Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sunday Beeby's Maitland Red Hills Thrashing.

On our way back from doing a bit of work at Nelson's bach we parked at the bottom of the Red Hills Track (573m trig nearby) and starting at 3pm rode off up the road towards St Arnaud a few kms, hanging a right onto Tophouse Rd into uncharted territory.  Around the road a little and found the entrance to the Beeby's Knob track.  A steep 4wd road, it proceeded to well and truly thrash us.  Managed to pedal for a while but eventually it was steep enough to walk, patches of perma-frost underfoot or tread as we went.  Higher and higher up the ridge we went as the sun got lower and lower in the sky, not that we could see it, other than across the spectacular valley behind and below us the whole time - and we could even see the North Island beyond Blenheim.  And cold - the wind made me don a jacket halfway up.  Just over 1 1/2 hours after leaving the car we got to the turn off to the Maitland Ridge track at over 1300m altitude.  Rest stop and a snack here.

This is a relatively new trail, built by MTB Trails Trust, (according to the sign-) an Expert level, grade 4+ single-track thru cornflake strewn beech forest. 4.40 we took off, into a sweet downhill, and taking off first I soon found myself ahead and stopped to wait for Nelson.  Fun, and at times insane, rooty descents ensued, some of which were fricking steep, and then some climbing, all in quite stunted beech forest.  The odd bit of the climbing was soul destroying (I walked a bunch and towards the end cramped some too). Then there'd be a wicked downhill and steep and rooty and technical, handlebars skimming trees, wheels drifting.  All the fun.  But then in the climbs I'd wonder why the hell I was there.  It was getting darker and darker as we rode, tho the first 300 odd metre descent was all light enough, low lights in the climbs, brighter for the next descents.  A couple of times we came out onto open sections with spectacular views over the Wairau below and across to peaks galore. 

Finally a few zigs and zags seem to be making for a small ridge, and the vegetation changed to a more manuka based scrub (indicating the ultramafic Red Hills landform) and a descent began that was wide open and mental.  We bombed down this for what seemed ages and finally broke out onto a wide track with a sign pointing one way to Porters Creek Hut (4 hours?), and in the other direction there was Red Hills Hut.  Checked in here (nice and warm inside), then headed off again - 6.10pm.

Off down a super fun, rough as guts, steep, 4wd track descent, flat tack down 400 odd metres in about 4 kms.  Numerous small creek crossings and patches of permafrost and really cool looking rocks.  over 40kph in stretches, it went on for ages and ages, with no real idea of where we were or how much more to go, it just stretched on and on, the vegetation around us slowly getting taller and taller, until eventually it was actual beech forest again.  Finally at the bottom there was a gate and the trail skirted past that into the bush, singletrack again, and ugh, some climbing...  Up and down over old river terraces, never huge but killing me, and at one point both legs cramped so bad I couldn't even get on the bike.  Had to wait for a bit and ease myself back on but got rolling again and cruised on through.  A few smallish creek crossings along this section too, then finally we got back to the car, 7pm nearly on the dot, making it a 4 hour loop.

(Apparently only 2 hours of riding), 22 km loop, with over 1000 metres of climb.   Proper mountainbiking.

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