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Return to Dillon Cone Video

18 July 2023

Video: Deane Parker & Dylan Gerschwitz
Photos: Dylan Gerschwitz
Words: Deane Parker

Five years ago on a bikerafting trip on the Waiau-Toa / Clarence River we were unsuccessful in an attempt to scale and descend Dillon Cone with our bikes. A Ground Effect anti-Cyclone rain jacket would have been bloody handy on that trip. You see, in a bikerafting system every item must be able to transform quickly from riding apparel to boating apparel, from dry to wet and hopefully back to dry - quickly. Layering is important. Windproof insulated lightweight layers are preferred. With Aotearoa’s temperate southerly climate clothing can be required to keep blistering sun off sensitive skin one moment, and then after lunch repel icy precipitation. You know where this is going… Ground Effect cycle clothing.

Every time I get the infrequent opportunity to hang with the GE team their passion and dedication to bike focused exploration is palpable. Guy still has that deep glassy look of wonderment of what's round the corner or over that ridge. Fraser's big hearty laughs as he recounts that epic from decades ago. Don’t start Scott on a conversation on hydrophobic properties or head injuries. Cherie always picking for beta on the next brevet or backcountry route. These folks ooze inspiration for my adventure video stories.

When I decided to start making bike films I was wanting to do so through the lens of the honest Kiwi adventure. And this was symbiotic with the GE legacy - their gear being carried in the backpacks, seat bags and panniers of Kiwi adventurers on some seriously epic cycle journeys over the past three decades.

After producing Fluid Trails, along with some of the hype around the second episode of Kiwis do Bikerafting, and not being happy with my current rain jacket for bikerafting applications, I lobbied GE for their support for my quirky video stories. We both connected and to this day I am humbled to be able to demonstrate the durability and appropriateness of their gear in the context of backcountry bikepacking and bikerafting.

So, as cringey as it sounds, Ground Effect was - in part - along for the journey back to Dillon Cone. And it was totally appropriate that I should return in the sequel with Damian Stones from the original Waiau-Toa Odyssey trip. Damian has been a Ground Effect revolutionary for a long time, and so he should, as he is one of those hugely talented riders that I am not. Damian and I went to high school together in Nelson and probably started mountain biking at a similar time in the mid ‘90’s. We hadn’t ridden together before the Waiau-Toa but it's safe to say we both emerged from similar passionate cycling backgrounds.

Dillon Cone was Damian’s primary objective on that first trip. I was more enthused about the concept of carrying bikes on boats. I added the Waiau Uwha River to spice up the challenge but this had the inverse effect of taking precious expedition time away from our attempt on the 2173 m peak. When we decided to pull the pin on Dillon Cone I never imagined we would be back. Damian had different ideas.

Muel Jones and I continued growing bikerafting competence and confidence through a big loop of Kahurangi National Park. We invited Rose Green to join the party. It was epic. Rose was brave as hell following Muel and I down the Mokihinui Gorge, the Aorere and lastly the upper Buller Gorge. This was when Dylan Gerschwitz came on the scene too. He did a stellar job of droning and filming us through the Old Ghost Road before I took over the baton and self filmed the remainder of the loop to create Fluid Trails.

Fast forward to early 2022. We were once again standing on the banks of the Waiau-Toa / Clarence at the Acheron confluence. Except instead of blue, clear, low water at 15 cumecs, we were looking at milky instant coffee coloured water swiftly moving past us at 100 cumecs. Another difference was I was proudly wearing my two year old Ground Effect anti-Cyclone.

The original three of Damian, Muel and I were joined by Rose and Dylan - who both had the requisite skills and madness to complete our team. I couldn’t imagine a better crew to paddle down a chundering gorge of jagged tectonic affected geology with ungainly trail bikes strapped to the inflatables, tackle 1500 m vertical of hike a bike and ride off the top - with energy left to document and capture it all on film.

I hope you enjoy the ride.