This story could have lots of beginnings.
But I think it’s main beginning occurred when I started thinking about the West Coast Mountain Bike Project and in an idle moment sketched out a possible bike-packing circuit on google earth to pick up what I though was some of the best riding in the area …
And then, well, the public submissions came in apparently everyone else who rides trails in the State wants these nicely groomed, gravity trails, and so that’s the direction the west coast project has gone in.
However, I did stumble across one person (we’ll call him Mr T) who mentioned bike packing in a submission to the west coast project, and we had a brief email exchange where I showed him my bikepacking route, and a day or two later he came back to me and said “you know you’ve got the bit between Mt Roland and Cradle Mountain wrong … there’s a track between the two which you can follow to avoid the road”.
Intrigued, I got Mr T to send me the route … and then as soon as I looked at it, I thought to myself “I want to ride that” …
More specifically I thought “I want to ride that NOW” and opened up my calendar to find my first available weekend.
That’s where we’ll leave that part of the story now.
Another start to this tale begins when Oliver and I were chatting and he mentioned that he’d run into some quad bikers when riding the Wolfram Mine Track who had said it was possible to ride all the way to Cradle Mountain without going on the highway.
|“It’s true … all the way” … probably right on this very track here.
So I passed on Mr T’s route to Oliver with a “I’ll just leave this here” comment. I
Suffice to say that my comment was like throwing a huge box of chocolates in front of a kid with a “first come first served” sign on it. We were soon making plans to ride the route the day before the Cranky Penguin.
Then those plans sort of imploded as Oliver had a work commitment come up and I ummed and erred about whether to go ahead by myself … or maybe with Mr T.
Which brings us to about 4pm on Friday night when I received a message from Oliver basically saying “I’ve no longer got to do that work stuff. Still doing that ride tomorrow?”
I stopped and thought through the logistics for a long minute – I’d done no real planning, I wasn’t packed (I wasn’t even sure if I had a clean pair of cycling clothes), I’d just driven back from Queenstown that morning, I was tired, and I had a Sea Canoeing Club meeting after work, meaning I wouldn’t get home until about 10.30 or 11pm.
But then I weighed all that against the chance to ride this route …
… and messaged back with a “YES!!!!” (well a “yes” with a few caveats) and started to figure out my plans for getting from where I was to Cradle Mountain in the next 12 hours (and preferably with some sleep in there somewhere).
As is often the case, if you set yourself to an idea it comes to pass, and with a bit of phiffing and phaffing in between, by 8.30am the next morning I’d made my way up to the Round Hill coffee shop in Cethana where I was busily (albeit rather sleepily) packing the packraft as Oliver ordered coffees and we debated the likelihood of needing the raft to get across the two rivers that we’d been warned about.
In the end, I decided I couldn’t be bothered carrying it (yes that is how I make key strategic supply decisions) and emboldened by our morning coffee’s (my third), I argued the case for just leaving it in the car and testing our luck.
Oliver just agreed (probably thinking that if the rivers were less than 20 metres across he’d just jump them or something) and so off we went.
We parked Olivers car at our planned exit point near the Cethana Bridge, just below the dam, and then drove around to our Start point on the Dove River Road… which is where we hit a big snag, or more specifically a “Private Property” sign.
Suffice to say we hadn’t planned on that being here, and it kind of sucked, especially as we couldn’t tell if it related to the land beside the road or the road itself.
After a bit of debate, and noting that the sign wasn’t on a chain across the road itself, but rather off to the side a bit, combined with my late night route planning which had seemed to indicate that our route was following public roads … may I show exhibit A – listmap … which seems to show the route following an old public road for all but the last bit back to the car …
|Our planned route (highlighted in yellow) seemed to be following a public road on ListMap …
… and we’d also been given indications that this route was public from two different sources, we decided to proceed … with caution. We were happy when we got down the road a bit further and saw another private property sign a bit further off the road which seemed to confirm our thinking that it referred to the surrounding land, plus we also found a signed walking track down the road to Quaille Falls.
Postscript: when I got home I did another search on listmap for this road and noted the first section of this road is marked private. I’m not sure exactly what this means (whether it is privately owned, or just closed to public vehicles) but it would be wrong for others to follow without clarifying access and landowner permission.
A few kilometres down the road, just past quaille falls, we had gone as far as we could go in the car, so we unloaded the bikes … and I proceeded to try and find all the bits and pieces I’d thrown in the car very late last night and early this morning whilst assuring Oliver that I was almost ready … almost.
I’ll be nice to myself and say that 20 minutes later we were moving (although I note that Oliver’s strava time started a long time before mine did).
As well as (maybe) being on private land, the first section down to Dove Creek is also unused, rutted, overgrown and steep. It is also great fun, albeit that both of us took a topple on the way day.
Probably not so much a surprise for me, but it was for Oliver who can actually react to upcoming obstacles by doing more than just closing his eyes and hoping that he’ll get over/around/through it, which is my most utilised strategy. Anyway, it speaks to the technical nature of this first section.
|I crashed on this (not so) super technical section somewhere around here.
|At least Oliver spilled trying to ride a slippery, rocky creek washout.
I think Oliver was starting to wonder what he’d got himself into in these first few kilometres (remembering he was trying to reserve himself for the Cranky Penguin the next day) but I tried to assure him that the track conditions would get better as we went on … glad he didn’t see my fingers crossed behind my back.
We got to Dove River – our first real obstacle – and after admiring the washed out bridge, found our way down a steep side trail and across the river without any real problems – I mean it was extremely slippery and about knee deep, but mainly fun and certainly beautiful.
Most importantly … it did not need a packraft.
|washed out bridge – from the other side.
|You want me to go down there?
|Even Oliver’s pushing.
|Crazy people first
|The super slippery rock technique.
|little bridge built by quad bikers?
Once on the other side of the river, the track really opened up and what followed was a long, steady but beautiful climb up (ever up) on some old, overgrown trails …
|We start together …
|But very soon … can you see him up there in the distance …
|Crossing Carruthers Creek
|The story of my day … Oliver just on the edge of my vision.
Most of the trails shown on maps are now overgrown leaving the one main track, and although we were going slowly (thanks to me), we were still both in great spirits and enjoying the ride as we got to the top of the ridge and started our plunge down to Campbell River, the second of four identified “we might not be able to get past here” points today.
The descent down to Campbell River is … well, a descent. You drop around 600 metres in a very short distance, and my brakes were so hot that I could feel the heat radiating off them.
|You can’t fathom how steep that is …
And I’d probably be writing a lot more about this descent, if it wasn’t for the even more amazing fact that somewhere between the top of that descent and Campbell River my bike went through an amazing and unplanned transformation …
Specifically, it went from a bike with 20 perfectly good gears, to a single speed … a single speed with a way over-tensioned chain at that.
|Involuntary Single speed conversion
Yes, my run of incredible bad luck continued as a stick flicked up into my deraileur during the descent managing somehow to leverage the whole deraileur into my spokes which proceeded to wrench it round, rip it off the deraileur hanger and strip all the thread from the hanger leaving me with a bike with no gears … or deraileur.
Thank God I had Oliver there who had both the tools and skills to at least remove the derailer, shorten the chain and get me one of those gears back in the form of a single speed.
Albeit that this was a bit of a mixed blessing as we still had something like 30kms of the ride still to do, and with the tension in my chain making it feel like I was riding up Mt Wellington (even on the flats) but still only giving me about 8kms/hr … it was going to be a loonnngggg ride back to the car.
But hey,one gear is better than no gears and with the further good news that the Campbell River crossing was a doddle (barely getting up over the ankles) we headed across and up the next climb.
|Campbell River crossing
After that, I just recall what seemed like a long push back up a hill which I just couldn’t ride with my one little gear (but which in reality would have been quite a reasonable and not so long ride if I’d had some better gears)
I was in fact pleasantly surprised at how quick (and easy) the ride was to our third potential “can’t get past here point” (Forth River) where I would have happily abandoned my bike and swam if it meant not having to retrace our steps … fortunately this wasn’t required as there was one of these things there …
|Forth River Bridge (gated and locked explaining why we saw no one else)
From the Forth River crossing it was a short hop, skip and jump to the Lemonthyme Power station …
And on any other day (with gears) it would have been a magical ride from here along the old Lorinna Road and trails back to our cars …
|Start of Lorinna Road
|More Lorinna Road
|Olivery on Lorinna Road (I felt so sorry for poor oliver at this point)
|The Washout which closed Lorinna Road – easily passable when we crossed.
|View from Lorinna Road as we got closer to the top
|Cethana Dam below
Lorinna Road is almost train-like in it’s gradient (albeit that you are mainly climbing in this direction, especially between Lorinna and Cethana Dam), it’s a great road surface, it’s got lovely views and it’s just beautiful riding.
The road is closed (and gated) between Lorinna and Cethana Dam, but I had ridden it twenty years ago and was confident we’d get through …
Which is where I’ll stop again.
Yep, if it’s not too late in the post, this is where I’ll start the third part of this tale – My fitness.
I could throw up a whole lot of excuses and reasons why I am where I am fitness wise today, but when it comes down to it, my fitness has been plummeting backwards in the last year simply because I’ve not done enough to drive it forward.
Today I paid for this in spades. I ran out of water at around lorinna (10kms from the end), the salad roll I bought for lunch was inedible, I was running without enough sleep and I just baked and overheating.
I felt so sorry for Oliver as he found himself chasing snakes and trying to ride his bike backwards (anything to keep himself entertained) as he waited and waited and waited as I pushed my bike up 1% grades because my legs just would not turn those pedals.
All things come to an end. The Lorinna track (our final “must turn back” obstacle for the day) did still run all the way through (I had last ridden this route about 20 years ago), and we did get to make the final plunge down to the car past the Cethana Dam.
So that was the tale of a trail which others shouldn’t follow.
It’s not a bike-packing trail (sorry Mr T – too steep especially if coming from the Lorinna direction), but even with the mechanical and human failures of the day, it was still one of the best new wild trails I’ve ridden in Tassie in a long, long time.
Postcript: I really did burn myself out on this ride: I ended up almost throwing up and then fainting in Oliver’s car as we shuttled back to the start, and ended up needing a 45 minute power nap in my car once I got back to Sheffield I also drank a giant banana milkshake, a litre of water and a bottle of lift …
After that I felt much better and managed the drive back home, pulling in around 9pm.
It was a long day, but I’d do it again in an instant. If it were legal to do so.