I spent the weekend up in Wellington with my mate Russ. Seeing as I left my camera at home I don’t have any photos of it.
There was a whole bunch of riding done and a whole bunch of craft beer consumed. With those 2 things being my 2 favourite pastimes it was a great weekend!
Really good to see all the Wellington track that people have been building. The capital city really is blessed with a multitude of trails right on the city doorstep. For a more indepth report have a look at Russ’s blog.
After snow plugging on the Saturday and Sunday it was time to show Russ the trail network that starts 5 minutes from my back door. There is a great network of trails on the Port Hills behind Christchurch, which are where I ride on the week day evenings or on weekends when I can’t get out of town!
Seeing as Russ only had one day left I decided I would take him nearly from one end of the trails to the other! We started off by heading up Worsleys, where the sun was definitely shining and had us toasting as we made our way up the ruts and rocks. As we climbed higher the views across to the snow covered Southern Alps were definitely inspiring. From the top of Worsleys we headed over to the start of the Flying Nun track. It was a good feeling knowing that the worst climb of the day was already behind us, and that there were many miles of single track sitting just ahead of us. Swooping down the Flying Nun was fun as always. Russ was very keen on the idea of having a session on this track at some stage. It is one of those tracks that gets better each time you ride it!
From the Flying Nun it was a quick road bash up to the top of Victoria Park where all the down hill type trails are. I took Russ for a quick run down Brake Free before heading off across the Traverse Track and onto the Mt Vernon track. Christchurch trails have a lot of square edged volcanic rock sticking out of the trail surface, and when this is combined with the narrow U-shaped channel that most of the track wear into it makes for tracks that you need to be really on your game to ride smoothly and well!
At the end of Vernon we passed the top of the Rapaki Track which is the main off-road highway up the hill for bikers, runners and walkers. We had fun on the Witch Hill track before jumping back onto the road for a short stint up to the Castle Rock Track. Barrelled down the fun Castle Rock Track before passing the Bridle Path and wondering at tough early settlers who used to haul their lives up and over the very steep hill from the Port of Lyttleton. We then passed under the under-utilised Christchurch Gondola. There is a group with a plan to use the gondola for getting bikers to the top of the hill so they can come back down on some fun tracks, and while that sounds like a great idea, the terrain under the gondola is so rocky and full of bluffs that it looks like it will be a track builders nightmare to get anything other than an extreme huck cliff drop line down it!!
We were soon around to John Britten Track and then onto the fabulous Greenwood Park track which dropped us all the way to Evans Pass. While the tracks out to Godley Heads and especially the Anaconda Track which drops into Taylors Mistake were calling to us, we decided to drop down the Captain Thomas track into Sumner instead. The two previous days of biking were probably a large contributor to our decision to take the shorter route!
Russ had a good chance to feed his vertigo while we made our way down Captain Thomas as the track has a number of rock outcrops that are rideable, but the exposed drop into the valley off the side of the track is a pretty major disincentive to many people!! We were soon sitting in the sun in Sumner, drinking coffee and scoffing yummy food, looking out at the snow on the Kaikoura Mountains. It was a damn fine 3 day weekend of biking, with everything from West Coast jungle gold mining tracks, to silliness in the snow and slush on tracks in the Canterbury foothills, to fast and flowing with technical rock sections on the Port Hills. In the 3 days of riding I had gone from wearing layers and freezing my extremities in the snow to getting sun burnt in a t-shirt and shorts on what felt like a summers day up the Port Hills!
Day 2 of Russ’s trip down south dawned bright and clear. The plan was to go and ride the Wharfedale track which is out near Oxford in Canterbury. After spending much of the morning setting Russ up with a new set of tubeless tyres we picked up Bevan on our way out to the Wharfedale. Heading out there I could see that the snow was still down very low on this side of the Island. Arriving at the carpark and there was already snow sitting on the ground. Although todays ride was at a much lower altitude than the Croesus from the day before it was obvious that the snow had fallen to a much lower altitude on the East Coast.
Seeing as we were already out there we decided to go for a ride in the snow anyway! This snow was much deeper and much harder to ride in than the day before! If you pedaled really hard and fast you could maintain enough momentum to push through the snow, but this meant you could ride for about 30 seconds before your lungs and legs exploded and you would have to stop, have a rest and do it all over again!
We made our way about an hour up the trail before turning around and having some drifty fun on the way back down the track!
Getting back to the van we had a laugh about what a silly idea that was, and promptly headed back to town, found some beer and sat in the sunshine!
My mate Russ was coming down for a few days and bringing his bike along so I could show him some of the good Canterbury single track. Looking at the weather forecast on the Thursday he almost changed his mind and bought the skis along instead! We had one of the lowest snows of the year on the Friday, and when I picked Russ up from the airport early on Saturday morning it was still pretty grey and cold in Christchurch. The weather on the West Coast was looking much nicer, so we piled into the van and headed for the Croesus Track which is over near Greymouth.
Russ had not been for a mountain bike ride with me for a long time and was a bit apprehensive that I might be going to throw him into a ride that was way over his head. Rolling down the first kilometer of the Croesus it was wet, muddy and a pretty full on rock garden as well… and I could tell Russ was wondering what he had got himself into!! However it soon became a lot easier riding and after crossing a couple of swing bridges the track started its steady ascent towards the Paparoa tops. There was a lot of water on the trail and the streams were flowing well. Croesus is always a good ride whether it is wet or dry. I think the amount of water that does fall on the track manages to wash anything slippery like moss off the track!
Being an old miners pack track, much of the trail is good and wide, and very well benched, but time and erosion have made the track interesting for bikers by wearing some exciting obstacles and lines into the track.
After climbing almost half way to the tree line we start to find the first bits of snow at the side of the trail. It was not long until the snow was covering the track as well, but it was only a thin icy covering which was pretty good for biking up. Russ and I were having fun slipping around in the snow!
The trees were getting shorter as we got higher, and the snow on the track was getting deeper. By the time we were getting close to the tree line the snow depth was making riding uphill pretty much impossible so we decided to turn around when we got a view, rather than try and make it all the way up to the Ces Clark hut. It was a gorgeous warm sunny day out on the tops with wonderful views of the Southern Alps. We were very glad to be on the sunny west coast rather than caught in the last of the freezing southerly that was on the other coast!
Heading back down on the bikes Russ and I were having fun drifting the bikes around in the snow and slush. Toes and fingers were feeling like they were about to fall off, and there were some interesting moments navigating rocky sections with snow. We were quickly back down to the end of the snow, and the change in temperature was noticeable. Fingers and toes thawed out as we rocked on down the track. There were large flowing sections to swoop down that would transition into absolute rock gardens where you could pick a straight line and “steam the gnar”, or you could choose some rock launching pads to grab some air while choosing your landing carefully!! There were also big water channel ruts and switchbacks to negotiate along with the occasional fallen tree or mass of roots. All of which add to the fun and character of the Croesus.
The fun of the down hill was over much too soon, it felt like we had been belting down the trail for about 10 or 15 minutes… although looking at my watch it had taken us almost an hour to get down from the tree line! There was the last grunt to get up and out to the carpark, where our legs were starting to advise us that we had been out on the bikes for almost 4 hours and that it was definitely beer’o’clock!
Wet muddy bikes and gear was chucked into the van and we were soon at the bottom of the hill and soaking up the sunshine outside of the hotel “Formerly The Blackball Hilton”. Croesus is always a fantastic day out on the bike, and Russ has been converted from a bike park boy to man who will be searching out the good and epic singletrack that is to be found in the forests of NZ!