Daylight savings this morning and I totally forgot about it. Tom rang at what i thought was 6.35 asking about the ride, and I said, yeah, get to mine for 8. I got on the rain radar to check what was up with the rain and then saw the time! 7.37! YIKES. Scrabbled to get ready, and Pete was early, but no matter, got ready and Tom arrived and we set sail to the Palms and the others (in two cars - Wazza, Wayne, Tony, Marie, Steve, Andy) arrived and off out thru Rangoon and sLoburn we cruised, finding Nelson awaiting us at the end of the road and the rain we'd been driving through just stopped. Over a year since last was up here (with Nelson, Matt and Tom) and just about 2 years since riding it with Nelson and Pete.
Granny grunt start, climbing away, everybody getting into it, nice and fresh, soft trail in places and rut city down the bottom, we meandered our way up and regrouped at the mud wallow, which Nelson got his shovel out for and dug a drain, relieving it of a fair bit of water by the time we'd returned. Then, as usual, the first walking began. And a shit load followed it. As usual, with a few riding bits between. The really steep stuff was really steep, and the first timers were probably wondering how it was gonna be down hill.
A few regroups on the way up. Marie was struggling I think and left her bike behind thinking she'd walk the rest of the way, but we convinced her that riding further was worth it, and Nelson ran down after it, and she rode a good deal further. Regroup and snack in the open area before the main downhill. Then down and climbing re-engaged, up and up, up and down, up up and ever onwards up. Into the cloud enshrouded tops we struggled, Marie leaving her bike behind finally further up, and walking the same pace as the rest of us to the top. Pretty mucky in places, with water running down the track. We stopped at the Mt Richardson sign and a walker guy and his dog cruised through, surprised (and not very happy) to see us, then it was the final push to the top. Quick feed and jacket on at the top then off down.
Just after the Mt Richardson sign, i was out the front, and i noticed something going thuck thuck thuck on my back wheel then BANG! it blew. My tire had split next to the rim and was rendered useless. Bugger, i thought, and was about to start walking when Tom pointed out he had a spare tire... phew! a little 2.1 Ritchey, which was hard to get on, but did the trick real good. The others had all gone ahead, with Nelson and Pete hanging back with me, and we put on a chase now. Catching them just before Marie got to her bike at which they were all waiting. From here it was in the open, mostly down until the steep shute-y climb, which at this point was very hard work walking up...
Bit more climbing and into the forest again, for a good downhill til the next climb, which wasnt long, then finally the long ridge section before the steeeeeep downhill. In here you're dropping a couple hundred metres within about a km and a half. I baulked on the steepest shute, just getting out of the way in time for Tom and Pete to get by, then had to walk a little before being able to get back on. Made good chase now and when it leveled off again we all regrouped not long later. Another rapid downhill stretch and we stop where Nelson is puzzling over the back end of his bike... damn, his rear derailleur has caught something and snapped in two. Once again, the others took off ahead, but this time 4 of us stayed to help Nelson get his chain apart (which was very difficult) and off for him to ride chainless. Tom managed the previously impossible of splitting the chain.
Awesome blast down the last sections, relishing the rapid acceleration experienced upon release of brakes, Tom close on my tail all the way down to the (now quite a bit lower) mud pug. Nelson had a couple of bits he had to run but mostly it was a coast for him. Eyes splecked like crazy, half blind, on the last open ruttsville section back to the cars and a bunch of very mucky puppies we all were. a grand total of just under 1000 metres total climbing (and descending) under our belts.