When I came back into NZ it was made pretty clear to me by Immigration that I was at risk of having my passport revoked unless I went to Wanaka on this trip. They had confirmed that I was the last ‘New Zealander’ that hadn’t been, an awkward proposition when 98% of Germany and Japan had already passed through its lakeside goodness.
So, post park day and the need for something a little more laid back, not to mention new, it was time to venture out of town. Main motivator, aside from hands that felt a bit second hand, was a bent left hand brake lever (awaiting replacement), which wanted to keep popping out of my finger at the scariest and most inopportune moments, mainly the fastest sections of Thundergoat.
The irony is not lost of me that I’m calling this a ‘guide’ when I’ve never been there… But for the 4 or 5 people in the world left who also haven’t, and may want to go their with a bike, then this may come in useful. Before we get started with the dirt though, here’s something for the Road crew, plenty of riding down this way for you as well, might I recommend the Crown range climb (10.8km’s @ 6%) which isn’t too far out of Queenstown, some decent respect to be earned here if you make it not only to the summit at 1,000m, but then down the otherside to the Cadrona pub for lunch before attacking the other side. The views are worth it Road crew:
So, over from qTown to Wanaka (hour drive) to tick another place off the ‘I should have fucken been here years ago‘ list and there were two locations to hit on this mini raid. After much morning faffery and stopping to take two many vista pics, I finally arrived at destination 1.
Deans Bank loop
So many will point out that this is an odd choice given I’ve gone full ENDURO… There’s no question its slated as an XC loop, even Multigirl gave me the heads up and frown when I said that I wanted to go and ride there… And she would know, with a capacity to ride XC trails for 8 to 14 hours straight. However, ever since I saw this little clip of NZ ENDURO shredder Justin Leov riding it, I wanted to go and scope it out:
Now you’ve watched that, you probably don’t need to check out these photos, or read the post… But I shall subject you to both anyway. Mainly as Justin smokes it too fast to take in some of the finer points, such as the first view you’re presented with upon rolling out from the start point:
Almost immediately it occurred to me that I had wandered into Welsh Assassin territory. Yip, he needs to come here on a lightweight 29er and unleash a savage assault on the Strava segments that litter the terrain. Reports from others were right on, this is where you bring your 29er and spend a lot of time pedalling at threshold. Or taking photos as the trail looks kind of neat…
As I was busy devising my crowdsourcing campaign to bring the WA here for him to unleash the red mist, I had ended up winding my way on to what can only be described as a prairie, almost Dances with Wolves shit here. Couldn’t get a bigger contrast from getting after it in the bike park the day before… Getting that BIG country feeling:
If you do come to ride here, chances are you’ll want to do a couple of laps. Why? Well, at 11km’s long, its not an epic marathon obviously, plus if you want to give it a smash, Justin style, then you’ll want to do a recon lap first. Should take you well under 35 mins if you’re going well, closer to 40 if you sift a bit.
There is also the slight matter of the scenery… Yeah… You’ll want to stop fairly regularly to let your eyes hoover up the views. Did I mention there was a river?
So, there is zero gnar here… Not a bad thing on an easy day where you want to give the hands a break. Its not boring though, especially if you want to have a crack here and there. It does have good flow though and occasionally, something to get things pumping…
The scenery is killer though, especially if you like distant mountains and sunburnt landscape… Yes and YES. You also get the feeling that real serious backcountry isn’t all that far away. Quite different from qTown in some ways, its still an awesome view to perv on and perfect to slow you down on a day off…
My first lap took some time on account of photo taking, sifting and general chilling. Gave the second lap a bit more of a push, something told me that its time for a lower back massage, as not a lot of power seemed to be coming out. The last downhill back onto the starting flat is probably the raddest part of the loop, and yes, the 3 cut line jumps are bank vault safe, so no drama indulging in them to feel radder than you actually are.
If you were a real XC bandit, then you could come out and smash 3 or 4 laps and have a jolly old training session. Wouldn’t really be the point per se of a track like this, but depends on your buzz. It does demand a lot of accelerating, so a good place to hit if you’re in the area and need to brush up on your berms.
For those wanting to go and check it out, its insanely easy to find… Head towards Albert town, not far from Wanaka on SH6, across the one lane bridge and then park up in the camping ground on the left, near the river. Trail head is pretty obvious and its a very well signposted loop, so you’d have to be drunk or dumb as fuck to mess it all up. I’ll be flying the Welsh Assassin in via chopper when we do the KOM attempt, may as well close the segment after that.
With Deans Bank ticked off, the best approach is to head into town and hunt down a fuel dump. Pick of the brunch bunch? Check out Federal Diner, cool place, great coffee and, er, the FOOD. Now, food photographs are pretty much a banned substance, but I have context for unleashing this one here, so hear me out:
If you’re double shifting your day, this is an excellent example of what not to devour without breathing before your second ride… Fuck if it didn’t seem like an awesome idea at the time and damn I was digging on that pork, but hindsight is a wonderful tool. The delicious meal you see there, and Fucking Affirmative it was damn tasty, decided to accompany me all afternoon on stage 2 of the day. Predictable much? Indeed.
On to stop two on the Wanaka mini-mission and it was time to visit the other MTB destination everyone talks about when you mention the W word. It wouldn’t be DN if I didn’t make some small joke about the name… But that would be too obvious, so instead I set forth to see if it was because if had good traction and find out just what everyone had been wanking on about. For those on the hunt, this is the carpark you’re looking for, off Forest Heights, google maps has no drama’s finding it:
Its slightly weird as it now backs right on to Wanaka’s version of a hillside suburbia, so you may think you’re in the wrong place initially. Would love to give a good explanation on how to get to the top, but I think I fucked it up and rode up a DH exit trail, so might I suggest getting a MAP from the bike shop in town, will come in very hand for what you’ll find in the Sticky.
Yes, its a rabbit warren… Whilst not that big, it does have a lot of trail shooting off all over the show… Once on to the Summit trail, which wasn’t too hard to find, you’ll be presented with 4 or 5 trails, well sign posted, but with no grading system to let you know wasssssup. I randomly chose one, ‘Stumpy‘, and it turned out these were the black runs, they do steep here as well, like, real steep:
With the shred arousal up, it was time to continue with the recon. It started to transpire that whilst runs weren’t long, the trails are well made and a lot of effort has gone into making them run with real berms etc. It is bone dry and the moment, so probably not as sticky as it gets when there’s been some lubricant from winter.
It didn’t take long to work out that I was dealing with a classic case of ‘Small Block Syndrome’… Yes, a tightly zoned forest means quick descents and then the inevitable climb back up. From the ridgeline there are two sides you can peel off, one side leads to ‘The hub‘ with the easier spin back up the ‘Chairlift‘ trail, with the other side leading to the harder climb up ‘Cranking fine‘. I did chairlift three times and Cranking Fine once, but if you were here for a few hours you’ll more than double that allotment I suspect. In terms of DH action, Venus, sick boy and 4G are all worth scoping out:
To say I felt lethargic would be an understatement, my mega lunch error compounded with missing a much needed toilet stop, so I can’t say that I really made the most of my Sticky time, it would have been nice to ride every trail, but mainly I just sat around looking at the awesome view that can be found halfway up Cranking Fine… Seriously, the vista here is amazing, so make sure appropriate time is taken to feed it to your eyes:
With a few big days to come, the temp dropping a bit and enthusiasm waning thanks to the whole stomach scenario, it was time to clean up hot flannel style and leave sticky behind. I only just scratched the surface really, there was a lot more to explore, but you have to want to invest some energy into it to get around the whole set up, not to mention a map being handy. Bring the crew to Sticky, there are good trails to run a train on and exploring always more fun with the gang. Suspect it gets super hot in peak summer, so bring a full pack.
Dirty advice? I would probably reverse the format that I did, go to Sticky first and then when you’ve had enough of the quick up and downs, head out to DB for some scenery lusting. Also worth minimising faffing and getting to Sticky early for a few hours. Then cruise around Wanaka taking lake photos to let lunch go down.
Wanaka isn’t an MTB destination like qTown is, but its a good change up and worth a look if you’re touring the area. I suspect there is more/radder riding out there, so take this as a lazy guide! Speaking of lazy, I’m a day behind in updates, so off to Coronet Peak this arvo to finally hit the ENDURO course and scope the Rude Rock!
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