Friday, August 06, 2010

Week 8 – A mountain top, some structures and downhill sickness

Matt admires the vista atop Mt 5 Puma

Our day off this week fell on a Sunday, and a member of our crew named Tommy had hatched a marvellous idea to use the forecast pearler of a day to push for the summit of a mountain we had spied from our work spot. Initial plans to leave at first light to take full advantage of the morning frostiness we’re pushed back with the inevitable sleep in. But when the time came to set off the air was still chilly and the crusted snow made for easy progress up the steep slopes with slightly frosted digits at least till we climbed out of the shade of the valley.

Nature crafted this snow spiral, snapped on the trek to the summit

Prior to departing we had talked up the expedition to the rest of the crew. We claimed that we would not only spot a real live puma (the first sighting of our trip), but capture five of these ferocious felines with only our bare hands. As such, the mountain conquest was named Mt 5 Puma, and standing tall above the surrounding ranges at 1640m it made for some breathtaking views. We were treated to endless mountain ranges of needle thin spires and vertical rocky faces, a quintessential 360 degree Patagonian vista. Just like postcards of the region only in vivid 3D colour and with the awe that can only come from earning the view with a 3 hour hike.

Millsy captures Mt 5 Puma's vista on lens

Descending was a blast. While the exposure forced caution on the steeper upper slopes, we threw this approach out the window as we descended to the tree line, using a combination of gravity assisted snow plodding and bum sliding (both legitimate mountaineering techniques).

The week began with another blue bird day, something we are quickly becoming accustomed to given they snow hell that we were faced with earlier in the trip. This fine, clear weather gives rise to a strange phenomenon called hoar frost. Moisture in the soil freezes and expands lifting the top layer of soil as much as 30mm and making for a challenging but not unridable surface. Come afternoon though the trails may sport a benign look, but they become a slippery, muddy skating rink. This made for at least one 180 degree washout spin that would have put Chazz Micheal Michaelson from Blades of Glory to shame.

The Terremoto after a particularly muddy outing

Millsy and I decided to brave the treacherous conditions and our 10 min ride became the single most intense mudslposion I have ever experienced. By then end both wheels would no longer turn and the entire drivetrain became in a battered in a brown paste. The ride was cut short when my derailleur got sucked into the wheel, bending the cage and letting out a petulant graunch. Macguyver skills to the fore and with the aid of only a 5mm allen and a set of pliers I was up and rolling for work the next day.

Millsy and Jack get stuck in on the bridge build

Construction of our downhill track has romped ahead, and we reached the final feature this afternoon. All up it is a feature packed downhill extravaganza. No less than 5 rock gardens, drops, rock rolls, wall rides and monster berms. The multitude of features is a sure sign of a crew unleashing their trail creativity after too long building featureless uphills.

Jack and I spent the first part of the week constructing a bridge to rival the Otira Viaduct. Traversing a tricky rock outcrop it drops riders to the start of the trail with an exhilarating swoop. From here the trail only gets better!

The bridge that signals the start of our yet-to-be-named downhill track

Being able to ride and tune our features was a blast, and with a completed loop composed of mellow uphill and gnarly feature packed downhill, there should be no shortage of post work entertainment (as long as the weather plays fair).
Jack gets his huck on on one of the track's numerous drops

We’re off for the weekend to Coihaique where hilarity will no doubt ensue. I’m planning to stock up on icecream, chocolate and of course Pachunga!

Mountain Pedaler out...


Unknown said...

I love you chaz!

Oliver (Ollie) Whalley said...

The feeling is mutual Manli.