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Moonlighting Ben Lomond

14 April 2020

Words: Dave Mitchell
Photos: Dave Mitchell & Ditte van der Meulen

With the (pre lockdown) Covert-19 downward spiral dominating the airwaves, we thought it best to get out of the house, imbibe some fresh air, relax and take our minds off the doom and gloom. The Skyline Access Road seemed like a good starting point. It is sheltered, steep and wide, with more turns than the rebound adjustment knob on a pair of Lyric forks. We headed Skyline-ward encountering much industry with diggers, lorries and loads of pipes piled ready for action. No idea what that is all about though.

Beeched-As, beyond the pine menace

A southerly night shift had dropped the temp by a whopping ten degrees and the thick forest of pines on the up shut out any warming rays from the sun. Three clothing layers proved ideal. For once we could not be accused of being dressed for the carpark. Four hundred metres later we slid onto the east end of Beeched-As Trail, as downhillers in a dusty embrace zoomed onto a profusion of double black trails and gap jumps, that we were way to frightened to attempt.

Up's OK

We left the sterile pine forest behind entering glorious beech forest full of shade and light, and superb hand crinkle-cut singletrack. This climbs below and then above the main Ben Lomond walking track. By the time we exited the beech forest the wind had abated and the sun was giving us its undivided attention. With no immediate place of rest we had come to a crossroad. Beeched-As was heading west (just like the global economy); the main Ben Lomond Trail climbed up to the saddle. We took the latter and engaged super granny gear with bells on top. Up is allowed on this track but down is a no no.

Sidling up to the saddle

First Lunch Saddle

The saddle was a familiar spot, just like an old friend said, in not so many words "relax, enjoy the view as it's all downhill now". First, lunch was had watching a good chunk of NZ visitors climbing Ben Lomond with Ditte's realisation" it's just like Roys Peak Wanaka". I could feel the penny drop in my empty skull. A recommended slice of WindFoil clothing for the descent from our 1300-metre saddle seemed appropriate. We had come up by any means from the far side the week before and secretly fantasied about its potential for descent.

First down bit, Ben behind

Time to embrace reality with droppers down and suspension wide open, oh and check the brakes. The Sefferstown track down to the Moonlight didn't disappoint. There's some real narrow gauge straight from the top, a few muddy creek crossings further down and we encountered a billy goat gruff troupe camping out where great goat food grows. Then long flowing open trail raced to a final plummet into Sefferstown. The verdict, eight out of ten in our little red book.

Narrow gauge down

The Moonlight Track for real heads west on a ropey farm track with friendly black and brown cows and calfs blobbing out along the trail in the warm afternoon sun - generally doing what large fat herbivores do when they have eaten loads of grass. We dodged these as best we could and went on a climbing spree as the trail headed high above the Moonlight Creek, or maybe its just that the Moonlight Creek is heading down to meet the Shotover River. Somewhere along the way we passed the historic Moke township site, a rip roaring gold settlement over a hundred years ago. Little remains to signal its location, or we must have blinked.

Mind the rock


A stock bridge, swing bridge and old dam can be seen below on Piano Terrace but alas the piano is long gone. The track summits turning south-ish towards Arthurs Point and this is where the fun begins. It's a rocky and ledgy mix with operatic views down to the Shotover River and a decidedly bad place to take a wrong turning or start dreaming about Ferg pies, crusty bread, gelato or chips and burgers. We took a few snaps, watched a tourist thrill seeking venture do its thing high up on the opposite bank with no idea what thrill was on offer.

Wilding pine above the Shotover

Moonlight madness

Moonlight exposed

Nothing to see here - move on. So we resumed the great descent to Arthurs Point outer suburbia, which incidentally resides on the wrong side of the Edith Cavell Bridge abutments and railway track. A tunnel of greenery, tall poplars, oak and ash marked the bitter end. A nice friendly section of Gorge Road side trail took us back into QT for yet another gelato burglar. Yes it all finally came together like a glove on a chickens lip. Sometimes no plan is the best plan, you just make it up as you go.

Arthurs Point well made

The End

Remember to wear gloves, keep your distance and try not to ride through cow pats. Stay safe. Over and out.

Gelato QT

The Moonlighting Ben Lomond route