Richie Goldsbury and Justin Freeman love an adventure, and here they bring us a tale of one they recently took on in the Southern Alps.
A lot of mountain bikers like looking at maps and I am one of that lot. Many of my favourite rides I first saw on a map, and then went and explored. When I moved to Christchurch nearly ten years ago I got to look at a whole new bunch of maps. Many of us also like skiing, and I am of the type that prefers the quiet, personal club ski fields of Canterbury, like Broken River. Many years ago one of the old timers at Broken River pointed across to Chest Peak and said there was once a ski club up there, which planted the seed in my head of one day going there. Looking on the map I saw a road heading up, but like so many things it fell into the ‘maybe one day’ class. I’m sure Ian said he’d ridden up there when he was a teenager, but it must have been another Rangiora boy.
Last year Justin sent me a newspaper clipping, which vaguely fuelled the plan to go there, but still nothing happened. Then last Friday night at a BBQ Justin texted me and said why not tomorrow, to which I could only reply, “if not tomorrow it might be never”, so we set off at 6 on Saturday morning.
We left the car at 7:50, and found a perfectly good road for the first while which took us to an awesome hut at Cunningham stream. From a Catholic school, it has a hut book, and sees occasional use. Would be a good place to take the kids, and would be a great place to make trails in the surrounding beech forest, if it weren’t hours from anywhere. It’s nearly a good place to ski tour from. Take a generator, it will plug in!
After the hut the road gets a bit overgrown to the next saddle, then there is the first slip, after which the road is very overgrown. After the next little saddle is a bigger slip, and where I would turn up the right ridge towards Mt Pember, if ski touring.
This one really is a scree slope down to Whistler stream. We followed the road a little then bombed down, but before that had dropped a little animal track down to a lower saddle to the left (towards peak 874m) which I should have continued to ride down, since it looked more fun.
Then you cross the river, and start climbing properly, we avoided the first up the valley switchback of the road, since the ridge was less overgrown, then struggled up until the caravan. It had now taken us 5 hours to climb 1100m so very slow going! We then really started heading up the mountain side, which was much more efficient. At about 1700m Justin wanted a snack, so we stopped, and he spotted the old rope tow about 20m away! So I was pretty stoked, we’d found the two legendary items of Chest Peak. A bit more carrying and pushing and we were at the ridge, just below Chest Peak, but it was now 4pm, and we were still a long way from Black hill hut (our backup beds for the night if we didn’t get home).
Along the tops were pretty neat you could see into Mt White Station, Lees valley, Torlease, Craigieburns, and over to Canterbury plains, but it was a bit hazy, and we didn’t get many nice photos. There is a ridge off the side I want to ride down, but that will have to be another day!
At about 7 we got to Black Hill, which would have meant we were home and dry, except that it started raining! But it was a mint ride out, then a commute back to the car.
I’m not about to go and reride it without knowing the road had been mown down, but I’m still really happy to have ridden nearly to Chest Peak. Apparently it’s type 2 fun – stuff that is more fun after than during, but much like riding in mud, if you decide to enjoy it you will, and Justin and I both did.