Overnight to Potts Hut in the Harakere Conservation area
By Hayden Richards - Pushbikes Staff
Having always enjoyed New Zealand Outdoors, be it: mountain biking, tramping, or any other of the many outdoor pursuits that NZ has to offer. Wilderness backpacking trips are right up my alley. There is a wide range of bike packing easily accessible from Christchurch, from the well known like the: the St James Cycle trail and Old Ghost Road; to trips that are a bit more off the beaten track.
With a weekend of cliché'd perfect weather on the forecast. It was a superb opportunity to do a trip that had been on the to do list for a while - Overnighting to Potts Hut in the Harakere Conservation area. Having a look on the DOC website, and a couple quite brief Facebook posts of previous trips, it looked like a relatively straightforward trip of grade three mountain biking.
Throwing my bike and frame bags into my car I headed off to Lake Clearwater with the optimistic view that the 30 or so kms of mountain biking trip would take no time at all with plenty of time to a side trip to Boundary Stream Hut as well.
The ride started off on some reasonably straightforward 4wd tracks, and super views looking into the heart of the Southern Alps. The trail quickly turned into some poorly defined single track as I linked onto parts of the TA (Te Araroa) trail where I was glad to encounter meow 4wd tracks again. A couple of track junctions later the trail started to get a bit loose and rocking dropping down to Boundary Stream Hut for a bite of lunch.
Boundary Stream Hut
Departing the hut with a full belly I was met with the first and most significant hill of the day. It started off steep and loose, and only got worse the further up I went - for those that are local to Christchurch think the very last bit of Worsely’s 4wd track but 2kms long. Riding a single speed packed with 12kgs of overnight gear it wasn’t soon till I was bikepushing. The hiking the bike was well worth it, once I finally made it to the ridgeline was rewarded with 360 degree views. I was hoping that would be the end of the pushing, but there was a far bit more before the day was out. The track along the ridge line was surprisingly undulating, best described as a loose rock garden, my choice of stead was definitely not helping.
Ridge top Views of Mt Arrowsmith
A couple hours later I was finally nearing the end of the ridge, with one last descent to the hut. Having long given up any thoughts that the last bit to Potts huts wouldn’t be the promised mellow grade three, and feeling thoroughly sandbagged. I was barely surprised I trail became a sketchy loose rock garden, where I was dodging head size boulders.
With a feeling of relief my hut was right at the base of the descent. Time for a brew, some grub, and a good night's sleep.
The old Mustering hut that is Potts Hut
The next day started off in a similar style to the previous day; with the route back to the car back tracking a significant part of yesterday's ride - I had one option, pushing my way back up . Thankfully having reached the top the trip back along the ridge was far more riding than pushing. Making good time I dropped off the ridge to Mystery lake and on to some enjoyable old school grade 2/3 single track that took me back around to the TA trail, which promptly spat me out on the Harakere - Potts road. Picking up one of Canterbury’s Famed NW breezes I easily demolished the final few Kms back to the car.
Rangitata River Valley
Once the country comes out of Level 4 The Harakere Conservation is a superb location to explore. It has plenty of old school grade 2 - 3 riding and several huts to link in with bikepacking adventure but the trip into Potts Hut is significantly harder than the grade 3 sticker on the route guide. It is well worth doing, just expect Grade 4-5 riding and significant amounts of pushing.