Any gimp can rail a berm. AKA the primative joys of an unkept trail

With the rise and rise of machine built trails a lot has been made over  the new era of “groomed to death/may as well be a BMX” trail culture and I don’t want this to come across as one of those “oh the good old days… that’s not mtb…. blah” whines because that is not my intention.  I’m not even sure if this has an intention or a point but anyhoo

Mountain biking is many things to many people, we each get out of it something that is uniquely ours. And to be honest I enjoy whooping around perfect berm after perfect berm on a freshly groomed trail as much as the next rider but, for me at least, the instant gratification of that pales to the joy of learning a tricky corner, picking a line that links to the next one and, finally nailing that bit of trail that up until now had the better of you.

I like Skinnys corner building philosophy, Expose some tree roots and let the line evolve….

 

 

 

I cut my MTB teeth riding the trails on Hassans Walls. They’re a  little rough and ready but they bring a smile to my face every time.

We’re a bit unique up here with lots of easily accessible trails and not too many riders, at times I’ve felt were are more trails then people riding them. As a result the trails don’t get swept and groomed so much.

They are always covered in loose rocks (The infamous Hassans Walls Baby heads) sticks and leaf litter. Every time you ride them there is some thing different waiting to catch you out. You can’t switch the brain off and follow the same old line because sure and shit there’ll be a rock or a stick or a fallen tree. It certainly helps hone your reflexes.

I can hear the “sustainable” “IMBA standard” “Appease land managers” arguments come out and we’re always banging on about setting precedents and needing a foot in the door and crap like that but often I feel we try to reinvent the wheel every time we go to build a trail now days.

Case in point Gun Club DH trail.

It’s had many names over the years and truth be told I have no idea what the builders originally called it but it was know as the state track, Lithgow DH track, riffle range trail but I think Gun club has stuck.

The love child of filthy Phil Lewis and his band of old skool misfits it was built in the 90s on council managed land with full DA approvals. Open to the public, it held a round of the Oceanias, a couple(?) of Nationals and some big state races. 20 years on and I can’t recall 20 maintenance days needing to be done on it. Sustainable? Yeah I reckon so. Fully IMBA standard compliant? I doubt it.

A single documented case user conflict or land manager being sued? Nope, well only if you count the complaints from the lady who thinks we should get her permission each time we ride it…

I remember a couple of very wet races, one in particular you could barely stand on the side of the trail with out get washed down the hill. The “no riding wet trails”crew would have being turning fits but in the weeks and months that followed I reckon the trail was in the best condition of it’s life. Seriously it was so good. Phil was a trail building legend before trail building legends existed.

Back in the day Bumble Bee hollow and Little Thunder were bug bears of mine (Still are as evidenced by the video bellow) I don’t know how many times I ended up laying in the scrub several meters below the bottom corner of Little Thunder wondering how the hell I was ever going to ride it but when I finally got it, and every time since…. well I can’t give you that feeling in a bottle. I wish I could I’d be worth millions.

 

But we get ahead of ourselves. CTMBC was born in 84 but even before that, Grant and Sulli, Meggs, Eric(?) and their mates had  taken to riding  push bikes on motorbike tracks, wombat trails and trails of their own makings.

One of the first MTB trails on Hassans walls was Toots Run, unfortunately the bottom section got destroyed by fire in the early 2000s but the top section had always been linked up with 2 other short sections on a trail that had you feeling like Luke Skywalker chasing the storm trooper through the forest of Endor on the speeder. The trail has, of course, become known as the Ewok Forest.

 

Across the other side of town was an old fire trail (or was it an access road for the pits?) that deevolved back into single trail. Kids would use it was a way of getting their motos up onto the plateau and we started using it as a mtb trail. I think it was Brownie built the bridge that in theory let you avoid the crystal clear and freezing cool natural spring at the bottom, in reality that bridge was always as slippy and frozen snot sprayed with WD40 and more often than not I ended up wet anyway.

Left Hand Gully wound it’s way down a very pretty gorge. Today it would be called a flow trail or something. Back then it was all just mountain biking. It strikes that balance of beginners being able to roll down with out too much drama and the more adventurous being able to scare themselves a little with  sheer speed

 

Back over to Hassans and thanks to a procession of keen riders from Phil, to Tim, Jase, Brownie, Ego Skinny, Mal, Duke and so many more and at one stage there were 13 or 14 trails descending off the mountain

Town Houses made use of a road pushed in for communication towers, linking up with an old walking trail and again the trail is relatively easy at slower pace to me having one of my scariest (yet somehow coming off unscaved) crashes before I even got to the single trail trying to chase Joels time. Oddly enough this was the first trail on the reserve that I managed to ride “clean” i.e not only not crash but not put a foot down. I relive that feeling of accomplishment every single time I get up the rock ledge I fail in this vid.

Back in the day I had a Giant Warp. Even though it wasn’t the Warp DH and so had Vee brakes I thought it was the ducks guts. I had a lot of fun on that bike but the rock garden on CH6 was my nemisis. I seriously went over the handle bars so many times…

At the 2001(?) Nationals I drooled over the red and yellow ATX 1s but they were too big to ride up and so I only drooled. And then the AC come out. “Sex on wheels” one review called it. One had my name all over it.

Disc brakes were a revelation to me. Suddenly I could bomb through the rock garden and be able to pull up enough to get around the corner. Once again that feeling of first nailing it was euphoric. I tend to hit it a bit faster these days and I’m still a bit nervous heading in and still grinning like a fool heading out. As Meggsie says “momentum is your friend, right up until it smacks you in the mouth.

As rough and unkept as it is at times, CH6 still one of my all time favourite trails, largely for that reason

 

All the way to the other end of the scale Pony Express is the latest trail in the reserve. Built to replace the State Mine trail as a modern race track its short, sharp and has plenty of character. The approval process was long and drawn out and well documented else where. It has changed a bit over the years and there are plenty of Edits out there but Scotty Ts is still my favourite

Like Little Thunder before it, Mega Thunder has the wood on me. I’ve ridden it more often then not, actually I’ve never stacked it in mega thunder itself but it gets in my head and I never feel confident on it.

One day I’ll nail it and not look back and that will stay with me far longer then that good time I had carving berms in perfect loam.

So way back at the start I said I didn’t know if this would have a point. I guess it’s this: “Primative trails” have their place. They are fun, can be sustainable and not put land managers off side. They can help hone skills. but most of all: riding bikes is fun

 

Other vids of trails in the area

Pottery

Me and Tal on Left Hand Gully

Me and Tal on Gun Club

The Crew on Gun Club, Pottery and others

 

Old Skool  Me and Skin on Strathlone

Advertisements

Hole in the Wall and Banks Canyons

Hole In the Wall, Dingo Crk/Bungleboori (part there of), North West and Banks Canyons. Trip report

Party: Edwin, Tal, Meggs, Ben and me

The last time I had done Hole In the Wall canyon Alicia Silverstone was Clueless, Tas Pappas was king of vert skateboarding, Michael Jackson was weird but not yet totally creepy, hypacolour Tee shirts and hammer pants were cool, clear cola was a not so distant disappointing memory and the internet 2.0 was so fresh people still didn’t really know how to do interactive (any git with a website was considered an expert in their field, cough cough mummble)

Oh, and you could drive all the way to the faint foot pad that lead the way in.

I had done the canyon a few times. First time was with Mandy, Scott and Gav(?). I remember needing to shimmey into the tunnel section and then it being a tight squeeze up and over the rock jam to get out. Next time was a few years later with Mandy and Della. This time we we able to walk into the tunnel section and there was a narrow but relatively easy squeeze down to the left through the water under the rock jam. 3rd time was seconding a commercial party. We didn’t make it to the tunnel section. A massive storm hit us in between the 2 canyon sections and we beat a hasty retreat in rapidly rising water. I had a couple of bad experiences guiding that year and that topped it off, no more commercial guiding for me.

Anyhoo, time to revisit the Canyon. Gaz and Bryson couldn’t make it but the rest of the crew were keen. Since the last time I had been through the Wollemi Wilderness area had been declared which meant it was going to be an extra 30min walking either way. With HITW being a relatively short canyon I hatched a plan to link it up with Banks Canyon to make the walk more worth while.

Neither I or any of the others had done Banks Canyon before but I had memories of people discussing doing them as a double back in the day.

As the weekend neared we started gathering some more info. of course of I consulted both Dave’s and Tom’s pages and both indicated  that, while a big day it was comfortably doable. Of course they aren’t your average joe canyoner

Other info trickled in

AD couldn’t come but said he remembered doing Banks on it’s own years before and remembered it being a massive day. I was stuffed afterwards, says he

Edwins mate did the trip a week or two before. 8hrs car to car with a party of 2.

Someone else said they did Banks on it’s own, no faffing about 10hrs car to car…

I started to think we might be biting off more than we could chew. As usual we decided to bite anyway and chew like hell.

Well not exactly, we decided to get an earlish start and set a cut off time. If we weren’t at the exit point on Dingo crk, AKA Bungleboori North, by 12 we’d give up on Banks and set it aside for another day.

A guy from work, Dave asked if he could come along, he use to be in Ramblers and wanted to get back into canyoning. I gave him the run down. We’d be leaving my place at 7 at the latest and needed to be efficient on the raps.

6:40 I get a text Dave was just leaving home he’d be 20min late. Now I’m normally accommodating but we didn’t know how long Banks was going to take. I had stressed we didn’t want delays… Sorry Dave, we left without him.

I know the plateau reasonably well but I hadn’t been out to the end of Waratah ridge for a long time and with the pine forest heading out now logged it all looks a bit different so I printed out Toms turn by turn, km by km, guide and promptly left it on the breakfast bar. I took the right at the fork knowing that they both go to the same place but thinking for some reason R was quicker if you had a vehicle with  a bit of ground clearance… Needless to say a little bit of consultation over the map was needed before we reached the car park at around 8am. Meggs did point out that was twice I’ve gone wrong on fire trail recently.

Anyway. It’s along walk in but the track is now very well defined and it’s not hard walking out along the ridge line.

bb4

Edwin saves energy by levitating down the entry trail

 

About 1 hr later we reach the junction with the exit track, swing right and make our way down to the start of Hole in the Wall. We decide not to suit up yet and enter the dark confines of the upper constriction.

The first section is narrow and twisty but doesn’t drop all that much. We get wet up to our wastes and manage the few little drops without difficulty

DCIM166GOPRO
DCIM166GOPRO

We make good time and it’s only 10am as the gorge opens back out and we make our way down to the lower constriction

The walls close back in and we get to the first abseil. Ed declares it can be jumped. We suit up and have a quick bite too eat. The plan is for a few little stops for food rather than 1 long lunch

I’m looking at the pool at the bottom of the drop. The clarity of the water makes it look shallower than it is. I can see a bit of a rock ledge poking out at the right and a big log on the left but the glare of the sun makes it hard to see how far they stick out. The bottom looks rock. I normally don’t balk at jumps but…

It’s deeper than it looks just aim for the center, says Ed. I’m still dubious and decide to down climb. It’s an easy scramble and I check the depths, it’s over 6foot. From the top it looked like 3… Ed and Tal jump. Ben and Meggs decide to rope up and hand over hand.

bb7

It’s jumpable, says Ed

The bottom section of HITW is spectacular. An abseil or two later Meggsie calls back up. Does anyone have a torch? This next bit is really dark. Didn’t you bring torches? No. I said you’d need water proof torches. No you didn’t. It was in the text message. I didn’t read that… you’ve done this before. I can’t remember what I did yesterday.

Of well 2 head torches between 5 people was going to make the cave section interesting. And didn’t it what.

I have never seen so many glowworms in a such a small space. It was, like, tots amazeballs. I’m hoping the go pro is sensitive enough to pick them up as with torches off it really was stunning.

The duck under down to the left is silted up again so it’s up and through a tight squeeze. Either it’s getting smaller or…. It takes us a bit of time to get every one through

bb10

1 last abseil and we’re out of HITW and into the wider Dingo crk (Ok, so it’s been marked as Dingo crk since atleast the 74 edition maps but its still hard not to refer to it as the “Boori”).

As the guys wade up the gorge I decide it would make a great foto so I take the go pro off the chest strap, switch over to photo mode and click away, then as I go to put it back on the chesty I promptly fumble it and drop it dark waters…

Now when I needed a new case I thought the “stealth” case looked cool. I’m now regretting the decision to go the black case that hides the flashing red light. Duck diving in I can’t see jack. Char from the fires two years back still pools in black clumps in the depths. It was dark in the gorge with dappled sun light reflecting off the water. I fish the head torch out, still no good. Damn. I wonder if another party will find it some time in the future.

Giving up I continue up stream, and kick the bloody thing in a wide section 10m up stream of where I dropped it. The Go Pro gods are smiling on me.

I worry we haven’t made as good a time in the lower constriction as I was hoping but as we reach the exit point up stream I check the time and it’s 11:55. we make cut off with 5min to spare. Sorry again, Dave but at this stage I’m glad we didn’t wait for you.

A quick lunch and we consult the track notes for accessing Banks. Cross the river head up on ledges and around right to a gully 50m down stream. We’d spied the gully on the way up and wondered if it would be easier just to wade down stream and access it. The notes hinted at a need to traverse around a bit higher up so we cross over and there are signs others have done the same. Then the faint trail goes no where and turns back down toward the water, 10m down stream of where we’d just crossed.

We wade down and climb up to the right of the gully. There doesn’t seem to be any easy, safe paths up to the base of the upper cliff line but we skirt up the side of the gully regaining it just above the “impassable waterfall” The pass up to the start of North West canyon is a razor grass shrewn scrub bash. Once in NW is easier going. it’s a reasonable little canyon but nothing to write home about. It does how ever give us access up through the cliff lines. The heat up top was oppressive after the cool of the Canyons

I’m getting tired, says Tal, can I wait here instead of doing Banks? You could mate but you’ve done the hard work and you’re on the wrong side of the Valley. We have to go back down into Dingo crk and up the other side to get home.  Ooooh. OK, we don’t have to bash back up that gully again? Cool I’ll do Banks

bb11

We scramble down into the next gully and suit up again. Squeezing into his wetty Tals zipper lets loose… He’s going to have a cold back…

Banks is interesting. Cutting through the upper layer of Banks sandstone, the walls aren’t that deep but it is consistently narrow. There is a lot of sucking in stomachs, squeezing, dragging packs behind as there not enough room for both you and a pack. Even the go pro chest mount had to come off. The abseils in the constrictions are short but interesting. The one into the dark is technical and cool. Duck unders where you have to pass short under water tunnels to get through and one or two tricky down climbs that look like some parties rope up for… The water isn’t flowing as much here and after the crystal clear water of HITW it’s a little stagnant and pongy in places.

Then the creek opens out and it boulder hopping and route finding. 2 final abseils. Nice simple and longer than the others.

and again we’re at Dingo crk, AKA the ‘Boori. Wide and majestic, one report said. A disappointing boulder hopping scrub bash said another.

I’ll go with the former. Wide and majestic. The long swims are very reminiscent of floating down the Wollemgambie, ‘cept you’re going against the current, you’re not on a lilo and you’re pretty shagged from an already big day. Our passage was disturbed by a baby brown snake casually swimming down stream. I would have thought the coldness of the water would have it seeking the nearest rock, log or human to scramble out into the sun but it swam on looking for adventure down stream.

Meggs and Ben saw another sunning itself on a rock not far on… the rest of us missed it.

There wasn’t much boulder hopping in this section but it was becoming more strenuous. In about 40min we were back at the point where Hole in the Wall enters.

bb23

The crack in the towering canyon walls where Hole in the Wall flows into Dingo crk, AKA the Bungleboori North branch.

Another 10min up stream to the exit. It’s amazing how much harder this section was the second time. Obviously after the big hike legs were starting to get weary but the long swims also took theire toll on arms and shoulders. Scrambles that had been simple the first time around seemed to be overly complicated and taxing this time.

I don’t think there is a single submerged rock or stick in this section of creek I didn’t bash my knees, shins, nuts or all 3 on.

 

We make the exit, hang suits, ropes and harnesses out to dry a bit and then stuff ourselves with chocolate and energy bars. After a bit of a rest make our way out. Its a steep haul to start then a gentle winding trail out along the ridge. Views over the cliff lines are stunning.  It’s not a hard walk just a constant one foot in front of the other that seems far longer than the walk in.

 

So there you are. We managed to do it. I was impressed with Banks but don’t think I’d do it as a trip on it’s own. Going in through Hole in the Wall wouldn’t add much more than maybe 2 or 3hrs to the trip.

 

So the details are.

Groups size 5, all experienced and capable abseilers, thou we do still help Tal and Ben rope up. Ages 50something 40 something 20 something (or is that 30 somehting) and 2 teen somethings

None of us had done Banks before

Left car park around 8am. Got back around 6. We  had a few more delays in HITW than planned and took a fair bit of time finding our path up through NorthWest canyon to the top of Banks Canyon. I then stuffed around a bit trying to fix Tals Zipper before heading in.

We weren’t rushing but didn’t faff with photos and looking about about either. We kept a reasonable steady pace. The trip was around about 20kms and contained around 1000m of elevation gain. It’s a big day but doable if you don’t have any major dramas along the way

We had a 20m rope and a 50m rope. The 20 was enough for all but 3 of the drops, the reason we took 2 was a) I like a back up spare and b) we had planned to stack the abseils in Banks sending the first person down with spare rope to set up the next drop to save time. We didn’t end up doing this as we weren’t that pushed for time.

10hrs car to car. Plenty of day light left.