So you’ve decided to embark on an effort to complete one of the worlds top 10 pieces of single track? I’ll mention this early on, you won’t be disappointed regardless of your pedigree of MTB’er!
To begin, a lot of you will already know what you should or shouldn’t be taking with you on an overnight biking epic (I hope anyway). And like all the other “what to bring” posts you’ll find on the internet, this one should carry a little bit more of a focused view at enjoying the old ghost road from a hammer down perspective while packing light and making a good go of it. Not at race pace, but a quicker then your normal 40+ type attempt.
A few years back I was invited to take part in what has so far proven to be my inaugural attempt. 20 of us were set to head to nelson from all different pockets of NZ, some familiar faces and some not to have a crack at the OGR. Going into it completely blind I built a few expectations, made a list of gear and gave myself a weight budget. I was pleased to know that come round 2 with considerably less people, my first effort was fairly perfect from both gear, training and mindset.
Where to start:
Well for one, you only have to look at the trails entire elevation profile to see we aren’t playing tiddlywinks. We opted to ride it from a south to north direction (Lyall to Seddonville) and finish it in 2 days. Most parties tend to take their time, suck in the ambience and take 3 days but as far as we were concerned, that was too much. We had a stringent week of planned riding directly after so going slow was not an option. If you're a complete Noob to this, remember that the huts and access is strictly by booking only. The trail supports multiple huts with possibly the best array of facilities i've ever seen world wide in a true wilderness setting. Fresh water, cutlery, cooking equipment and suitable construction, you too will be amazed at the hotel like conditions....
With the above in mind, day 1 consists of 30 odd KM and a metric tonne of climbing in some of the districts most luscious podocarp forest, lower alpine hardwood forests and alpine tussock. This is all finished off with a gnarly and fast descent to spend night one in the Ghost Lake Hut.
Day 2, starting from the ghost lake hut, is a 55km spread of gnarly grade 5 downhills, flowing granite clad downhill's that seem to go on as the day is long, smoothened climbs and an awe inspiring trek along one of the South’s most picturesque gorges.
As you’ll see, to meander through the trail in its entirety wouldn’t be an overly arduous task given the 5 trail side huts all make it easy to spread over 3 days. Take a day off that and we’re talking a bit of training required. Training being climbing really. Long spells of climbing to be exact....
What to bring:
First things first, don’t be one of those touring clowns who decide to ride it on a fully rigid steel bike. I mean, kudos to them but my gosh. No thanks. I did mention a grade 5 above yeah?
For gear, I decided I’d pack as light as I could yet be prepared as much as I can also. This is my first compromise area. The right clothing is paramount especially when the area you ride is constantly privy to its own weather system and literally changes in a heart beat.
My list of equipment can be found here.
The next area is where your gear is carried. (Remember this article is aimed at the person who likes to ride faster then average and not a ramble along a trail type rider.)
I carried the bulk of my gear in my back pack and it weighed in at 10 kg full. (Food, water, clothing)
On my bike, 2 tubes, a tool strap and a bottle. That’s it. I tried a handlebar bag but with the added 5kg across the bars, it altered the bike too much to be comfortable when pushing it down the insane downhill sections.
Pro tip - Use kinder surprise egg shells to carry and stash small things to save space. they're small, and waterproof! I carry things like, butt butter/chamois cream, nuts and bolts, salt n pepper and teabags etc. in mine.
Now this is always a bit of a sticking point between people. Everyone is different and everyone fuels up in a different way so take this next portion with a grain of salt. (Remember the salt too FYI)
This area is my second compromise for weight.
I can’t stand the dehydrated food and everyone I’ve ridden with often complains afterwards about the gas build up, the time in cooking properly and the flavour. Ok sure, for a multi day epic this does have its place but for all intense and purpose, I chose whole foods that weighed that touch more.
You can read about my main meals here
On top of main meals, snacks and lunches are a must so I opted for high protein, high fat, high salt foods with extra carbs in the form of additional crackers, some Em's power cookies etc.
The next is doing it.
For our trip we were mid February in one of the districts driest summers yet. With an easy overnight in the Murchison holiday park, which is a step back into provincial NZ of the late 80’s (in a good way!) we drove our vans and trailers to Lyall where we met the shuttle drivers who then delivered them both with our other luggage around to the Rough n Tumble lodge. (Our treat for smashing the Ghost out).
An early breakfast then hit the trail at 9. We managed to complete leg 1 in a time of 5 hours. That gave us plenty of time to have a hot shower at the ghost lake hut and talk smack while snacking and watching the world from 1500m high on a still, hot and clear February day.
Day two we set out early with an aim to do the lot in 5 hours. As discussed above, the weather turned and we set in for a day of wet riding, cold temps and soggy bottoms. Nailing the ghost lake descent we pressed on to hit the devils staircase followed by one of the longest downhill sections I think you’ll find in NZ.
Arriving into the rough n tumble lodge we managed a smashing of 4:40 and that even included stopping to render assistance to a poor Canadian girl who’d gone down rather hard in the gorge and busted up her knee. This brings me to my final point.
Be prepared! First aid kits, PLB’s and knowledge get ya through. Had we not found this girl, chances are she would have had a very awkward walk, a cold afternoons wait or possibly even worse.....
So there ya go! There’s an idiots guide to riding the ghost road far too quickly, with an extremely well stacked menu and clothing choice and a few cool photos along the way. Let us know in the comments below if you've done the OGR, What did you like? What did you regret? What important tips have you got?