
This quake was probably caused by the bigger 7.1 magnitude quake of 22nd September 2010, and so is considered an aftershock. As the initial 7.1 quake was at 4am on the weekend there was no loss of life from buildings falling in Christchurch. The shaking magnitude of the 6.3 aftershock however was much worse (3 times the intensity) in Christchurch city as the 6.3 was very shallow and very close. This means the damage from the 6.3 is much worse in the city. The death toll is somewhere around 150 at the moment, with not all the bodies yet identified.
I was standing near the checkout in a supermarket out in Hornby (South West outskirts of Christchurch), and did not think the aftershock was very bad although it had spread goods from the shelves all over the floors. It was not until I got back in my car and started hearing the reports of what had happened to the city that it sunk in just how bad this was going to be.