Snowy Mountains Easter tour wrap up

Posted on April 26 2017

Many of the best ideas come about while riding a bike and this was no exception.

Last year, while riding the Hunt1000 bikepacking event , Chris and I (Ollie) spent a lot of time talking about how beautiful it was riding the section through the Jagungal Wilderness and visiting the alpine huts. While we had an absolute blast flying through at a rapid rate, we didn't have any real time to slow down, explore and enjoy the area.

When we came back from the race the plan was born to organise a more relaxed social ride through this area, leaving time for hiking, fishing, swimming and lounging around. This would be in stark contrast to the experience of riding the Hunt1000 on which we were routinely doing 150-180kms a day, riding from dawn to dusk.

The brief was clear: short daily distances, staying at the alpine huts, explore some new trails and leave time for other non-bike activities. We mapped out a route that covered some of the highlights of the Hunt route and added some new bits. (Hell Hole Creek Trail sounded interesting, definitely nothing to worry about there!) We decided on a 90-odd-km loop over four days from Round Mountain Trailhead, spending nights at Derchko's Hut, Valentines Hut and Wheelers Hut.

We put the word out to everyone and anyone we thought might be keen for a ride: customers, friends, casual acquaintances. We talked up the huts, talked down the difficulty, talked up the beauty and talked down the distances. It was going to be a fun ride, not a race or an ordeal. 

For the most part things went to plan. By Friday lunch time there were 21 of us raring to go, nervously bouncing heavily laden bikes around the car park at Round Mountain. There was a Sydney contingent, some Canberra folk, some international guests and even a lone rider who had ridden all the way from Melbourne.

It was fantastic to see such a diverse spread of bikes on display. We had 29+ tyred bikepacking rigs, full suspension mountain bikes, rigid 26" ers from the 80's, modern hybrid bikes with knobblies fitted, classic rigid touring bikes and everything in between. We had people with Rohloff hubs, 1x11 mountain bike gearing, 3x8 hybrid gears, road touring triples. We had hydraulic disc brakes, cable discs, v-brakes, and cantilevers. And while many people remarked at the end that perhaps they wished they had a different, more capable bike, nobody was left behind and nobody's bike really let them down. 

The route we had picked out was designed to gently increase the difficulty over the four days, getting progressively more challenging in terms of the riding distance and terrain. Thus day one was a doddle with only 14km of gentle rolling fire trail and everyone got into camp in time to laze in the sun, set up tents and have a camp fire.

Day two saw some people up early for the stiff climb (walk) up Mount Jagungal, while others took the time to laze in the sun and drink coffee. There was only 16km of riding on the agenda so most folks took til almost midday to get riding. However this section of trail from Derchko's Hut to Valentines Hut contains at least six river crossings and a few km of tough uphill hike-a-bike pushing. Luckily the sun was out creating glorious riding conditions and thus even wading through calf-deep water was a joy. Valtentines Hut is definitely the prettiest hut in the Jagungal and cresting the final hill to see this bright red hut nestled on the next hillside is an amazing feeling. 

Day three would prove the toughest day on the trip. Cool grey skies set the scene for a much longer day of riding. Our aim was to cover some 35km, but this included all the river crossings of the previous day, much of the hike-a-bike pushing and then another 15km of Hell Hole Creek trail.  Short distances, but given the terrain and the size of the group (close to twenty riders makes for an awful lot of distractions!) it was not surprising that this took us all day. Hell Hole Creek trail was a mixed bag, with some extremely challenging tussock grass riding and some very steep loose descents, but it eventually opened up into a beautiful golden valley. This area of the Jagungal also proved to be the quietest and most remote section of the park (despite being Easter we only ran into one other person in the day and a half we spent riding there).

Massive thanks to everyone who came riding with us or we ran into on the trails. Special mention to those folk for whom it was their first time bikepacking, awesome job!

Also special mention to folk who came or we rode with who are part of the bike industry. It's a truly special treat to count these folks as friends. Particular mention to Dan Hunt for putting a bunch of us up in Canberra on his lounge room floor, riding with us, and inspiring us to ride this area through his work on the Hunt1000 route. 

Dan - Hunt Bikes

Alee - Cycling About

Jorja - Jambi Jambi

Will - Commuter Cycles

Gus - Metro Cycles 

Matt - Crust Bikes 

And everyone else: 

Victoria, Kristy, Ben, Ali, Sean, Rachel, Ariel, Josh, Taryn, Kurt, Marcel, Harry, Daniel, Jacqui, Tom, Raymond. 

Also worth noting is the fact that almost half of the twenty folk out riding with us were women. This may not seem like a big deal but is actually super rare in the Australian cycling scene. Thanks to these fine women for getting out there and motivating other women to ride and just generally being awesome.

Interested in coming along next time? Check out our 2017 rides calendar and fill up your diary!

Thanks to Ali Jones, Victoria Bond, and Oliver Cashman for taking some of these excellent photos!

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