Paparoa Track Oct 2021

It was labour weekend and I’d moved to Christchurch a couple of days ago. I wasted no time in leaving again and headed up to Arthur’s Pass on Wednesday evening. It was a nice sunny Thursday and I worked remotely from Kennedy Lodge. I had Friday off and drove to Punakaiki pitching my tent at the campsite there. I went for a jog/shuffle up the Pororari river looping back down the Punakaiki river and back to the campsite. Anyway… this is all just to set the scene.

A kea on the track (Avalanche Peak, Arthur's Pass)

Above: I worked remotely from Arthur’s Pass for a day and went for a run up to the Avalanche Peak bush line in my lunch break.

View towards Rolleston (Arthur's Pass)

Above: It was amazing weather and the snow on the surrounding mountains looked great.

View up the Pororari river (Punakaiki)

Above: After arriving in Punakaiki, I went for a run up the Pororari river.

On Saturday morning, I turned up at Blackball and met Julian and Caspar and we drove to the Smoke-ho carpark at the start of the Paparoa track. The plan was to ride the track in a day and so with plenty of food and warm clothes we set off around 9am. The track wound its way up through beech forest to the Ces Clark Hut situated on the bushline. It’s a very funky DoC Hut, unlike the standard huts you often find these days. It feels like it’s built to fit onto the land rather than adapting the land to the hut.

Nearing the Ces Clark Hut (Mountain biking Paparoa Track Oct 2021)Inside the Ces Clark Hut (Mountain biking Paparoa Track Oct 2021)

Above left: We’re nearing the Ces Clark Hut in this photo.

Above right: I thought the Ces Clark Hut was very interesting. It’s not your standard DoC hut. It looks like it would be a great place to stay on another cruisier trip.

We continued climbing until we were riding along the tops. The track dipped and climbed its way around the hills until we were at Moonlight Hut. This was another nice hut that was surprisingly empty. I’d had expected to see people eating their lunch but we’d seen almost nobody on the whole track, just a handful of cyclists. Although the track had been nice up until now I enjoyed the riding from Moonlight Hut to the finish the most. Perhaps this was partly due to having most of the climbing out of the way but also I think I just liked the West Coast bush.

Riding up from the Ces Clark Hut (Mountain biking Paparoa Track Oct 2021)

Above: Most of the climbing happens in the first 10km to Ces Clark Hut.  We’ve passed the hut here and there’s a little bit more during the ride along the tops.

Cris on the track (Mountain biking Paparoa Track Oct 2021)

Above: The Paparoa track is maintained to Great Walk standards so it’s mostly an easy ride. There are still some sections where falling off would be very bad though and sections that are quite rocky.

Julian cranking the pedals (Mountain biking Paparoa Track Oct 2021)Caspar cranking (Mountain biking Paparoa Track Oct 2021)

Above left: We carried small backpacks with a good amount of food and warm clothes although it was warm enough that only the food was required. Above right: Caspar borrowed Jana’s bike which was a tad too small meaning he’s probably due to have his knees replaced now. He got through it though and a bike is much better than no bike when you’re mountain biking.

There were some amazing cliffs on this section of the track and although the track was well built and easy you wouldn’t want to accidently ride off it in parts. We descended back into the forest and headed down arriving at Pororari Hut later in the day. The last 15km or so were fast. The track was smooth and raced through tree ferns and bigger native trees.

Julian and Caspar rolling along the tops (Mountain biking Paparoa Track Oct 2021)

Above: The track ascends to Ces Clark Hut and then follows the tops to Moonlight Hut before continuing and dropping back down into native bush passing the Pororari Hut.

Big cliffs near the track (Mountain biking Paparoa Track Oct 2021)Caspar nears a switchback (Mountain biking Paparoa Track Oct 2021)

Above left: There were big cliffs near the track in parts. Above right: There were switchbacks during the descent.

Waterfall from the bridge (Mountain biking Paparoa Track Oct 2021)

Above: I enjoyed the track the most from Moonlight Hut, especially after we dropped back down into the bush. I snapped this waterfall from the bridge that crosses the river. It’s wide enough to ride across.

Caspar riding across a bridge (Mountain biking Paparoa Track Oct 2021)

Above: All the bridges are very sturdy.

The others had had their car shuttled to the end and we arrived there shortly after 4pm. My car was still in Blackball. I rode back to the campsite and stocked up on calories before jumping on my road bike. So began the grind back to pick up my car. It went faster than I thought it would, perhaps helped by a slight tail wind and spurred on by the thought of having to ride in the dark. I stomped on the pedals and got back to the car around 8pm.

A very good day out.

Above: Strava track of the ride. We were moving for 5 hours and 30 minutes and had around 2 hours of stops. We weren’t pushing really hard and we weren’t dawdling too much either.

Above: I swapped to my road bike that I’d left at the camp site in Punakaiki and rode back to Blackball to get my car. It was probably the most strenuous part of the day as I wanted to get back before it got dark.


With a slightly earlier start this post might have been named Elise Peak. Pat, Georgia, and I drove into the Rainbow to the locked gate and then cycled to the start of the Lees Valley Track. We went for a walk up the valley and then took a right, bush bashing up a ridge. We left the bush into sunshine and continued to the top of the peak 1718 m. It was then down another ridge and back out to our bikes. A good day out.

About to start cycling (Climbing 1718 July 2021)Cycling to the start (Climbing 1718 July 2021)

Riding (Climbing 1718 July 2021)Setting off on foot (Climbing 1718 July 2021)

View up Lees Creek (Climbing 1718 July 2021)Walking up the valley (Climbing 1718 July 2021)

Ice on branches (Lees Valley July 2021)Georgia climbing up (Climbing 1718 July 2021)

At the summit of 1718 (Climbing 1718 July 2021)

Mt Isobel Challenge 2021

I left Nelson at midday on Friday and drove down to Hanmer arriving there in time to cook dinner at a picnic table near the race registration. After picking up my race pack I followed the shingle road that lead up to Jack’s Pass, avoiding the many possums on the road stunned by the car’s headlights. I pitched my tent in the grass and heated up a MTR curry to add to my still warm rice.

I woke to the sound of vehicles and got up as the organisers set up the transition area. There was a heavy frost on my tent and it was a clear morning. The mist that had rolled in in the evening but had gone again in the night leaving a sky full of stars. I left my bike in the transition area and drove down to the start line at the bottom of the hill.

Some hours later the race started. I had decided to be pretty cautious as it was the first running race after rolling my ankle last year. It felt like half the field got away to begin with but then some people began to drop back after the initial excited sprint. We left the road and started up the single track. I took photos as we climbed and was pleased to see that once it got steeper I was faster than those around me.  I passed a bunch of people with another guy and we talked at times as we ran. Well, I say ran. “It’s more of an angry walk” my companion noted.

We continued the angry walk passing more people and I pulled away until I was alone. I reached the saddle and started heading along the ridge and up to the summit. The first runners were starting to come back down. My running buddy caught up and we made it to the summit. The descent down the ridge was ok but busy with runners still coming up. The route turned off at the saddle and headed down to Jack’s Pass. It became very steep for a while and I picked me way slowly down. It became more runnable and then less again and we were at the pass.

Starting up the single track (Mt Isobel Challenge 2021)Posing (Mt Isobel Challenge 2021)

1) It was good weather for the Mt Isobel Challenge. It was a fresh clear morning. I took my camera with me like any dedicated athlete would do.

2) I took happy snaps on the way up the hill.

Reaching the summit (Mt Isobel Challenge 2021)Running back down (Mt Isobel Challenge 2021)

1) From the saddle we made a small detour up to the summit of Mt Isobel. 2) The route took us back down to the saddle and then down to Jack’s Pass. It was steep and technical down to the pass and I kept my camera in my bag. It was then into the bike ride again without photos. I did however stop to put my go pro onto my bike, such is my dedication.

I faffed around for a bit at the pass changing shoes and getting my bike computer going. The ride starts with a descent. I rolled down eating a banana as I went. Once finished I started to ride a little faster but then decided it would be a shame not to have a bit of video so stopped to attach my GoPro. A couple of groups of cyclists passed me but I passed some of them again. The route around the the gravel road to Jollie’s Pass was nice. The road follows the Clarence River although I kept my eyes on the gravel mostly. We turned right and headed up the road to Jollie’s Pass. I passed a few people who were slowing down on the hill and was passed by a speedy girl. I stayed more or less with her for the rest of the race although she made gains on the downhill. We finished climbing and descended down the very bumpy and rocky road. The organisers had painted arrows directing us around the worst of the ruts. I reflected that it would have been sensible to be wearing cycling gloves.

There were no calamities and I got to the sealed road at the bottom and accelerated thinking it would be a quick 4km TT to the finish. I’d forgotten the route though and we turned back onto gravel roads slowly ascending, crossing a much fuller than expected river and climbing, climbing. At one point it really became quite steep and I passed some people pushing their bikes up the hill. I got to the last downhill and descended on the gravel road to the finish line.

I finished in around 2.5 hours, which I guess was ok. It seems I’ve ridden the race three other times in the past, although I don’t remember riding it so many times. Apparently in 2004, 2005, and 2009. I can’t find the old results but it looks like it took me 2 hours 12 minutes in 2005 and around 2 hours 23 minutes in 2009. I remember one year the course was slightly different and we took a small single track for a little bit while ascending Jollie’s Pass. It’s hard to know whether to be happy with my time. I think it’s probably ok considering I never felt like I was pushing really really hard and it’s the first running race in a long time. I dug up a GPX file from 2009 and using Strava compared my 2009 and 2021 bike ride. I was actually faster this time. Interesting.

I remember cramping one year on the running descent but this time I felt fine with just the slight hint in my calf muscles when I first started to climb up Jollie’s Pass. Would I have got a better time if I’d pushed harder or just got tired?

At the finish line (Mt Isobel Challenge 2021)

Above: I finished in 2:32:58 which didn’t seem too bad considering.

Mt Isobel Challenge 2021 - Result

Mt Isobel Challenge 2009 (9km/1000m run, 24km/300m bike)

Time: 2:23:58 Overall place: 47/166 Cat place (senior male): 24/54