Day 1: Started in the Canterbury High Country with clear blue skies as we all headed up the long access road to the Craigieburn ski fields nestled at 1300m. The descent down The Edge Track is always a goodie as your tyres cling to the narrow slot across the scree slopes and then on down into the rooty beech forests below.
A fast traverse across The Luge Track brings you out to a short climb before heading across towards Dracophyllum Flats a neat track that undulates through the Dracophyllum plants before the long climb up onto The Hogs Back,
(The old dead tree is always a good spot for a wee bit of bike art!) By this stage the legs are feeling well used but the climb is rewarded with a very long descent down into Castle Hill Village and for us a waiting shuttle to take us to our overnight accommodation at Flock Hill High Country Station.
Day 2: It was up and away early the following morning for an appointment with The Old Ghost Road. Everyone was prepped and ready with their overnight gear stashed on various parts of body or bike for a night in Ghost Lake Hut high in the Lyell Mountains. The weather was good for the long slog up past Lyell Saddle Hut
and eventually out into the clouds on the open tops at 1320m and the last 5km on to Ghost Lake hut nestled at 1200m for our overnight accommodation.
Day 3: A good night’s sleep in the hut prepared us for the long 55km exit to Seddonville. It’s an exciting start because within 1km of the hut you hit a stack of tight descending switchbacks which is an ideal wakeup call! Followed by some high top ridge riding a good dose of climbing through the ‘Bone Yard’ and the long exit following the Mokihinui River past the ‘Suicide Slips’ and on out to Seddonville for a well-deserved beer and a bike wash
Day 4: The expected bad weather arrives with rain and low cloud and a phone call to the local helicopter company confirmed there would be no landings on the tops today. Undeterred we headed off for Blackball to take on the Croesus Track up in the Paparoa Mountains with a ride up and back with a target of Ces Clarks Hut perched just below 1000m. The rain came and went and the wind was blowing pretty well on the open tops but we made it to the hut for a lunch stop before a rapid descent on the rocky track where we then used the trailer as a changing room as the rain bucketed down, all then retired to ‘The Blackball Hilton’ pub for a few beers and a good meal.
Day 5: We abandoned Reefton and the rain and headed over to our next stop in St Arnaud hoping that the rain might be lighter inland. Arriving in the dry we got kitted up and rode out of town to try out the Teetotal Trails and although the rain caught us up and the temperature dropped sufficiently for the rain to turn to hail we still managed around four hours of riding, slipping and sliding!
Day 6: Was going to be a trip up onto the tops locally but no one was very keen looking out the rain washed windows and so again a quick change of plans saw us pack up, take a quick look at Lake Rotoiti…
stop in Wakefield for what was becoming a regular pie stop…
…and drive over to Nelson where we did manage to leave the rain behind and stretch our legs with the long climb up into the hills for the fantastic descent down ‘Involution’ one of the many great trails built around Nelson.
Day 7: Travelled over to the Takaka Hills for the Rameka track with of course the now obligatory stop for coffee and pies… The sun was shining and a plan was hatched to split into two groups where the slower group would cruise through and the quicker group would have a double hit with our trusty shuttle driver waiting at the bottom for a quick 45km return back up and over the huge Takaka hill and back in on the 11km of gravel road to the drop off point for a second hit, a fantastic track well worthy of a double run.
Day 8: We took on The Dun Mountain loop, starting in Nelson and climbing up to just under 1000m high on the mineral belt.
A long steady climb is rewarded with wide open mountain views and 15km of downhill which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Day 9: Today the weather stayed fine which meant the planned Heli-Bike trip up onto Gordons Knob, east of Golden Downs high the Gordon Range of mountains was on. So we all hopped into the Minivan and on over to Reid’s Helicopter base in Wakefield and 10 minutes’ after take-off we were standing east of good old Gordon’s Knob at an elevation of 1564m, (5130 feet in old money).
The weather was great, sunshine and only a light breeze which meant there was no rush to lose altitude and so we played around on the tops for a couple of hours or more …
before following the poled route down the ridgeline (which wasn’t always rideable!) and out onto a fast fire road to our waiting vehicle kindly delivered by Reid’s helicopter boys, thanks guys!
And that completed a whirlwind tour of The Upper South Island and what a way to finish…
The Riders: Earl, Hana, Jonathan, Peter, Michaela, Ivette.
Support: Bryce and Dave.
Organisation and Scribe: Steve.