I love technical singletrack. The Cass Lagoon loop near Arthurs Pass delivers many hours of technical riding and is a favourite of mine. I last rode the loop a couple of years ago, so having a Friday off work was the perfect opportunity to get up there and enjoy it.
Leaving the car at the Cass river there was a 30 min warmup on the road before the climbing began. Onto the track with lovely beech forest singletrack, a little pine forest and then out into the tussocks on the tops with fantastic views while trudging through bogs.
First lunch on Lagoon saddle in the sunshine while surveying the valley dropping towards Hamilton Hut and the fantastic vistas towards the main divide. The technical riding starts from the get go with a few board-walks into bogs leading into rooty challenging beech forest singletrack.
After a while the track pops out into river bed for short sections before diving back into the forest singletrack.
Almost 5 hours into the mission and we were relaxing in the luxurious Hamilton Hilton and eating 3rd lunch. A snooze in the sunshine seemed extraordinarily inviting but the lure of good singletrack got us back on the bikes and heading for Cass Saddle.
A couple of km of grassy flats in the sunshine before heading back into the forest. The singletrack here is mostly rideable as it slowly climbs towards the saddle.
Towards the saddle the track gets a lot steeper and it is a short sharp climb to get to the Cass saddle. Once on the saddle there are fantastic views down the Cass valley and sweet sweet singletrack beckoning.
I had too much fun riding the singletrack on the way out to take any photos. Any tiredness after 8 hours was soon forgotten as we swooped through flowing trails. There was some impressive avalanche damage on the way down the valley. Avalanches had flattened a few sections of forest and obliterated where the tracks were. 9 hours after starting we were back at the car with big grins on our faces. The loop is an outback technical singletrack fix that I have promised myself I will do at least once a year!
Super busy at the moment and so it was great to get away to Nelson for 3 days. A Thursday evening mission from Chch to Nelson got me there by 11pm and ready for a nice easy start the next day. Having never ridden the Rameka track I decided it was time I had a look and while there I could check out the new Canan Downs mountain bike tracks as well.
Rameka is through a lovely piece of forest with technical roots and rocks. Pretty flat for quite a ways but it would be a great introduction to South Island forest riding.
Canan Downs loop. I only did the Northern half of the loop. Someone has put a lot of effort into building the track, and maybe I hit it at the wrong time, but to me it really seemed like a lot of effort for little reward. The soil where the track has been benched has eroded away leaving clumps of grass sticking up leading to a real speed sucking surface. In other areas the track has been graveled, but is not really burmed leading to a fast surface that you are unable to corner fast on, and they have put plenty of corners in the tracks!
Some photos of the track features I liked.
On the Saturday Charlie, Dugall and I headed into Mt Starveall from the Aniseed Valley. The ride up to the Hackett Hut was well known to me and from there we kept going up the same stream. The track eventually reaches a ridge up on Mt Starveall at about 1300m or so. This took about 5 hours of bike carrying and pushing, mostly in the pouring rain. The track back down is fantastic. Many roots and rocks and good gradient for most of the way down. Many technical challenges as is to be expected with a rough track like this that was never designed for mountain biking… I took a couple of photos at the start of the day and then left my camera in a waterproof bag for the rest of the day. All my brand new Ground Effect kit was looking a bit more worn in and mud covered at the end of the day! I would like to go back one day, and perhaps get a helicopter drop at the top…
Sunday was a loop I had done before. We parked at the Maitai Dam and rode up the newly finished track that goes to Coppermine Saddle. There were heaps of people coming down the track, having climbed up the Dun Mountain Walkway to do the loop. People of all ages and abilities including one man who I would estimate at about 60 years old who was coming down the trail on an entry level hardtail with quite skinny slick tyres… Anyway, the new track is a good consistent climb and a great way to connect to Sunshine and then Peaking Ridge via Copppermine and Dun Mountain walkway. Sunshine and Peaking ridge were great fun as always. Super rooty and pumpy up on Sunshine with much more speed and flow on Peaking. They are great pieces of track to put a smile on your face!
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!!
There definitely has not been as much biking as I would like over the last month or so! Too busy at work, a bit of DIY on the house, some weekends taken up doing mountain bike coaching and the weather conspiring against me has lead to a lack of biking. So it was fantastic to get out for a blat up and over Oxford on the weekend with some mates.
The weather had been quite nice leading up to the weekend, but a front passing through managed to drop a fair amount of rain on the Saturday, and while the forecast had been nice for Sunday we woke up to grey cloud blanketing the sky. I was a bit slow to get going, as I was recovering from a friends engagement party the night before, but we were out on the trails by a reasonable mid-morning 10.30. There was the usual bike a bit, hike a bit start to this ride. There is about 30 minutes of 4wd track and intermittently rideable singletrack at the start of the climb, followed by about 2 hours of bike carry to get to the summit. The cloud that was blanketing the mountain seemed to keep climbing higher at the same pace we did. I had great hopes that the clouds would just miraculously disappear to give us the wonderful 360 degreee views we usually get from Oxford, but apart from some sneaky views back down the mountain under the cloud there was not much other than cloud to view.
The Trig at the top was a welcome sight, signifying that the hardest part of the day was over, and that we would soon be on the sweet singletrack down the hill.
The group of 8 walkers at the top were a little bemused at the sight of 6 bikers carrying their bikes to the top of the hill, and were interested in how much of the downhill (which they had just walked up) we would actually ride, as they thought that many parts of it would be too difficult. We assured them that it was all rideable apart from 1 or 2 tricky bits, and that it was an immensely fun piece of track. To prove our point we soon set off down the hill with silly grins on our faces. It is not every day you get to ride down 1000 vertical meters of fantastic singletrack!
Starting out in the open with tussocks and small shrubs, it is great fun blasting down the steep trails
V loving the trail.
We were soon into the forest, and wizzing in between the gnarled old trunks and streamers of moss. I always love biking through old growth native New Zealand forests. All the green growth, textures of bark, moss, lichen and loam and the absolute vitality of the forest. Of course I also love the challenges of squeezing through trees, around sharp corners and floating over the roots, holes, drops and humps that singletrack through forest present.
As always the main descent was over waaaay too soon, and we soon popped out on the Wharfedale track, before heading back to the car. After a number of km of steep full on descending singletrack it is quite fun to have a few km of fast flowing open singletrack. I was definitely feeling the few climbs on the way out. I think it is probably the lack of decent biking in the last couple of months, but then being a bit hung over from the party the night before probably did not help either! Still, floating over the rooty goodness on the way out put a smile on my face
The coffee and chocolate mud cake at Seagars Cafe in Oxford definitely helped refuel on the way home too!
As December starts it is supposed to be Summer here, but the temperatures in the low teens over the last couple of days certainly have not felt like Summer! Hah! What global warming!! I definitely have my fingers crossed for some better weather to start happening soon so we can get out and enjoy the mountains some more!!