Paparoa Xmas Party & Video

2 min read

Moving Pictures: Benoit Wynn-Williams and Liam Crozier
Still Photos: Ground Effect


NZ's latest great ride, err walk, the Paparoa Track opened in December. 56 km of West Coast singletrack traversing the Paparoa Ranges between Blackball and Punakaiki. Back in June when bookings opened we snaffled sufficient bunks for that first weekend in December to stage the Ground Effect xmas bash.

The cunning plan was partially derailed when just prior to the opening a major slip closed a mid section of the track, thwarting the full traverse until further notice. However the Blackball-Moonlight-Blackball variation is still a worthy trip. All systems go.

Compounding the 'commitment complexities', as the designated weekend approached it became obvious that the dominant westerly airflow was planning to smash us. More careful examination revealed patches of respite on both days so we pushed on regardless. 

The track and weather delivered. We had a blast, enjoyed relentless banter, great riding, biblical feasting, and got (very) wet - starting and finishing with Mordor-like thunder, lightening and downpours. (Almost) fine weather squeezed in between allowed us to rekindle our spirits.

The Paparoa Track joins the Old Ghost Road and Heaphy to form a holy trinity of multi-day backcountry rides on the upper West Coast. All are bucket list worthy. There are multiple ways to slice and dice the Paparoa trails - the obvious Blackball-Punakaiki traverse; a descent into Barrytown or the Moonlight for the more intrepid; and a loop or side trip taking in the Pike29 track and visitors centre - a solemn reminder of the 29 who lost their lives in the Pike River mine disaster, and the reason we are blessed with these sensational backcountry trails. Rebecca Macfie’s excellent book Tragedy at Pike River Mine: How and Why 29 Men Died provides a sobering background to the disaster. Also check out our blog backgrounding the design of the tracks; Jamie Nicoll talking about the promotional video he and Robin Pieper made with DOC earlier in the year; and Dave Mitchell's history of the original Croesus Track from Blackball to the Ces Clark Hut.

Partially satisfied with a taste of the Paparoas, we're chomping at the bit to return for the full traverse with the Pike29 side trip when the trail work is complete. 

Wet 'n' dry pre-departure from Blackball. 

Jane, Pat and mermaid toast rack at Blackball's Inn.

The lesser-spotted Smoke-ho kiwi. 

Cherie & Jo Dot find respite from the rain climbing above the Ces Clark Hut. 

The train pulls out, next stop Moonlight Tops Hut. 

... but with a few pinch climbs along the way. 

Scott G. close to the edge. 

Selfie above the Moonlight Valley. 

The Moonlight Tops Hut with its majestic panoramic views. 

Free parking. 

Wine atop the bar and cheese selection warming. 

Cherie, Jo and Jo Dot rug up for return match to Blackball. 

Claggy on the tops.

Downhill grins back at the Smoke-ho carpark.

5 Responses

Paul Critchley
Paul Critchley

March 18, 2020

Most of the longer rides are in the South Island
Would be great to have a longer ride in the north island, desert road to clements rd and to pukititri, kuripapango
Or a lower track around Tongariro a full circle

Harvey Steeds
Harvey Steeds

January 02, 2020

My partner and I rode each end, just before Christmas and loved it. The climb to Ces Clark hut is sustained but at around a one in ten gradient, we found it mostly rideable with just a few short walks, one steep rough stream crossing in particular. We were lucky with the weather. Looking forward to the complete traverse when it opens. Impressive new huts.

Geoff Gabites
Geoff Gabites

December 22, 2019

Like you we rode up to Ces Clark hut and overnighted before riding onto Moonlight and back then down to Blackball. I think we need a bit more honesty around the bottom section up to Ces Clark cos the ride currently is a ride of two halves. The first 10.3 Kim’s is grungy – just like we were warned – but didn’t listen to. We probably walked 40% cos the surface was just a bit behind our ability. The section to Ces Clark is one on enduring, not enjoying – until the descend. Then the momentum provides the needed traction and it becomes fun. From Ces Clark to Moonlight is awesome – a tribute to the builders. Too bad the first 10kms of this track will be assigned to the far reaches of the memory cells – but let’s be honest about it until someone finds more money to surface and drain the original track.

Ruth Murphy
Ruth Murphy

December 18, 2019

Fantastic video that truly captures the essence and magic of a MTB adventure in backcountry NZ. The video realistically shows the nature of the track which is clearly challenging in places and not for beginners, but stunningly beautiful even in typical west coast weather!

Jane Mullins
Jane Mullins

December 18, 2019

Started biking the track from blackball to first hut and fell off my bike down a gully onto rocks.
I loved watching your video the track is amazing but sadly I won’t be biking for the next couple of months.

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