The High Line, Purgatory for Recreation (Video)
Deane Parker’s latest video takes us on a two-day bikepacking trip through New Zealand’s dramatic Craigieburn Range. Watch it here, along with a short trip recap and gear list from Deane…
Words and video by Deane Parker (@deaneparkernz)
The High Line came about from necessity on this trip, as late last year a big rain event came through and wiped out the lower section through the Cass-Lagoon Saddle Track in the Craigieburn Forest Park. The Cass Lagoon has a notorious reputation as one of the most difficult mountain biking routes in Canterbury. There are long hike-a-bike sections and stunted, gnarled sub-alpine beech forests, exposed roots, stream beds, and rock gardens. The challenge factor is high, plus we chose to hike to the ridgeline above Craigieburn ski area and drop into Cass Saddle via more than 500m of chunky steep scree.
The climb from the valley floor was a steady hour on the access road, plus another two hours of mostly pushing on a steep 4×4 track, and then carrying the upper part of the ski area to the ridge. The scree was significantly chunkier than the previous time I’d descended it, not the creamy cut-your-way-through ball bearing type. Rather, it was patches of baseball-sized (and bigger) that instantly brought you to a stop, normally falling sideways onto sharp shingle with exposed skin. Now where are those knee pads…
Once at the saddle, we commenced licking our scree wounds and preparing ourselves for the descent to Hamilton’s Hut. Unrideably steep in only a few short pitches, this section is oh so good and gets better as the sound of the stream grows.
The palatial Hamilton Hut has 20 bunks and it’s pretty popular with the Te Araroa walkers (the trail from the top to bottom of New Zealand). It was full to the gunnels on this night, so Rod and I took our mattresses out the woodshed and made comfy.
Knowing we had the more epic sections to come on day two, we ripped into it nice and early. Some flowy sections gave way to mostly mank for two hours. The old West Harper hut was a welcome sight. Built in 1957, some of the beech log framing still looked original. We collapsed on the long grass and ate some food, trying to lighten the load for the push to the lagoon saddle A-frame hut.
Climbing out of the bushy valley was tough going, with a mix of riding little gems and shouldering the bike up narrow bushtracks, constantly bashing the wheels or getting wedged. Another couple of hours saw the crazy two-bunk, A-frame shelter come into view. We took a well-deserved break before soldiering on to the saddle proper where the wind chill was obviously combing off the glaciated peaks of the main divide. We donned jackets for the descent to the road end. It started off sweet but quickly turned into gnarly rocky mank with sizeable drop offs and the odd short hike. When we returned to the shelter of the forest the technical riding continued to within a few hundred metres of the waiting shuttle vehicle.
All up, it was a seven-hour day on the first day and close to nine hours on the second. It was hard graft, with equal quantities of hiking to biking, but the rideable sections were sublime. It was the upper level of backcountry bikepacking—right up my alley, but not everyone’s.
Rose rode a Salsa Deadwood with 29 x 2.6” tires, I was on a Salsa Pony Rustler on 27.5 x 2.8” rubber, and Rod was on his Giant Reign. Rose and I both had down wear (jacket/and sleeping bag) from Rab. My riding apparel is from Ground Effect. Rod and Rose used Salsa Anything Cradles on their handlebars. Both Rose and I have custom frame bags. I carried a Garmin InReach mini for emergency satellite communication. The video was predominantly shot on a Lumix GH5 with 8-18mm and 12-60mm lenses, GoPro Hero 7 black for POV, and my first attempt at aerials with the amazing little DJI Mavic Mini.
Footnote: This is the first time I’ve put a disclaimer on a video. This is to discourage folks from thinking this is an easy overnighter. It’s not. Additionally, this sort of riding does have an impact on the environment, which needs to be considered. Look after the backcountry.