Sunday, August 01, 2010

Patagonia Week 7 – Sunshine, riding and climbing corner perfection.

Ollie gets on the Stihl on a frosty morn
Photo Graham Laing

The last week here in Patagonia has been reminiscent of the Christchurch winters I’ve come to know well. Cold with a frost and icy puddles succumbing to the warm glow of the sun during the mid part of the day. The only break from this pattern was a particularly miserable Wednesday morning plagued with sleow (a dreadful sleet and snow combination) which disappeared at lunchtime giving way to more glorious sunshine.

The benefit of working on a hill track is that we now get the sun about 10 in the morning and can bask in the warming rays till it disappears behind a ride about 3:30. One cannot describe the wonders this does for your outlook.

Come Tuesday, the sunshine had finally managed to eat through the crust of snow encasing the trails, so Millsy and I went for a shred, riding and pushing to the top of the main DH run called Josef’s Cellar (named after Fritzl, the infamous Austrian basement dweller).

Ollie shred the title feature on Josef's Cellar
Photo Emil de Vries

One benefit of the brief mid-week showers was that they melted away even more of the snowy remnants, and come Thursday the trails were clear top to bottom. With singletrack shredding back on the menu crew morale is at an all time high. Sketchy and intense, on the limit of traction and terrain all the way down, our ride ended in hooting and hollering as well as a round of non-ironic high fives.

Ollie carves a 'cutty' on the ride home to the lodge
Photo Emil de Vries

While the riding has a downhill focus, our track building charged ahead up the hill. However when slope runs out we have no choice but to throw down a switchback. Our first attempts were rather crude, but now onto our 13h attempt we have got it pretty dialled. The secret is to get corner entry and exits as close as possible (ideally a spade height between levels) and to allow a solid 2 metre radius to give you plenty of room to turn in to the next straight. After a day of backtracking along the track to make corners rideable, I was so confident in my corner building prowess that I offered to eat a hat should I not be able to ride the hot-dog turn I’d built.

My corner that bested the hat eating challenge

Despite some unneccasry and un helpful nerves, the corner rode sweetly first go, negating the need for any hat consumption. Secretly, stakes weren’t that high as if I had failed I’d planned to source one of the nacho hats made famous by Homer Simpson. Eating one of these hats would only be slightly less of a chore than a plate full of pachunga.

Nacho sombrero had the corner been unridable!

With our track now topped out on a plateau, the only option is to build a downhill and this has roused a new level of passion amongst the crew. The tricky and steep terrain has opened the flood gates on a myriad of riding features. I’m working on a ladder bridge braced to the side of a rocky outcrop (with optional death huck drop-off) while Hamo and Millsy have pieced together a gnarly rock garden chute; all this within the space of fifty metres!

With plenty of scope for building exciting features, and the rediscovered ability to ride the tracks we’ve built as well as the others built by crews before us, I’m sure we’ll make the most of our the four weeks we have left in Patagonia. I’ve no doubt that the remaining weeks of our time here in Chile will melt away like the last stubborn patches of snow.

Mountain Pedaler out...

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