March 18, 2018
Wow- this trail has pretty much everything. Sustained uphill grinds, alpine ridge lines, lush forest, river valleys, tight switchbacks, sweeping descents, stairs ( yes really) and some of the most breathtaking views I've ever had the chance to fly past on two wheels.
I did the 85km trip in two days starting in Lyell and staying at Ghost lake hut on the first night, then riding out of Seddonville on the afternoon of the second day.
We rented bikes ( Spec Camber Comps) and shuttled with Habitat Sports https://www.habitatsports.co.nz/ in Westport the night before our ride and we're able to book to stay in the brand new, spacious, private apartment above Habitat the night before. This option is highly recommend and can accommodate up to 5 riders. Perfect for groups wanting a base camp before heading out on this epic ride as we did. It also made the early start the next day that much more bearable as we only had to walk downstairs for our bike fit and departure for the trail. Bikes , shuttle service and accommodation were all well priced and we received great customer service. (I'm not affiliated- just a happy customer )
Day 1 was a sustained and unrelenting climb on pristine cliff-edge single track through lush forest stopping for lunch at Lyell Hut before the gradient increased a little and we eventually opened out into the alpine zone. The gradient is unrelenting but never so hard as to finish you off. Endurance over bike handling skills were the order of the day and some incredible views of you don't get caught in the clouds.
Day 2 started with a fantastic sunrise at Ghost Lake and an immediate descent on twisting switchbacks before opening into a spectacular ridge line trail and 6km of flowing downhill. Another short climb and another descent and we hit the 300 steps, and insane engineering feat of trail building that links the two parts of the track. After the hike-a-bike, more flowing downhill before a small uphill section in the boneyard and then another epic descent followed by an easy pedal over flat and undulating terrain along the river to Specimen Hut before a final push all the way to the end of the trail. Epic.
Advice- pack as light as you can, book huts well in advance and make sure you have a good core fitness level to see you through the first day.