The Most EPIC New Zealand High Country Winter of Riding

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by RMOTO, Oct 16, 2018.

  1. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    2018 presented New Zealand adventure riders with the best riding weather in over a decade. A string of clear blue sky days and unseasonally low rainfall meant that the High Country that can often be inaccessible throughout winter and spring was an open playground for any adventure rider happy to endure the cold temperatures.

    This ride report will showcase these winter trips both solo and with riding buddies. I hope you enjoy :-) ...

    ...early winter, after some serious hours planning for an upcoming three day ride, I assembled a fairly challenging High Country route. The route included a number of tracks that I have ridden many times over the years, but hadn't yet linked up in this particular fashion.

    There was no doubt this was going to be a chilly trip. It was the start of winter, and were heading to altitudes with predicted daytime temperatures of around 8° Celsius and overnight temperatures around -6° Celsius. The good part with the New Zealand High Country in winter is that much of the water is locked up in ice and snow meaning of the river levels are low making them relatively straightforward to cross.

    With three riders at the start line, we set off on what was to be a seriously awesome three day High Country adventure…

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    The long straight sections of tarmac departing Christchurch and heading towards the High Country were mindnumbing as normal. All any rider wants to do get to the High Country where the fun begins. To top things off, temperatures were only just above zero so it was a pretty chilly start to the day. However, as our wheels finally made contact with the start of the High Country gravel roads, the day started to warm up and we had bright blue clear skies

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    After dropping off some beers on a station owner’s porch for granting us access, we entered one of the first valleys

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    The valley was still recovering from a below zero night and many of the tracks had thick crusts of ice

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    #1
  2. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    As the morning went on and the sun did its best to raise the mercury. It made for perfect riding temperatures for the rest of the day, just cool enough to stop us overheating while wrestling the bikes up the valley

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    #2
  3. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    While the rivers were relatively low and easy to ford, we were careful not to get it wrong and end up in the drink. The snow and glacier fed rivers means the water is very little above 0° at this time of year

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    #3
  4. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    Reaching an altitude of around 900 metres on the valley floor, the rocks were partially blanketed in a layer of snow

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    After much rock wrestling later, we finally reached the planned destination... Hells Gates. An impressive array of mountain ranges housing an unnamed glacier
    #4
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  5. XTWalt

    XTWalt Been here awhile

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    Damn that looks cold. The hard part (for me) of these winter rides is the very short daylight hours. You have to be in sleeping bag for 12 hours each night.

    Spectacular scenery!
    #5
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  6. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    After some photos and a well-earned break, we started the rock wrestling mission towards the hut we planned to stay in that night

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    Consuming the last of our energy to collect firewood, we finally settled in for the night around a nice warm hut fire, a hot meal and a good night’s sleep. What a day it was, absolutely awesome!

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    The next day bought more magic blue skies. Again, the photos make the morning look deceivingly warm, however I can assure you that wasn't the case. Overnight temperatures dropped well below 0° and with the low arching winter sun, it took a while for the big yellow ball to appear and begin thawing out the frozen ground

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    #6
  7. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    As we departed one valley, we headed up the next

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    Shaded areas that were layered in frost and ice certainly put our balancing skills to the test
    #7
  8. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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  9. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    We reached one of the most challenging river crossings of the trip. This river has a reputation for always being rushy and boldery to cross

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    Not long after the river crossing we reached a brilliant little hut standing at the foot of an impressive mountain range

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    #9
  10. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    After a quick break and a bite to eat we carried on our way. There were more river crossings to tackle but the three of us have river crossings fairly well dialled in so all was well

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    Finding the best path through the boulder fields saw us zigzag our way up the valleys. Oftentimes we’d pass by vertical faces impressively dressed with ice daggers, some up to 2 metres in length

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    #10
  11. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    Cuppa time!

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    This river crossing was a combination of two rivers. Normally it is relatively straightforward as the base is solid and the rocks offer good traction. With low running water levels, algae had built up which made the crossing a little bit more challenging
    #11
  12. slogger

    slogger Been here awhile

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    Awesome!! Do you have any pictures of the exterior/interior of the huts? Those look really neat.
    #12
  13. LC8TY

    LC8TY must......find........fuel

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    Great pics :-) but just the thought of wet boots in those temps terrifies me.
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  14. superfunkomatic

    superfunkomatic Funky Monkey Trunk

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    Wow! 'Remotemoto' is certainly apt. That looks like absolutely stunning country and a great deal of effort to get that far away.
    Are the huts for trekkers or hikers in the area? I can't imagine there's a great deal of traffic or human presences there, is there?
    #14
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  15. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    Hi slogger and superfunkomatic, the huts we stay in are either DOC huts (Department of Conservation) or private farming station huts. Most are tucked away in remote places and are extremely basic, but make brilliant accommodation for adventure rides. I have some photos coming up soon that show the insides of the huts, cheers ;)

    Here is some info and photos on huts you may find interesting: New Zealand huts for adventure riders
    #15
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  16. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    Once the river crossing was complete, we were heading up yet another beautiful valley

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    It wasn't long again before we reached an altitude where snow had partially blanketed the valley floor. Looking up each of the side valleys offered impressive snowy views
    #16
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  17. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    After another brilliant day of riding, it was time to set up camp. This night, we were tenting it

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    Our campsite was located right by a waterfall which only offered us both pristine drinking water and an exceptional icy sight

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  18. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    With luck on our side, the third day presented more perfect riding whether

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    Time for a group photo with snow topped mountain ranges as a backdrop. Left to right… Ian, Josh (me) and Mark

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    This day of riding was not a big one. We were exiting the High Country and making our way home. This was one of the last major river crossings before reaching the 4X4 tracks, the gravel roads and then finally the tarmac
    #18
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  19. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    The trip couldn't have gone any smoother and been any more brilliant. No mechanicals, no issues, everything ran like clockwork.

    I have been fortunate enough to have ridden these three valleys a number of times over the last few years. I’ve managed to gain an enormous amount of information on what challenges are presented throughout each season and how the rivers rise and fall based seasons, rain, snowmelt and flooding. Mixed with establishing the best routes up each valley and the best places for accommodation, all of this has been bundled up into an Exploration Route called the Triple Valley Challenge.
    #19
  20. RMOTO

    RMOTO Anticipating summer...

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    With tidy looking weather on the cards, the next route was prepared to head up to the High Country for an overnighter. While the majority of the route was familiar territory, there was a plotted route to explore a couple of valleys I had previously ridden past, but hadn't yet ventured up.

    The riding crew consisted of the KTM trio Ian, Mark and me. To get a jump on things for the maximum riding time on the Saturday, we shot up to the cuff of the High Country on Friday afternoon and camped up the night.

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    Our route up to the High Country was made up of as many gravel roads as possible and included a few side tracks. Here we are heading out to the confluence of the Kowai River and Waimakariri River to set a new Mototoken.

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    After fuelling up at the last petrol station we made our way up to a camp spot on the shore of a lake.

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    Waking to a picture perfect blue sky day the next morning, we eagerly packed up camp and hit the trails.

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    The mercury was reading in the low single digits however it made for a perfect riding temperature as we started the route up into the High Country.
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