Monday, February 27, 2012

Bagging Buller

I have been missing in action these last few weeks.

Things have been getting very hectic, with work demanding a large slice of my time.

Looking south west, across the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula, to Kangaroo Island from 38 000 feet.

 This, combined with trail building and trying to fit a ride or two into the schedule has seen time absolutely fly by and regular maintenance at Flyboy HQ go sadly wanting.

My main excuse for not posting anything is that when I am away at work I have no interwebs access, so it has to wait until I arrive home again. Here in Oztraylia there is no such beast as free internet access at a hotel, unlike the rest of the western world.

This week just gone by ended  four days away, late Friday night, with an exciting landing in the belting rain here in Brisbane.

Green and yellow is precipitation. The pink is turbulence!! Yay for eyeball bounce!!

Did I mention it decided to rain again? No? Well we had something like 200 millimetres (8 inches) of rain on Friday which put paid to any advances in the trail building world. Not that I was going to take part in that particular days building anyway. My cunning plan to head south for a ride had finally come to fruition and was looking all the more cunning, as Victoria was forecast to have temperatures in the high 30s (90s F) and in particular, Mt Buller predicted to have high 20s. Couldn't have planned it better!

So, after a restful three hours sleep, I was back at the airport to board a flight to Melbourne. Luckily, I had pre- packed my gear, knowing how tight my turn around time would be friday night. Marcus, a work collegue and fellow Trek Fuel Ex8 riding MTBer was picking me up and whisking me to Mt Buller, a mere two hour drive away.

There is a MTB in there somewhere...

On arrival at Mt Buller, we were informed that Tex Perkins, the man responsible for the music in this post, was hosting his "Man in Black" Johnny Cash tribute concert that night and we couldn't drive all the way up to the village. We had to park lower down and climb two kilometres up to the village proper, a sure fire method to get the legs warmed up!

Once up in the village we quickly obtained a trail map from one of the MTB stores and headed out to hit the trails. The plan was to head out to Howqua Gap and back, so Gang Gangs was the first trail in the network that we needed to make this happen. My lack of sleep definitely put me on the back foot, even more than usual, skills-wise and I was glad we had decided to hold off on attacking the signature trail, StoneFly, until sunday when I would be well rested and sharp...ish. 

How many pilots does it take to find a trail? The picnic trail was

The trails out to Picnic Trail were quite nice. Then we hit Silk Lane outbound. Instead of MTB trail, it was just a steep downhill fire road with lots of large, loose rocks threatening to launch you over the bars when you least expected it. I must admit to feeling a bit dissapointed to lose so much elevation on such a nothing trail when we had enjoyed flowy single track leading up to this.

 The climb back up the Silk Lane singletrack, onto Corn Hill proved to be an uninspiring slog for the most part with stupidly tight switchback climbs better suited to walkers, not riders. The view at times was the saving grace through this piece of trail. The location certainly is sweeeeet, if not the trail at times. My advice would be to ride this trail in reverse. Go down the single track and climb back up the fire road. Probably totally against the rules, but there you go...

Breaking for a bite to eat at the entrance to Corn Hill trail, I couldn't help but feel a bit under-inspired so far. 

Sure, I was very sleep deprived. I am also a bit spoilt, getting to ride a lot of cool trails around this country and New Zealand. But I was trying to be as objective as I could. Many different sources had talked Mt Buller up over a couple of year period and I just wasn't finding the trails as "advertised". Where was the World Trail flow? So far, compared to this we have better trails at Mt Joyce, just a 1 hour drive from Brisbane. Maybe not quite the same setting (ok, nothing like this setting!!), but I was looking at the overall, wholistic experience and I was there to ride afterall.

Misty Twisty sounded like a trail with a lot of potential. Dropping down the mountainside through a large series of switchbacks, how could you go wrong? Well, you could make those corners tight and make many of them totally blind, with no sight line through the corner. Then, just for fun, make the climb out via 400 uber tight switchbacks that are about 30% unrideable to a sleepless zombie. Back at the Corn Hill junction I was hoping that StoneFly was going to be a brain-fryingly-awesome trail! 

Time to drop down Corn Hill and head back to Buller Village then hit up Copperhead. Wait a minute..what is this? Corn Hill is a flowy, fast, heart-in-mouth at times, holler out loud, hoot of a trail! THIS is what we were expecting from Mt Buller!! Unfortunately, the fun is over all too soon, but leaves a huge grin on my zombie face.

Back in Buller village, we top up with water, then climb towards the mountain summit. The summit hides the trail head for the latest Mt Buller feature, namely Copperhead. 
The following promo video is shot totally in the bottom 30% of the trail. The upper trail looks nothing like this. False advertising?

Now this puppy would ideally suit an All Mountain Bike, Downhill Bike or at least a cross country dually with aggressive tyres fitted. I didn't have any of the above, so hit the trail with my over-inflated Maxxis Advantages! About a third of the way down I stopped to let some pressure out of my tyres and instantly began to enjoy this trail for the insane altitude drop that it is. Don't underestimate the ability of the humble Advantage!
The first two-thirds isn't particularly inspiring, as the trail just hops across a steeply downhill fire road.

Closer to the bottom it begins to wind through huge gum trees and demands deep comittment from the rider. Great stuff! Unfortunatley for us, the descent is huge and there is no chance of me climbing the mountain to ride Copperhead again today. For those of you keen to shuttle, the ticket is $48 a day.

After a short climb back to the car, we are quickly loaded and driving back down the mountain, still buzzing from the Copperhead experience. And I have always thought the only good snake was a dead snake....

Time to find some accomodation and fuel back in Mansfield. Did I mention the Man in Black concert? What about the two weddings and the 21st birthday that were on in town? Small country towns have limited accomodation at the best of times and we were in for an unexpected challenge......

What challenges would tomorrow bring?


  1. WOW. You have you been busy.

    The mountain biking seems like a lot of fun, I think I'd have a heart attack going up the first hill. Damn mountain bikes don't come with a throttle.

    On a side note I am surprised there is no free internet access at hotels in that area. Here is is standard unless you are in a big high price hotel. When we were in Las Vegas they all charged you about $15 for 24 hours of access.

    1. There is no free wifi pretty much nation wide here in Oz. You have to pay. On my few visits to the states, there is free wifi everywhere. From hotels to coffee shops and malls. The only place we came across without it, oddly enough, was at LAX.


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