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Old 12-12-2014, 02:05 AM   #1
warewolf OP
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Joined: Oct 2004
Location: Nelson, New Zealand
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Mt Altimarloch and Mahakipawa Adventure

aka "Blowin' in the Wind"

Mt Altimarloch is New Zealand's highest road, at 1693m. The route to the top starts at 220m and climbs via an unsealed road, varying in surface from good flat smooth gravel to rough and rocky. The views from the road are superb, and even better from the top. It makes a nice middling-long day trip from Nelson, and I thought a great introduction to adventure day trippin' for Sharleen and her XT250.

The steeds relaxing after Taylor Pass, with our destination in the clouds in the background :




Preparation... as this was the first real adventure outing for Shar and the XT250, replacing the street tyres with something more adventure-worthy tyres was first on the list. You can read more about our his'n'hers matching tyres in my post New Shoes:




To ease the length of the day, we rode the 90 mins from Nelson to Blenheim on the Friday night and stayed with friends. The forecast for Saturday was not the best, with early rain in Blenheim and fairly strong winds peaking in the middle of the day. We were to be joined by another friend, John, but he didn't think he'd cope with the weather so he gave it a miss. We'd stop in for lunch on our return.

We set off in the morning in light rain that stopped a few minutes later. On the outskirts of town Taylor Pass Road becomes gravel and snakes up the valley and over the pass. Down the other side, I stopped to see how Shar was coping - just fine! - and drop the tyre pressures from full street to adventuring, something I'd forgotten to do before we left.

Arriving at the Awatere Valley, we stopped for a quick break: to adjust clothing layers and talk a bit about the challenges ahead. Lowering the tyre pressures made a huge difference; I'm sorry I forgot to do it before we left Blenheim. We also had a brief chat to the group of fellow adventurers who'd stopped nearby to fiddle with bike setup. They were off to ride the Molesworth Station, further along the Awatere Valley... all the way along!

Shar and Zima, the mighty XT250:



My good self:



Approx. 20 km up the Awatere Valley is Black Birch Track, the start of the climb. The road zig-zags up to the ridge above the bush line. Initially running through farmland, then exotic pine plantation, then scrappy higher-altitude scrub, and finally reaching the barren alpine ridge of the Black Birch Range at 1200m.

Shar negotiating one of the many hairpin bends with style Pacific Ocean in the distance:



The end of the Awatere Valley and out to the Pacific Ocean:




Here's a 3D view of our route, viewed from the Awatere Valley looking to the north. The fuzzy red line is our recorded route, climbing a ridge in the southern lee of the wind. The 3 km or so westerly along the ridge is all brutally exposed to the blustery northerly wind. Mt Altimarloch is the high point on the left side:




We hadn't had any wind of note until we got beyond the pines: then it was a little blustery but nothing noteworthy. However... as soon as I popped up on to the bare ridge I was exposed to the full force of the northerly. It was forecast for 46 km/h winds in Blenheim at this time, goodness knows how strong it was up here at altitude, maybe twice that gusting to 3 times... yowzer! It was all but unrideable on a tall bike with a fairing and top-box. Indeed, the bike was blown over while I was attempting to turn around - the wind was coming from all directions, it simply knocked me over when it flipped direction.

Given we had 3 km more of this exposed ridge, it was prudent to abort. I left the bike laying safely on the ground and went back to Shar. I helped her turn her bike around in case she was caught by a gust like myself, but she was coping a lot better than I was. We retreated, having had perhaps more of an adventure than we intended!


Straight down the ridge, beyond the pine plantation were benign-looking fields of green belying the tortuous winds higher up:



Shar on the lower section of the track:




Returning via Taylor Pass, we stopped in to visit John, have a cuppa and a natter. As well as the DR200SE, he has some nice mountain bikes and has run races on his property here. The DR200 was on the list of possible bikes for Shar, due to its low seat height. I'd had one of these and found it quite useful. I learnt a lot from this bike, not least of which a heckuvalot about maintaining corner speed. Shar had a blat on it and was very pleased she has the mighty XT250.



I probably should have blagged a ride on it myself - another time perhaps - as it would be interesting to see how my memories compare to reality, 10 years on. John was saying it struggled to do more than 90 kays, but IIRC there's a rough spot in the upper mid-range about there in top gear, before the vibes smooth out and the engine comes on song. Mine spent lots of time cruising on 115 km/h and peaked around 125 km/h, or more downhill with a tail wind!


We bade John farewell and headed north through town to a new eatery, Cafe DeVour, owned by the cousin of some friends. After a yummy lunch we tootled off to Havelock and the Mahakipawa peninsula. I wanted to take Shar up the ridge track, so that she could sample the delights of a somewhat technical adventure route that led to vistas you couldn't otherwise see.

At the moment, the track itself has some challenging deep ruts early on. One must ride the narrow ridges between them. With the dry spring this year (Nelson has had only 19% of it's average rainfall for October and November ) the track is currently dry and rock hard, except for a couple of small puddles. It's a fun track with enough technical difficulty to be a modest challenge, or a blast! and you are rewarded with great views on 3 sides.

Looking west to Havelock and the marina - nearly low tide:



Looking east down Pelorus Sound, Mahakipawa Arm to the right:



Giving thanks to the riding doGs at the summit of the track:



On the way down, Shar managed to get herself in to, and then back out of, one of the ruts... well done!

From Havelock it was an uneventful but very pleasant blast back over the hills to Nelson, with Shar finding her own rhythm and becoming more and more comfortable on the bike.

All up, an awesome 24 hour trip. Thanks honey for your companionship. Ok, so we didn't reach our geographic objective, but the primary objectives were to have fun, gain some experience, and look forward to doing it again... Result!
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warewolf screwed with this post 12-12-2014 at 02:31 AM Reason: Geographical embarrassment
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Old 12-12-2014, 02:16 AM   #2
Te Hopo
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Top effort to you both, it sounds like a fun trip.
Definitely better to play it safe rather than sorry, Altimarloch is a challenging track that certainly rewards you.
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Old 12-12-2014, 02:23 AM   #3
warewolf OP
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It's certainly smoother now than any other time I've seen it.

Woulda been better to choose another day, but my time to get away is scarce.
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Old 12-12-2014, 05:22 PM   #4
NordieBoy
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And you didn't rip your front guard off this time?
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Old 12-18-2014, 01:51 AM   #5
warewolf OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NordieBoy View Post
And you didn't rip your front guard off this time?
Nope - it stayed at home, where it belongs!!
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Old 12-18-2014, 01:53 AM   #6
warewolf OP
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Epilog:

John has traded the DR200 on an ex-demo 2013 XT250, which he is enjoying immensely!
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