Remember that time you and your mates booked a trip to NZ and the bike park burnt down…?
Yes, it happened to us. We were are all eager and chomping at the bit to ride a Christchurch Adventure Park, fixated on every new edit popping up on social media. Then, whilst excitedly typing a message to a mate who lives in Christchurch we got a message from him first saying, “Mate big bushfires burning in and around the MTB park here overnight. Definitely check for updates on the park in a few days for your trip.” Confusion reigns; posts come pouring in with updates each sounding like the park might be ok, and then, only a few days before departure, the crushing news that the bike park won’t open.
With flights booked, time off work locked in, what are we going to do? You can’t pull the pin. Are there any other good trails within driving distance? To our delight the answer we found was most definitely yes!
We had heard good things about Craigieburn to the west and the Port Hills closer again, just south of Christchurch. A lesser known option was Mt Hutt, which only popped onto our radar when we saw a kooky sounding “Discover Mt Hutt Family Open Day” flyer on Facebook. It didn’t sound like the wild mountain bike experience we were after – a children’s slip and slide, heli tours, a live cover band… BUT then, we read about their 6-seater chairlift running from 10am to 4pm for hikers and mountain bikers. Our interest levels rose. We were now intrigued but mostly sceptical.
We could see they had great trails at the bottom of the mountain which we knew we could shuttle, but knew very little about the ski resort 10 kilometres up the road and over 1500m vertical higher. We thought it was at least worth pencilling it into our schedule for the shuttle runs at the bottom and to have a look at Mt Hutt, after all it was only open for this one day to bikes.
Unbeknownst to us was what lay secretly waiting.
Hitting the road early out of Christchurch we stop for the essentials of coffee and brekky rolls in an antique store/café in Methven, a small town at the foothills of Mt Hutt that is the closest accommodation for the resort.
Heading up Mt Hutt road ascending above the tree line, then smashing through the clouds into barren and wildly steep terrain we delicately crawl our way around bends without guard rails on a road that is carved into insanely steep scree rock filled slopes. Understandably, we start to get excited.
Jumping on the chair, the terrain below looked insane. The kind of steep, raw scree slopes that looked fresh out of some crazy Canadian edit. But could we ride them? Or were we only allowed on the access roads?
More to the point, was it even possible to ride down the 45-degree expanses of rock?
There’s only one way to find out! We found a suitably ‘safe’ looking setion of scree and pointed our wheels down. It was a surreal experience on a bike – surfing, our tyres buried in loose scree, doing all you can to go with the flow, keep your speed in check a little.
With more riders gathering confidence, there was that sense of urgency like a powder day at the snow – MUST GET FRESH TRACKS! People were rushing up the lift and just dropping in off the service road wherever looked fun to ride.
The hill progressively collected the visible scars from riders’ lines, progressing from mellow slopes into steeper terrain and then gnarly rock chutes that looked impossible to ride at first sight.
All of this madness with a live music soundtrack from the cover band on the restaurant deck, their sound carrying clearly to the top like an amphitheatre getting you in the groove before dropping in. This was a day we won’t forget anytime soon!
A big shout out goes to the Lions Club for this fantastic day, which was all organised as a fundraiser and brought in over ten thousand dollars for the planned Christchurch Hospital rooftop helipad. I don’t think the volunteers and organisers anticipated so many riders (or so many riders venturing off the service roads!) Thankfully, they seemed happy enough with us riding everywhere and I’m sure a relief to them and to our surprise, they only had two visits to the medical centre all day!
Follow what Mt Hutt is up to and to stay tuned for there next open day here: