Chris and Dave do Denniston
Denniston is a former coal mining area situated on an alpine plateau about 30km North of Westport on the West Coast of New Zealand (Wikipedia here). It was actually an active mining area right up until the 1960’s. In recent years it has fallen under the ambit of the Department of Conservation. Along with the Buller Cycling club they have been building out a bunch of Mountain Bike tracks around the area.
You can pull details on the cycling area from the DoC site and from the Buller Cycling club.
Dave and I decided we’d try and visit the tracks as part of our summer South Island road trip. We drove in via Murchison as we did some paddling along the way. We had a couple of days in the Murchison region where the water levels were well up. Paddled a few runs that I’ve done before as well as a new run down the mangles that started with about a 2m waterfall- pulled quite a crowd when we ran that one for some reason… didn’t seem that difficult.
We drove into Westport the evening before we planned to ride and found ourselves a nice motel (Buller Bridge Motel) with free WiFi. Got up early and headed up the hill. This place really is quite the plateau. The hill rises steeply off the ocean almost to an altitude of about 650m at the carpark. The views were pretty good for us; on a really fine and still day I can imagine you’d be able to see all the way up to Karamea.
Once we got to the top we had a bit of a potter around looking at some of the old mining ruins. Denniston is famous for the Denniston Incline which is a frighteningly steep, two pitch, coal railway that literally goes straight up the side of the hill. Check out this video from the NZ Archives for an idea of what it was like.
Then we headed up the hill to the Museum Car park which is the designated starting place for the Mountain Biking trails. While getting organized we saw the Google Car driving around- yes, even in the middle of bloody nowhere there is Google!
We started out with the Ropers Hotel Circuit.
Straight away the riding was quite different to anything we’d ridden before in New Zealand. Lots of slick rock and ledges. Was quite fast riding and reasonably hard on the suspension. A 6” trail bike is ideal- we had a Trance and a Mojo. The last part of this track before it hits the road is walking only- for ecological reasons rather than ride-ability. You definitely want to do this track in the predominant direction indicated on the map as it would be a pain to walk up that hill.
Next we rode out on one of the longer trails. This was nominally on 4WD track but I’d challenge most people to take their 4WD there and get it back in one piece. The track was Sullivans Circuit and it went off the other side of the Plateau back down towards Westport.
This track had plenty of challenging riding. Lots of large rocks and ledges. it was all too easy to go far faster than 0.1mm of lycra really should justify.
Finally we rode the Miners and Drill track circuits. Again, lots of hairy riding with a bunch of sketchy single track, some of which we both had to walk.
There was still plenty of sign of the old coal mining stuff and indeed the coal itself.
Despite only doing about 30km (in 3.15hr!) we were in need of a beer once we got back to the car.
Here’s the GPS dump
And the full TCX file of my Garmin 310XT is here:
Adventure Sports | Gettin Fit|Thursday, 07 January 2010 17:42:29 UTC||