If you clicked on the title of this post with your inner History nerd fully erect ready to lay down some historical smack down on me, I totally get that it was actually the Otago Gold Rush in the 1860’s that was the real deal. But, Queenstown played quite a role in that mineral feeding frenzy, and no doubt some of the infrastructure that went in at the time helped put the place on the map.
While the first gold rush did have a lot of gnar, it had zero shred. The new one, or the case I shall try and make for the new one obviously has plenty of gnar, but this time it’s going to be heavily laced with shred.
I’ve been fortunate enough to pump in a few trips and events in qTown over the last 7 years, so it wasn’t like I was a wide eyed virgin heading into the latest mission there this summer. Excitingly though, there was a plethora of relatively new shit to check out.
But, as I worked through each day detailed below, there was one overwhelming impression I was left with this time that hadn’t felt obvious or tangible before, which when I say it now may sound obvious to most, but it’s what I kept mulling over 4 days:
Is Queenstown about to go NEXT level and become a mega epicentre for Mountain Biking?
Locals will give a ‘no shit’ shrug at this point, so this is more aimed at those yet to head south to experience qTown’s insane goodies, or hopefully to create froth for those who haven’t been for a while for a return visit to sniff out some key updates. Even though I’ve been rolling here fairly regularly since 2014 (Oh the glory the DH Bike gang bang which was #R14QT with a couple of DNGC Board members), I was fucking frothed at the range of new stuff to hit.
To help tease out this thesis, I was armed with a bunch of hard hitting muthafuckas who, laced with the rich aroma of some casual toxic masculinity, still can’t believe that cancel culture hasn’t caught up with them yet. DN Global Collective senior members The Professor (#quietstorm), The Creator (#Creatorsgonnacreate) and The Rodfather (#waityousaidyouwerentmarried). Never has such a hot crew been so icy cold:
But what’s more exciting than the new stuff we gorged on, and which forms the base for my hypothesis above, is the rumours, whispers, innuendo and hints about what’s coming in the qTown trail development world over the next 2-5 years. If you’re partial to conspiracy theories and gossip (Yes please), and assuming it can all be done without some cunts moaning and wrecking shit, then Queenstown is perhaps going to assume the throne as the absolute king of shred. No Bull.
Right about now the Nelson & Rotorua riding communities are sharpening their pitchforks, setting alight oil soaked torches and preparing to march on Dirty HQ insurrection styles to shave my beard and smash my wireless router. But before you start (again) with your hate mail, come back to me when you have a chairlift… No, Skyline Vegas, you only half count.
Ok, so if you’re a qTown local, from this point forward it will all be a bit obvious for you, so feel free to give yourself a reach around as you bask in the glory of your location choice. If however you fall into the camp of not getting down that way, then coat yourself in shame and leverage some of this as a guilt trip to get your dirt shit together ASAP.
Day 1 – Cardies with a Coronet chaser
How about going from 37 degrees and roasted to fuck, to frowning as you pull on a merino base layer, armour and then a fucking jacket to end up in 0 degrees, yes, fucking ZERO (Well, actually minus temperatures once you factor in wind chill on the chairlift) for your opening ride of the trip?
This was the scenario I was faced with, not to mention that my red hot companions had already got themselves up to speed by arriving slightly early. I only dared to get my camera out a few times in this sesh, mainly as my fingers kept freezing up and I couldn’t feel the brake levers…
As if rolling with these ‘famous in my echo chamber’ GC’s wasn’t enough, the Rodfather, who up until this point was the most famous person I knew, had arranged for us to ride with an actual famous person, which nervously got me searching my panicked mind trying to remember the name of my favourite Shapeshifter song…
Rolling into the Cardrona bike park with a legit Cardies Ambassador and someone as stoked on the shred as PDigsss definitely took the mind off the freezing conditions and getting used to a whole new zone to explore.
First impressions? Well, it’s fucking fast, like you know you’re in a bike park fast. Then there’s the absence of any vegetation, which is fairly rare for an NZ bike park (possibly because it’s the highest one in the land) and gives it a unique feel. It’s deliciously well made too, with some serious work going into carving the runs into the mountain.
We started to get into our work, with the lift queues essentially non-existent, due to no one else being insane enough to be up there in snow flurries, we were racing each other as well as the looming clouds closing in. By the third or fourth run it felt like we were starting to get a handle on the ‘Cardies’ (How you need to say it to not sound like a tourist) vibe, which reminded me a bit of riding on some of the Euro alpine parks at times.
For some, the lack of jungle, mud, river crossings, a motor and fearing that at any moment you may be slayed by a cougar was too much to cope with… Or perhaps it was the looming birthday and that one step closer to getting a gold card?
I’ve actually included fuck all terrible Go Pro screen grabs from this opening Cardies salvo, because there is a reboot to come further down with significantly superior images from the Creator. But for those fiends that just love a fairly shit screen shot, this should hit your spot:
With even the lifties wanting to get the fuck out of the sudden mid-winter scenario engulfing the mountain, it was time to bail from altitude, leaving us all wanting more from Cardies. Departing though, is an oddly sweet experience…
The fucking run down from Peak to Pub is absolutely bonkers. It’s been a while since I have ridden this fucking fast, for that fucking long and through some sections where I can actually hear my suspension begging to be sent to Suspension Labs for a tear down.
I mean, you’re dropping around 1,300m in about 10km’s or so (From where we dropped in from), so it’s fucking legit, especially from an NZ perspective. For me the upper and middle section (Crankshaft especially) were the highlights, with the lower sections at the end more of a test of who like to go insanely flat out on rutted high speed grass runs. It’s not often you have to stop three quarters of the way down a run to take jackets off.
As if there hadn’t already been enough highlights, the reward for spending all that time pinned is the sensational menu at the pub! Yes, the famous AF Cardrona pub, taking pub food to the next level. Don’t miss the fried chicken and Bao buns.
On trips like this, with a crew like this, most days are a double up (Ughh Ughh) session scenario. And even though everyone resembled a meat popsicle, no one was going to say no to trucking right back across the Crown range and straight into some Coronet Peak freak.
Rude Rock obviously deserves no introduction given how much its been written about, raced on or Grammed, so I shall bypass re-reading that news (Immerse yourself in next level shame if you consider yourself a dirt connoisseur and haven’t ridden it), but the real story in this session was I would finally get the chance to meet the new rad cunt in town – Hot Rod.
Naturally this trail name created the super awkward scenario phrasing wise when I enquired “When are we riding Hot Rod? Are we going to smash it?” Some members of the group were right to feel nervous:
For the uninitiated, Hot Rod essentially connects the bottom of Rude Rock to the bottom of Coronet Peak to finally use all the elevation on hand. And not just use it, but use it in the most absolutely glorious way.
Yes, some serious trail wizardry has gone into this build, as in, as far as flow/jump trails go, this mofo is sublime. The way you can absolutely pile into the berms and they lovingly hand you between each other as you giggle and endurogasim is fantastic.
Yes, it’s relatively smooth and won’t please the Gnar hunters, but if you love speed, jumps that won’t maim you and berms that make you feel like a fucking hero, then this trail will be your jam… Fuck all pedalling required as well if you stay off the brakes.
At times it felt like a video game, except you’ll be forced into letting out some involuntary screams of joy as your high speed honey hole is delightfully massaged. Much like sex, it’s better if you hit this with a group as opposed to solo.
It’s also built in such a way that if you want to chill, you can, but if you want to go shaved balls deep like the 90’s DH superstar that you are, it will also oblige you:
Semi Pro logistics tip – If you haven’t been here before and you park up the top of CP and shred down to the end of Hot Rod, you’ll find yourself a cuntingly long way from your car, so arrange your shuttle logistics accordingly… Luckily for us we had a rad local shuttle pilot, so find one of those or gel the fuck up and get the climbing legs primed.
Day 2 – Coronet Vs QTBP
It was time to unleash the Birthday boy and fulfil his every desire and wish. Once we worked out our insurance didn’t cover 69% of his requests, and then vetoed his other options because none of us wanted to be that experimental, we settled on loading up and heading back for fucking MORE CP laps of Rude Rock and Hot Rod, which felt like an appropriate way to usher in the Rodfather’s 6th decade of being a rad cunt:
I’m going to pause for a moment from appreciating one fucking legend, to pay homage to another… Yes, Megatron so far was on absolute fire on this trip, the very newly installed 200mm drop One Up Dropper post putting some tasty icing on this beast cake. Indeed, I have made so many changes and tweaks recently that I started to wonder if I was approaching Peak Megatower, but more on that in a future post. It was absolutely humming:
Indeed, part of the thrill unfolding here was getting to ride Megatron on the kind of terrain and gradient that Nick Anderson and his team of geniuses intended. My bike was in agreement when the Rodfather started muttering “I’m fucken moving here” under his breath like the crazy person you avoid in a rest home.
A guest appearance mid Rude Rock run by Matt from Bikeaholic in Queenstown not only upped the pace, but unlocked some local knowledge and lines to turn the mundane commute between the end of Rude Rock and the start of Hot Rod into something more spicy. It was time to get this Birthday homage humming.
You don’t need a recap of how good Hot Rod is, but suffice to say it’s even better on your 4th or 5th lap when it’s dialled and the whole crew is flying like a bunch of lunatic hypersonic missiles. When you go on holiday and pretend every run is a race run – Or as some might say, “Yeah, fuck yeah“.
Birthday boy had made the call the afternoon would be devoted to the Skyline Bike Park, a location which seriously needs no introduction, unless you’ve been in some sort of bunker/underground sex cult. I will say, it did feel more gnarly than my last visit in October 2019, but that may have been the company?
It’s definitely a change in pace, gnar levels and gradient over rolling at Cardies or CP, so don’t roll in here expecting like for like. Depending on what trails you pick, you need to have your A game at hand as the margin for error, and subsequent consequences, feel like a step up from the other venues.
But we had an expanded crew now which included Ash and Ranger, #totallegends, so in we piled for Gondi lap after lap of relentless gnar pounding. All the classics were hit, and in a head spinning session where we cut from one trail to another, including some locals only lines, the upsized team saw to it that not a single run was wasted.
As good as this fucking shred was, it suddenly paled in comparison with the high point of the day in which the Professor got fingered, took it like a PRO and then just kept shredding. I’m not sure what was more impressive, his ability to assume such a pro position, or the speed with which Ash got her gloves off to unleash said fingering… We all spectated with a creepy silence and wonderment that hovered close to inappropriate.
Day 3 – Glendhu the Great
No need to rehash all the Glendhu antics again here, but if you fucking love reading and excellent photos (Not my ones), then load shoot this onto a new tab and check out the glory of a full Glendhu session. Side note, getting there was also fucking rad just quietly…
Day 4 – The Shredpocalypse is upon us!
And so we arrive at the culmination of this episode in the combined rolling thunder midlife crisis which is our riding group. How do you cap off, or even try to one-up, the radness which had been had so far?
You fucking summon the Shredpocalypse, stand back, take a deep breath and let it descend on you with all its might and awe. The Creator was ready, as per usual.
What is the Shredpocalypse? It’s honestly hard to define, and even harder to plan for given all the variables involved. The right weather, the right location, the right crew, bikes humming, riding as close to peak radness as you can all manage… And then a whole series of other intangibles that need to arrive at the right time to declare a day or session a legit Shredpocalypse.
Starting the day at Bespoke Kitchen and then 169 jumps down multiple runs of McNearly Gnarly (somehow my first time riding it) signalled a clear intent for the day. I’m a terrible jumper and a slow starter, so didn’t get the best out of the morning, but the boys were frothing and the buzz in the air had us primed for more.
But it was loading into the HeliBike NZ chopper that indicated shit was indeed about to go, cliche alert, Next Fucking Level. Destination #2 for the day? The Cardies reboot:
Hot tip, arriving at the top of Cardies via chopper is a significant upgrade over a van. No fucking shit.
Admittedly at this point I need to confess to being a nervous chopper passenger, much to the delight of the Rodfather, who gets a raging erection at the mere scent of anything even remotely dangerous.
He feasted on my argument that choppers lack contingency, sitting down for an all you can tease buffet as I mulled over all the things that can go wrong. Not something that I needed to concern myself with given the total Pro crew running this show however.
Straight off the chopper and my ground kissing was interrupted by a bad ass local shredder, Spy, who passed me my Cardies lift pass, naturally arranged by Helibike NZ. Yes, that fucking seamless, no queuing in the office here, they don’t allow your shred to be interrupted by trivial admin. It was time to get down and filthy on this second Cardies date.
While we had touched down, given the crew we had on hand, no one was intending to stay on the ground for very long. Rolling behind the Professor and Ranger was a masterclass from people who accrue more air miles in one run than you do with your Credit Card spend in a year.
What a fucking contrast – From Ice Planet Hoth 3 days earlier to early 20’s and clear skies, which meant we got to see Cardies de-robed of its thick cloud, now on full display and inviting us to plow its goodies. The train was eager to oblige.
Mega conditions, mega crew, laps on laps on laps, Megatower humming like an insane lunatic and a collective stoke had me frothing off the chart while others looked away in a mixture of embarrassment, confusion or amusement.
Lap after lap was being pounded out, fuelled by said froth, summer jersey weather and led by Spy, our local shred guide. That sweet mixture of testosterone & bike park resulting in an orgy of fisting and a shit load of Go Pro footage that fuck all of you bothered to watch on the Gram. Outside chance there may have been some staged Creator photo shoots as well.
We continued to gorge and feast on the Cardies gold as the Shredpocalypse reached a crescendo… It didn’t matter what grade the trail was, or that it was blind, everyone just slotted into the unspoken pecking order which was designed to maximise the shred and piled into the next set of “Fuck YES” moments. It was madder than a Qanon convention.
We were getting to experience Cardrona in all its glory, it may not be as steep or as gnarly as Skyline, but it’s an absolute shit load of fun, and perfect for a big bang gang crew. To me, having this as one of 3 lift assisted bike parks to choose from, not to mention Glendhu, was excellent echo chamber reinforcement of my hypothesis.
Ranger took the opportunity to keep reminding us that he only mountain biked occasionally. And that he was a bit rusty.
There were many things I couldn’t believe about this session… How fast we were smashing out the laps, how good I felt on the bike, how fucking sensational the bike itself felt and how nice it felt at Cardies without 4 layers on. I also acknowledge that we’re reaching the point in this tale where I’m running out of superlatives right around the same time you’re starting to mutter “Fuck up cunt” under your breath.
It was becoming quite clear to everyone that this was indeed a day of days, and there was no intention of shit slowing down. How about I shut the fuck up for a moment with all my gratuitous frothing and just let some of The Creators images do the talking.
What? Holy fuck, there’s a third phase to this day?! The Shredpocalypse was by no means over and it’s intent was clear – It was time to go off piste.
With the chopper taking half the crew to the first back country gnar drop, our platoon got an extra lap of Cardies, to the protest of no one. Naturally we pissed most of this up against some rocks posing for The Creator as he starts the next phase of his lifestyle career as an action photographer.
But we soon heard the beat of the rotors, and we were obliged to drop the most well worn and time honoured Helicopter cliche available to mankind, one we had somehow managed to resist all yelling at each other in an Austrian accent up until now:
“Get to da Choppa!!!”
The professor could smell the death of another rear brake rotor… The subsequent train we ran down to the pick up point was fucking crazy, like an out of body experience, leaving everyone almost too gassed to even fist each other correctly.
Holy fuck yes, this Shredpocalypse was plunging full balls deep into its third phase… Unheard of. Even more unusual, none of us had a fucking clue as to what that was about to entail, even Ranger, which given he was born in mountains and raised by Kea was definitely saying something.
I was too busy gushing at the scenery and sending pics of it to people I know suffer acute FOMO to listen to where we actually were, but not like it would make much difference.
We were clearly in a spectacular part of the country, with some fantastic cunts and about to drop blind into fresh meat to feed to a soft compound Assegai. The Romans were entertained.
After the relatively groomed nature of the bike park, this wild back country blind heli drop was quite a contrast.
Rugged, vague at times, steep, fast as fuck and with strong encouragement to not stray off the main line into the under growth, we all had to recalibrate to the new vibe this presented. It was also hard not to gawk at the surroundings. Fucking stop it Queenstown!
It had more of a Trans Provence vibe to me, except this trail had definitely seen less traffic. As I attempted to dial it back and remind myself that we were definitely back country, I couldn’t help but notice that with just a little bit of trail work that this hidden gem could be transformed into a total banger.
Not helping my attempt to ride at 80% was the Professor and Ranger hitting this raw action at 110%, you can always tell the real bushmen when you drop them off the grid and tell them to operate within a safety range, only to have them giggle and disappear into the distance in a dust & rock cloud. The Creator was indulging his inner ‘Yes Gary!’ on banger patrol.
What. A. Fucking. DAY. As we choppered back to HQ over more of the insane mountains we had been making pigs of ourselves on all day, we could all feel the Shredpocalypse pumping through us like some Jedi knight shit (A reference 100% lost on the Creator).
Sometimes, like a big night out, when you plan for this stuff it doesn’t come off. It can feel forced, or the buzz goes wayward or expectations are too high. No such dramas as we wrapped up this mission with a mind/load blowing crescendo of awesomeness. We had gone out on the highest of highs possible, I suspect a day 5 would have seen us parked up in a cafe with a massive Gnar hang over, so it was time to roll.
Add to that, no major mechanicals and oddly for a Rodfather trip, no hospital trips or maimed riders, so a massive bonus.
The wash up
Almost too many rad units to acknowledge and thank for making this tight 4 day trip into something of a legend mission. Best mission ever? A strong candidate up there with some other legendary outings for sure.
Massive thanks to Hot Rod (The man and the myth), Bike Park Glendhu and the Doonbuggy, HeliBike NZ, Ash & Ranger, PDigsss, Matt from Bikeaholic, the local knowledge CP Bike shuttle service and of course the usual suspect GC Crew of The Professor, The Creator and The Rodfather. Clearly it does take a village to make a mission epic.
So, did I prove my point? Is Queenstown on the path to become the King fucking Kong of shred in the NZ? Or even a more world class destination? Just think, we didn’t even hit Salmon run, or the Coronet Peak chairlift & DH course, or Pack Track & Sack down into Skippers, or do Corotown, or any of the secret crazy local shit… So much good shit still went begging.
But all of that is really only half my case. Add to that all the potential to be unlocked if that salacious gossip comes to pass about upcoming trail development and I think the variety and options available in and around qTown will make it a destination you’ll be unable, or just insane, to pass up over the next decade.
But that variety, volume of trails and the fact it’s geographically dispersed is also one of the challenges, logistically speaking, of having a trip down to qTown and maximising the shred.
What it really needs is a Mafia Don type figure to pull this whole experience together… Given the spread out nature of the whole Queenstown/Wanaka/Alexandra riding experience, you really need someone to pick you up from the airport and unleash on you the very best that the Gnar buffet in this shred paradise has to offer.
Someone who knew the best trails, to ride in the right weather, with shuttling, guiding, technical support, leading you to the best cafes, giving you riding tips, taking photos, telling you lies about how good your riding is, organised lift passes, made sure you had a shredgasmic time and then dropped you back at the airport totally spent, but ecstatic… Surely there is a business in that, if only there was a hero big enough to fill the role?
Watch this space to see if any of these rantings come to pass, I will thanklessly return every summer to provide an update on how my super obvious hypotheses is playing out.