24 March 2008

Easter Camping Escapades

A return to the tradition of an Easter camping trip with mates.

Mission: transport 15 people and 5 dogs safely to Buckland Valley for a weekend of camping, beer, bike riding and general shenannigans.

Several very important lessons were learnt, and these will become obvious as this post continues.

The new trailer got its first use in anger:

Every man and his dog was camping in the Buckland Valley, we kept driving up, and up, and up the valley until we found an appropriate, unpopulated spot.

Lesson #1 when camping: Remember to bring the tent poles.

In the absence of poles, this is what I came up with:

Engineer I am not. Bush Mechanic I am.

The big mission for the weekend was to be a MTB ride from the Dargo High Plains turnoff on the Mt Hotham Rd (Great Alpine Rd) - onto Mt Murray, and then down Mt Murray track to Selwyn Creek Rd and then back to camp. 41km - 550 metres of climbing, 1500 metres of descent.

11 starters for the ride. Varying rides, varying abilities, but everyone dead set keen to give it a crack.

The route (having issues getting it to work in Google Maps)

And the altitude graph

This was gearing up to be an epic ride. The difficulty level was not huge - 4wd track and firetrail, but once you were in, the only way out was to either finish the ride or walk back out. And walking back out was not an option as the support vehicles were waiting back at camp.

Of particular note is my girlfriend's sister, Choppy. I've taken her mountain biking a total of about 3 times. When she heard about the ride, the ears pricked up and she was raring to go. Some nerves on the morning, and she very very nearly bailed prior to the ride, but she stuck with it, did her absolute best, and finished. First serious MTB ride, first 40km ride, first unsupported ride. 3 big thumbs up.

Some of the initial descents were pretty steep - upwards of 30% in spots I would reckon. The steepness was not the issue, but the baby head boulders scattered over the tracks in a way only Alpine tracks can. Letting go of the brakes and bombing down wasn't really an option, certainly not on the hardtail. The brakes certainly got a working that day.

Some steep pinch climbs as well - short but challenging - and a few of these really dished it up to Choppy, with a bit of pushing and walking going on. The nerves kicked back into gear when it took us 2 hours to cover the first 10km. I could see the brain ticking over, estimating an 8 hour ride, and how much food and water did we bring?

Got to lunch at the 14km mark:

And what an awful spot it was. Perfect conditions - tucked in a little saddle at 1400 metres, looking down the valley, eating ridiculously unhealthy bakery treats. Mmm.

I made the call - 2:27 thus far, this will be the half-way mark... Laughed at I was... We will see.

Straight after lunch, straight up to the summit track of Mt Murray, before turning off and starting the good stuff (ie downhill). And boy did it get sweet. Another 5 or so km's of alpine baby boulders, and then we hit... Mt Murray Track.

Some of the most awesome riding I have had in a long time. Somewhat like I imagine the Otway Odyssey would have been like, if not for the f**n rain and mud. I didn't clock it (was having waaay too much fun) but i reckon it would have been 10km of double track goodness, coming down through ferns, rainforest, creek crossings, water bars, twisty turny goodness. Don't think I touched the brakes once. And there is something pretty satisfying in hitting a creek crossing at 40km/h.

This is how fun it got:

Think the grins were bigger than the bikes.

And home. 41 something kms, 2:27 first leg, 2:21 second leg (I was right! Never doubt a bush mechanic!)

And then this:

And this.

Life is sweet.

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