Monday, October 31, 2011

18 months is too long to be away from Hanmer

Luckily there is a silver lining to being away for so long and that is being blown away by the awesomeness of the trail development that has gone on in that time. Hubby and I were lucky enough to spend a couple of days there before Labour Weekend. Unfortunately when we arrived it was pouring with rain and trying very hard to snow. This meant I was slightly apprehensive about the state of the tracks the next morning when I headed out for a "quick ride".

Snowing hilltops from Red Rocks
I had all the intentions of just sifting along a couple of the easy tracks and then meeting up with my hubby in the afternoon to do some more. It turns out that my lack of self-control extends to not being able to stop riding when faced with such a brilliant array of singletrack goodness. The first thing I noticed as I zipped along Easy Rider was the profusion of excellent signage. And although this track was a little puddly in places, overall it was pretty dry considering the previous day's deluge.
Ahhh, the view from the top of the road is lovely

Soon I was crossing the road and heading up Mach 1. Last time I rode this track it was a nice little climb with some nice corners and lots of wee stumps in the ground. My how it has changed. The deadly little stumps are almost completely gone and the track has been extended massively. No longer do you pop out on the forestry road and have to slog up to dog stream. Now you cross over the road and continue on lovely forested singletrack right into the Larches Picnic area. Then you're on either Dog Stream (as I was) or for those who like a climb, heading up Joliffe Track.
Swamp Track has some lovely corners...

Having enjoyed Mach 1 so much I decided I wanted to ride Red Rocks and being a little on the unfit side (cough, cough, very unfit) I decide a gentle cruise up the forestry road was in order. Once a Red Rocks I had a gorgeous view of the snow blanketing the hills around me. The climb up Red Rocks knocked my lungs about a bit, as usual, but was so worth it for the fun, slightly slippery and a bit technical descent. I was grinning like a loon at the bottom and hungering for more single track.

.... and some amazing drainage. Seen in full action here.
Back on the road I saw a sign pointing to a track I'd never seen before, Western Link. Yay! Exploring new track for the first time is fun. This was a fairly fast, flowy, straight forward track through the trees which cut out the road and deposited me at the base of Timberlands (now a walking track, yay), Swamp Track and Swoop. I investigated Swoop for a bit, but as I suspected it would be better going the other way. Onto Swamp track and it was a fun, gentle climb with so great corners and amazing drainage. In fact water was pouring off the side of the hill and the track was perfectly dry. I stopped a couple of times to clear the drains and help some little puddles drain. I just want to say to the Hanmer Trail Pixies -- you guys rock!

My favourite Hanmer track
Swamp Track dumped me out near the top of Swoop and within sight of Yankee Zephyr. Ahh, Yankee Zephyr, too good to resist. Tank track has been logged so a nasty road climb followed and then I was on the wet forested part of YZ. It was gorgeous and then I was out on the hill side and speeding down the gully. Such sweet perfect corners, such fun, so much smiling.

A little bit of water in this stream on YZ
So I ended up riding almost everything instead of a little pootle. Luckily the amazing new hydrotherapy pool at the hot pools pummeled the pain out of my legs. A great trip to Hanmer and I cannot wait to go back.

Back in Christchurch I decided last week to attempt Worsley's for the first time. But that is a story for later, like tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Racing? Sort of.

On Sunday I did my first "race" in 18 months. It was the final of the CSC's Short Track series and it was so fun. Held on Siberia Flat on Kennedy's Bush it was 20 minutes of lung searing, leg smashing awesome and I was super stoked with how I went. And when I say how I went I don't mean where I got in the race (I was lapped by a child), but how my body felt during and after. This was the first time in aaaagggeesss that I really pushed my body as hard as I could and on the start line I didn't really know what would happen. In fact I was quite prepared to pull the pin if things felt bad. I certainly didn't want to send myself back to being bed ridden.
I had a great ride at Bottlelake with a mate on Saturday and that gave me the confidence to push during the race. Saturday was a great blast with lots of hard out sprints and then some skills practice on the skinnies. It seems that my loss of fitness has meant that I'm now riding inside my skillset so that I'm actually feeling more confident on the bike than ever before. I feel I have control over what my bike is doing now, rather than just being along for the ride some of the time. And that's how it was on Sunday at the race.
The singletrack flew by. Andre at Hub Cycles has recently tuned up my suspension and my bike was running like a dream. It was super responsive through the singletrack, flowed down the bumpy down hill (even when I was blasting brake-free) and pedalled great back up the hill. I was aiming for 3 laps in my 20 mins so was really happy to easily get 4. In fact I think I might have almost squeezed 5 in if I hadn't stopped to help a fallen rider at the start for a couple of minutes.
And now I'm off to Hanmer to ride sweet sweet singletrack for 3 days, weather permitting. I have to say, looking out at the storm that's raging right now, there may be a lot of sitting in hot pools and doing homework and less riding than I would like.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Under the stern face of Aoraki

My husband and I were very spoilt to be shouted a weekend away at the Hermitage at Mt Cook this weekend. And boy was it a great weekend to be up there. We awoke on Saturday morning to snowflakes floating against the window. It looked gorgeous. Luckily after a stupidly large buffet breakfast and some lazing around our nice room the weather cleared completely and it turned into a glorious sunny day.

Not a bad view from the room
Hubby and I were going a separate ways as my dodgy knee and hip isn’t up to the sort of strenuous walk that he, and the rest of our group were planning on doing. For those who know Mt Cook they headed up to Sealy Tarns. I cunningly took my bike with me and after rugging up against the biting southerly breeze I headed off to the Tasman Valley.

The ride into the valley is ok, on a gravel road that wide enough to avoid the various tourist buses, camper vans and cars. I had the wind behind me and was enjoying the stunning scenery so it was a leisurely ride. Not long into it I had to stop and remove my coat and leg warmers as I was broiling alive.
A glorious day in the high country
Once I got to the car park where the walks start I veered off to the left and followed the unmaintained 4WD track the heads up the valley. This was a fun and challenging ride with lots of loose rocks between fist and head sized to negotiate on the ups and downs. I didn’t notice it on the way in, but you’re constantly climbing as you get deeper into the valley. It was so silent in the valley. I didn’t see anyone else the whole time I was in there and the only sounds were the occasional bee and the battle cries of the Skylarks. It was bliss.

As I got further up the valley the track merged with the river bed and I was in an avalanche zone, evidenced by the streak of thick snow and pointy boulders I had to push my bike over. It was a bit freaky looking up at the steep slopes on my left and wondering if something was going to come sliding down. Finally I couldn’t really follow the 4WD track anymore, it was just loose rocks and boulders everywhere with no clear path. I decided it was time to take a look at the glacier after coming all this way. I hoped I was close to the toe.
Icebergs a plenty

After a quick scramble up the little ridge that separated the valley from the glacier I was sitting on a huge boulder looking down on the glacier and listening to amazing sounds of it breaking up. It was pretty dodgy on the ridge, having been undercut by the glacier. I took some photos and as much as I wanted to stay and see ice break off I didn’t feel safe. The last thing I wanted when I was alone was to slide 100ms down into icy melt water. After a careful descent down the ridge I pushed on up the valley a little longer before giving up. I didn’t want to sprain an ankle or something equally silly while I was alone.
Slightly dodgy ridge
Heading back down the valley was an outstanding ride. Plenty of bunny hopping off rocks, loose turns and general rocky fun. It has taken me an hour and a bit to get up the valley from the car park, but it only took 10 minutes to get back and I was grinning like a mad woman. Unfortunately the ride back out to the Hermitage was horrible, with a cutting head wind and lots of dusty traffic. My legs were pretty grumpy about the whole thing too.
The ride back down the valley was fun

Mt Sefton at night

Then next day hubby and just did a little walk up to Kea Point to watch a few little avalanches and take photos of the freaky face I’d seen in Mt Cook when the snow cleared on Saturday morning. It was a little disconcerting having this stern visage watching over us the whole weekend. It was a scorcher on Sunday and I managed to get sunburnt before we piled in the car and headed home to more horrible earthquakes. I would definitely recommend a little ride up the Tasman Valley if you’re in Mt Cook. It’s not super technical, but the scenery is awe inspiring and the rocks make it challenging enough that you have to pay attention the whole time.
Can you see the face just below the front peak?