RR + pics: The Lyell.

Discussion in 'Mountain Bikes' started by Westie, Jun 11, 2003.

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  1. Westie

    Westie Guest

    Looks like everyone is hitting the historic mining areas this week. I see that Cindergirl has doing
    something similar.

    Tuesday's ride was the Lyell. It's an old gold mining area in the Buller Gorge on the West Coast,
    NZ. That's New Zealand, for those that need to know :) The Lyell was a busy settlement back in the
    mid 1800's when gold bearing quartz was discovered. Before long a number of large and small
    companies and 1000's of individuals had moved heavy equipment in to mine the reef back into the
    mountainside.

    At it's height it was a township with a population of 5000 people; complete with 2 churches, 50
    Taverns, schools and cemeteries. All perched precariously on a small area of flat land on the side
    of the mountain where the Lyell Stream joined the Buller River. Nowadays only the cemetery remains.
    While not generally known as a mountain biking area, there was reputed to be one ride worth doing.

    There are several maintained walkways and tracks that follow the old trails up the narrow, steep
    sided and rocky stream up into the hills. One kilometre takes you to the cemetery - well worth
    seeing. As Cindergirl described in her ride report, these cemeteries are a grim reminder of how
    short life was for many people just a 150 years ago. And there are many children too. Drowning
    accidents were all too common as the inhabitants crossed and recrossed the often flooded river on
    punts, barges, ropes and rough bridges to reach this town. About two kilometres in is the old
    Croesus battery - the machine that pounded the quartz rock into powder so that the gold could be
    extracted using mercury.

    I decided an early start to the day was the best. I didn't think that it would be a long ride. At
    that stage I didn't really know what distances were involved. I did want some time to investigate
    and take some photos too. Packed the car, got an early start and was at the trailhead by 9.00am.
    Winter here. Cold, foggy, a heavy dew and no sun in this part of the valley. We'd just had 5 days of
    rain earlier in the week too.

    Taking the track on the eastern side of the valley takes you past the cemetery and then down to the
    stream under a beech forest canopy. It's narrow walking track/single track for the first kilometre.
    Straight into it right from the carpark. No gentle warmups here. Steep, rough and technical.

    http://www.pbase.com/image/17729894

    This wasn't really going to be fun to ride - unless you're a freeride/trials kind of person. Lots of
    exposure with an almost sheer drop on the left and a narrow 18 inches of loose mudstone shards on
    the trail in places. There's hardly a smooth section on it either. It twisted and turned and climbed
    and dropped and threw drops and roots and rocks at you every couple of metres. To top it off, the
    trail was wet and very slippery in places. It would be much better in summer when it is dry and the
    wet beech leaves on the ground weren't so treacherous. As it was it was a lot of walking, slipping
    and carrying the bike. Damn scenic though.

    http://www.pbase.com/image/17729923

    A short 200m descent takes you to a small bridge over the stream and then a combination of stairs
    and tight, unrideable switchbacks 100m up the other side of the gully. Just as I was beginning to
    think that the guy that had recommended this ride might be the Devil himself, I climbed up onto the
    good stuff.

    http://www.pbase.com/image/17729995

    This side of the valley has an old Dray road that was used by horse and cart to access the mines.
    Wide and mirror smooth compared to what I'd just come through, it was a nice gentle downhill ride
    through the forest towards the battery. Hopping a few logs and dismounting to circle the odd washout
    made it a little more interesting. I was surprised when this lasted less that two kilometres and
    ended at a viewing platform; surprised and disappointed in fact. The trail did continue further but
    initially appeared to be unrideable. I'll investigate it further another day.

    http://www.pbase.com/image/17730024

    Had a look at the crushing battery. Took some photos and had lunch before heading back downstream.

    http://www.pbase.com/image/17730148

    Retraced part of the Dray road to the trail I arrived on. I then continued further down the valley.

    This was turning into some serious fun. A downhill on narrow single-track cut into the hillside all
    the way. It turned and twisted, and again there was the drop on the left and lots of loose shards on
    the track. A mistake here wouldn't just hurt. It would pitch you over the edge - and that would be
    that. Slowing down a little suddenly seemed a good idea. It was getting difficult to guess what
    might be around the next corner too. I can't imagine how a horse and cart made it along this track
    even when it was new and well maintained. There were great chunks of solid rock carved away in
    places to allow a seemingly impossibly narrow trail through. It must have been a brave horse (or a
    very dumb one). More likely the latter.

    http://www.pbase.com/image/17730162

    http://www.pbase.com/image/17730180

    Again, there were a couple of dismounts - some of the track had fallen away into the river below.
    And was still in the process of doing it if the warning signs were anything to go by. There was a
    hairy moment when I misjudged a bunny hop over a fallen tree branch on the narrow trail. The rear
    tyre kicked sideways along the wet bark before biting and bouncing over. Between the wet rocks,
    loose surface and natural water bars and the occasional branch there was plenty to keep you on your
    toes and out of your seat.

    The track ended abruptly again. A large 20m section of trail had fallen into the river and a newer,
    rough track scrambled up the hillside amongst the Bush Fuchsias and around the top of the slide.
    Carrying the bike up and over this was a disappointing finished to the run. Another ½ kilometre of
    well used gravel walking track took me uneventfully back to the car parking area.

    Overall, it was disappointingly short. But what good riding there was, was very good indeed. It was
    the sort of riding that provides a challenge and gets the adrenaline going. Well worth riding if you
    are travelling through the area and have an hour or so and the bike with you - one of the Island's
    main highways goes right past the Lyell so that's not as unlikely as it sounds.

    There is another officially "unmaintained" branch of the Dray route. It was overgrown and I missed
    it on the return journey. It merits further investigation at a later date. With some luck it'll add
    a few more kilometres to the ride and may well extend much further.

    --
    Westie
     
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  2. Jd

    Jd Guest

    "Westie" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
    > This was turning into some serious fun. A downhill on narrow single-track cut into the hillside
    > all the way. It turned and twisted, and again there was the drop on the left and lots of loose
    > shards on the track. A mistake here wouldn't just hurt. It would pitch you over the edge - and
    > that would be that. Slowing down a little suddenly seemed a good idea. It was getting difficult to
    > guess what might be around the next corner too.

    > http://www.pbase.com/image/17730180

    The way you were writing about it made me think of The Portal in Moab. That's not even vertical
    exposure. It sure does look like a fun trail though.

    JD heh heh heh...you said "serious"...heh heh heh
     
  3. Bill Wheeler

    Bill Wheeler Guest

    On Thu, 12 Jun 2003 17:26:43 +1200, "Westie" <[email protected]> wrote:

    [snip nice stuff]

    >http://www.pbase.com/image/17729894

    Outrageous! very nice, please tell me you dabbed on those Ent roots.

    >
    >This wasn't really going to be fun to ride - unless you're a freeride/trials kind of person. Lots
    >of exposure with an almost sheer drop on the left and a narrow 18 inches of loose mudstone shards
    >on the trail in places. There's hardly a smooth section on it either. It twisted and turned and
    >climbed and dropped and threw drops and roots and rocks at you every couple of metres. To top it
    >off, the trail was wet and very slippery in places. It would be much better in summer when it is
    >dry and the wet beech leaves on the ground weren't so treacherous. As it was it was a lot of
    >walking, slipping and carrying the bike. Damn scenic though.

    [snip more nice stuff]

    Fine RR, Bill

    The mind serves properly as a window glass rather than as a reflector, that is, the mind should give
    an immediate view instead of an interpretation of the world.
    :-]
     
  4. Westie

    Westie Guest

    "JD" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > "Westie" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:<[email protected]>...
    > > This was turning into some serious fun. A downhill on narrow
    single-track
    > > cut into the hillside all the way. It turned and twisted, and again
    there
    > > was the drop on the left and lots of loose shards on the track. A
    mistake
    > > here wouldn't just hurt. It would pitch you over the edge - and that
    would
    > > be that. Slowing down a little suddenly seemed a good idea. It was
    getting
    > > difficult to guess what might be around the next corner too.
    >
    > > http://www.pbase.com/image/17730180
    >
    > The way you were writing about it made me think of The Portal in Moab. That's not even vertical
    > exposure. It sure does look like a fun trail though.
    >
    > JD heh heh heh...you said "serious"...heh heh heh

    There was vertical exposure. Maybe not as much as The Portal, but don't worry about that. I might
    not have shown it, but it was there. ;-) Yes, all the same, it was a fun trail.
    --
    Westie
     
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