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Skippers Pack Track

06 April 2020

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

Zoro was ear

Back in the late eighties, mountain bikers use to ride big bloody heavy steel bone shaking and crushing mounts (and lived in shoe boxes in gutter), suspension was courtesy of Fisher Fattrax tyres and the rider's arms and legs, but boy did we enjoy the wild Skippers Pack Track. Yes down even. I vividly remember a race in Queenstown after flogging ourselves senseless on the local tracks and trails, including Skippers, leading up to the race. We were young and dumb and full of beans. It was a two lap race that twice ascended Mt Dewar from 'lake level' on the hottest day imaginable. No surprises, it was a race of attrition, prize giving at 11:00pm and a long drive back to Christchurch for work at 7:00am. Those were the days.

Rude what?

Roller coasting RR

So with this in mind we parked-up at the bottom of Zoots Track, climbed to the top of the Coronet Peak Road and headed onto the Rude Rock Trail for the second time in a week. More familiar lines gave us more confidence on the trail and for Ditte and I that equals more fun. Nearing the end of this fantastic roller coaster ride we rolled onto the P.T.S trail. This was new for us and a blast to link with the old familiar Skippers Pack Track. The pack track we now ride upon was cut in the early 1860s. It proved singularly inadequate for the large mining equipment required upstream, but great for penny farthings.

The link bit


The pack track features a few grade four spots and has a few short steep climbs to negotiate, but is mostly a blast - if you can see the trail surface through the long grass. It trundles down Long Gully on the true right of Skippers Creek. Above , and in parallel, the Skippers Road winds its way through Hells Gate around Big Bend and past Castle Rock following a more gentle contour. We just kept going straight down oblivious to the dusty carriage-way above.

Sound advice

Snow grass and switch-backs

After fording Skippers Stream we lunch at the once resplendent Welcome Home Hotel beside the old road. This revealed an assortment of traffic from rafting busses, tour vans and Kiwis all heading into Skippers Canyon, home of the riches gold mining river in the world and lots of cool history.


Welcome Home

The Skippers road peddles up easily with excellent views of the pack track we had just descended and of a broken row of telegraph poles, some with insulators and bits of wire still attached. They are made of lengths of railway line and would have been a bitch of a thing to cart in let alone bash into the steep rocky slopes. Yes those postoffice telegraph guys were pretty tough in those days and would have made hell of a good mountain bikers I suspect.

Dueling chimneys

Lone Pole

Anyway with that thought in mind we crested the saddle and parked up for second lunch before heading down Zoots Track. The saddle is an interesting place to watch the world go by. The comings and goings with commanding views in both directions. Zoots was a hoot with endless drops and high corners to practice on. It is so nice to end the day on a singletrack downhill and of course a real Ferg gelato in QT made it perfect. Would we still opt for a sentimental hard tail over of our full sussers? Not on your nelly, function over tradition.

Keep up the good work Queenstown MTB Club and thanks for all the new trails.

Zoot view

Zoot air

The Skippers Pack Track Route

Click here to download the Skippers Pack Track gpx file.