The Mega Multi Sport Weekend III

My eyes scanned a third weather warning update in as many weeks. They were starting to become a regular feature this winter, a disruptive front of wind and rain that left a trail of closed roads, high river levels, and topped up ski fields in its wake. My heart sank as I got to the bit about it hitting Hanmer Springs – Friday night, through to Saturday. This was the exact time we were planning our third Mega Multi Sport Day. As is now becoming tradition, at least until I run out of ideas, every couple of months I throw together a new plan to complete as many activities as possible in one day. As well as getting everyone together for a bit of an adventure, it usually results in an entertaining story I can write about; whether it’s stubbornly going ahead in spite of a downpour, or getting airlifted to hospital with a broken back.

The setting for our third attempt would be Hanmer Springs, a quaint alpine town located in the Hurunui District of the South Island, New Zealand. Our list of activities would be as follows: skiing at the little known Amuri Ski Field; mountain biking in Hanmer Forest; hiking the Waterfall Track; tucking into a communal roast dinner; and finishing the day off at the thermal hot pools – and yes, a roast dinner does count as an activity. The emphasis of the day would be on enjoyment. Not to imply that the previous two attempts hadn’t been fun, but they had been quite time driven, requiring us to complete activities within a certain time limit to allow us to get everything in. This time I was hoping for a more chilled and relaxed day, hence ending with a roast and thermal dip. News of the impending front making its way up the country was concerning, as it would effectively kill a number of the activities, potentially reducing the plan to ‘Mega Roast Dinner and Sit in the Thermal Hot Pools Day’ – which in fairness, wouldn’t have been a total disappointment.

As predicted, the rain made its wet way up through the country, but a lot quicker and less devastatingly than first thought. Opening the curtains early Saturday morning to the expectation of a flooded Hanmer with the four horsemen of the apocalypse rowing past in inflatable dinghies, we were instead greeted with a cloudless, rich blue sky. It wasn’t long before the cars were packed with skiing gear and we were driving icy, snow covered roads towards Amuri Ski Field. The earlier front had left several inches of snow on the landscape, turning the St. James Conservation Area into a winter wonderland. This was excellent news for skiing, but terrible news for actually getting to the ski field. Arriving at the car park, it suddenly dawned on us that our mates weren’t close behind. We patiently waited. And then waited some more… but there was no sign of them. Other cars started arriving. This wasn’t good. We waited a bit more, but to no avail. Finally, we realised that we had no choice. We were a team. Never leave a man behind. All for one etc. etc. So I got the drone out and had a look. Flying it over the ski access track, we soon located our comrades, attempting to push their skidding car up the track. Oh, how we laughed from the comfort of the warm ski lodge, as they threw lewd gestures and snowballs at the drone.

They took their time, but eventually they made it to the little used ski field. It was mid-morning, and there were only a handful of ski tracks visible on a mountain that currently had half a metre of fresh powder residing on it. This was going to be epic… if I could just get to it. For those of you unaware of what a rope tow is, imagine a thick rope being pulled up a mountain by a series of burly, spandex clad men – the sort of types who attend tug-o-war competitions. The stout men pull the rope through at a constant rate, so you need to hold on with one hand as you get up to speed, and then clip on to the rope using a twisted bit of metal that you hold in your free hand. While this is happening, the sturdy men will whip and wave the rope around randomly in an attempt to knock you off. If you’re able to cling on, then they will do their best to dislodge you as you pass each of them, such is their dislike of snowboarders. If you’re lucky enough to make it to the top, unlike me, then you’re rewarded with the twisted metal attachment pinging off the rope and potentially hitting you between the eyes, if you’ve been foolish enough not to attach it properly.

Matt and Alex, the skiers in the group, casually rode the rope tow to the top, laughing and joking with the hunky men. Kat and I on the other hand, who were also the snowboarders of the group, battled against these stubborn gate keepers until, thankfully, the rope tow broke down. This left us with the option of calling it a day, or hike the short distance to the top of the mountain to get one run in. And so began the incredibly underestimated, sweaty, arduous slog to the summit. The panoramic views slowly increased in immensity as we ascended, step by slow step to the top. Forty-five minutes later, out of breath and soaked in sweat, we dropped in on what would be, at best, only a two minute run to the bottom. As it turned out, it was awesome. Making new tracks through soft, knee deep powder, suddenly all the clichés of snowboarding came true, such as the feeling of floating and whipping up fluffy white powder with every turn. Falling over was a joy, similar to falling from a great height into an open top truck stuffed full of marshmallows, unicorn fur, rainbows and happiness. For those two minutes, I never regretted taking up snowboarding over skiing. Whether that makes up for the previous two seasons of hardship and toil learning to board is yet to be seen, but I still smile when I think about that single, short run.

Arriving back at the ski lodge, grinning and high fiving, it quickly became obvious that that we had spent far too much time at the ski field. By the time we got back to Hanmer, had some tea (we’re predominately British don’t you know), had lunch, had some more tea, and got our gear together, it was mid-afternoon, and conversation was starting to focus on whether to spread the activities over the weekend instead.

Now, I have had a few conversations about how to write this. I was originally going to stay true to the ‘day’ part of ‘Mega-Multi-Sport Day’ and just lie, because, you know, how would you know? But then the risk of potentially being found out, and the embarrassment of someone spotting continuity errors in the video montage wasn’t worth it. So in the spirit of being truthful, I should probably point out that rope tows are not operated by several robust men. They are actually run off a diesel engine and a number of pulleys. There we go, full disclosure. We revised our plans so that the biking and hot pools would be on the Sunday. This meant that we could enjoy the roast without being rushed, and get our money’s worth at the pools. Unbeknown to us at the time, it also meant that we would have an awesome time sledging in a boat, and being towed on skies by a car, but we’ll get to all that.

As late afternoon approached, we arrived at the start of our second activity, a 2.5hr walk along the Waterfall Track that would take us to, well, a waterfall. It also allowed us an opportunity to walk the dogs, which was good for the dogs, possibly less so for anyone in the group who wasn’t partial to the sound of constant barking, or distractions when you’re trying to negotiate a steep, icy slope. Where we reaped the benefits of a fresh dump on the ski slopes, we paid for it on the walk. What should have normally been a straightforward walk in the woods, became an exercise in skidding, sliding and arm waving, as we slowly made our way towards the waterfall. On the plus side, it was lovely and picturesque. The setting sun cast purples and reds across the sky, framed by the white of the snow in the trees. Returning to the cars was a similar experience to walking in, except the barking and meandering dogs were replaced by cold and darkness.

The roast was splendid, thanks for asking.

A new day brought more blue skies, more frost and more good times. Venturing back into St. James Conservation Area, our morning activity would involve a trip down memory lane. To a simpler time before responsibilities, financial worries, or doubts at making a career from full time writing. It’s amazing how sliding down the hill on a plastic bag, or the lid of a box, or in this case, a toy boat that we found in the bach, can take you back to childhood. It appeared that sledging without a smile on your face was physically impossible. An oxymoron if you will. Like a Kiwi opening a beer bottle with a bottle opener.

After many, many nostalgic trips down the snowy hillside, things then escalated when Matt looked at his skis. Then at the truck. Then back at the skis, and asked, ‘Do we have a rope?’ And thus car skiing was born. A morning full of smiles continued with me waving to Matt as he skied up alongside the driver’s side window, all the while being towed along by the truck on our way back to the bach.

Arriving back at mid-day, we had just enough time for some lunch, tea, homemade carrot cake and more tea, before setting out on the mountain bikes. Unfortunately, this activity was a bit of a non-event as most of the trails were closed. Within an hour we were back at the house, just in time for another round of tea.

It was now mid-afternoon, and the hot pools were calling. My hope that the crowds would have thinned by 3pm on a Sunday was instantly dashed seconds after paying the entrance fee. Reliably busy, I have a bit of a love / hate relationship with the pools. Yes, it is nice to be in warm water, and I appreciate the increased level of freedom over my bath tub at home. However, sharing that same warm water with several hundred other people does taint the experience somewhat.

The activity was nice enough, essentially swapping the experience of hanging out with your friends and drinking tea, with hanging out with your friends, and many strangers, in warm water. All that said, it was a nice way to end the weekend before we headed back to Christchurch. Relaxing in the sulphur infused water, we reflected on the weekend’s fun. We had experienced our first proper New Zealand powder day, and been taken on nostalgic trips back to our childhood. Yes, I was disappointed about not getting all the activities completed in the one day, but if that was the worst thing to have happened over the weekend, then it was a worthy trade off.

For the a cheeky montage of the weekend, click here:

The Mega Multi Sport Day

When thinking up new adventures, I find it hard not to over indulge in how the experience will look several months later, when the GoPro edit is finally completed. There are always blue skies, the most epic camera angles and only the most talented, witty and attractive of my mates, showcased on screen. This played on my mind as I sat in the truck, staring out the windscreen, watching the rain bounce off the steamed up glass. Out of the seven adventure sports we had planned to do that day, I had so far done one out of three, and was about to pass on the fourth. This wasn’t in the script.

It all started on a chilly, star filled Friday night at the Craigieburn camp ground. We had arrived in several 4×4’s, laden with camping, skiing, bouldering and caving equipment. Back in Christchurch was a garage full of rock climbing, mountain biking, surfing and barbecuing equipment for the Saturday afternoon’s activities. Our plan, which wasn’t much simpler on paper, was as follows; hike to the top of the ski field then ski down, do some bouldering at Castle Hill, followed by some caving at Cave Stream. We would then drive back to Christchurch, complete a quick and faff-less gear swap, and head up to Godley Head on the Port Hills. Here we would climb at Farm Terrace Crag, mountain bike down the Anaconda trail to Taylors Mistake, and end the day surfing, followed by a barbecue. The intention was simple; put together a badass video, have some adventurous fun, and spread some good karma by raising awareness for a friends new testicular charity ‘Team Lumpy Bumpy’.

I had spent Friday packing up the truck and getting increasingly anxious over worsening weather reports for Saturday. With overnight snow predicted and a front on its way, it was likely that access to the ski field would be restricted until the avalanche risk over the access road was cleared. Not being able to get up to the ski field would massively impact on the ‘epicness’ of the day. I had envisioned us hiking up the ski field, crunching through fresh snow, as traces of purples and yellows streaked across the horizon behind us, warning of an imminent sun rise. Arriving at the summit in time for the sun to make its first appearance, we would be surrounded by blue from a cloudless morning. We would then ski down, high fiving and smiling as the GoPro, attached to a selfie stick, was waved around, catching all the unfolding action. I fell asleep that night, in the cold, uncomfortable tent at the Craigieburn camp ground, running these images through my head while trying to work out a suitable backing track for the movie; ‘Simply the Best’ by Tina Turner was probably a little too egotistical, good sax solo mind.

Waking at 4:45 the following morning, I gingerly stuck my head out of the tent to assess the sky. The blackness was littered with pin pricks of light, more vivid and numerous than what I was accustomed to in Christchurch. ‘We’re on!’ I thought to myself, excitingly getting dressed and wondering if perhaps the predicted front got held up in Arthur’s Pass, or wasn’t going to come at all.

sunrise cropped

Several weeks earlier, we had completed a dry run of the day to get an idea of time requirements and distances between various points. We had to keep to a tight schedule to ensure that we weren’t finishing the day biking and surfing in the dark. Add to this my slightly obsessive time paranoia, a group of ten, and leaving the camp site ten minutes later than agreed, I was already starting to get agitated. Driving in convoy along the empty, bleak highway for several kilometers, we turned off onto the ski field access track and continued up the gravel road, stones crunching under the wheels and dust being kicked up, reflecting the beams of our headlights back onto us.

It wasn’t long before snow and ice was started to appear on the access track and we eventually had to pull over to fit chains. I had allowed a bit of time for this in the itinerary, and having practised the day before, was able to fit them relatively quickly. I looked across to the other 4x4s, which had several people crouched round each wheel, wrestling to get the chains on. Head torches lit up the struggling exhales of breath, as the chains, too small for the wheels, refused to go on. We battled with them for 15 minutes, attempting various methods and techniques to get them fitted. We literally needed millimetres to connect the ends together, and finally, after much rearranging and brute force, managed to link the two ends. I was mindful that it was too soon for celebration, as we still didn’t know if the access gate would be open. We continued on up the dark access track, following two red dots, embodying the rear lights of the car ahead of us.

Leaving the safety of the forest as we broke through the tree line, I started to get an indication of how windy it was becoming. The earlier dust that had been caught in the headlights had now been replaced with snow, almost giving the wind form, as it whipped across the track in front of us. We turned the final corner before the gate, to see an open road ahead of us. Finally some good news I thought, as the truck wobbled in the wind. Considering all we had done so far was essentially wake up and drive to a ski field, it had been surprisingly stressful 45 minutes. Unfortunately, things weren’t about to get much better.


Arriving at the ski field car park and climbing out of the truck, it was instantly apparent how strong the wind actually was, as it attempted to blow the car doors off. The blasts of wind arrived in intervals, seemingly awaiting the most opportune moment, normally when stood on one leg trying to put on a ski boot, or while removing the skis from the roof of the car. When it blew strong enough to lift my snowboard off the ground and slam it painfully into my knee, I decided I wasn’t going up the mountain. The news didn’t go down overly well with the rest of the group, which was understandable, seeing as this was originally my idea and now I was backing out almost immediately. But as far as I was concerned, it wasn’t safe enough to go up, which the rest of the group respected, and then headed up anyway.

As a compromise to myself, I decided to walk up some of the way. Partly to get some video shots, but in retrospect, more because I felt I was missing out. Once we had started walking, the wind had noticeably dropped and I really started regretting my initial, slightly rash decision. I was becoming more annoyed that I hadn’t brought my snowboard with me on the off chance that the weather would improve, as it was now doing. The one positive was that the horizon was starting to fill with morning colour, and I was able to get some of the hiking shots I’d visualised the night before in the tent.

It was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened, and we reached the point where I had to stop, and watch the rest of the group continue up the mountain. I was kicking myself for prematurely deciding not to ski down and missing out on the experience, but then again, it did look as though a large cloud had crept in from nowhere. It didn’t take long for the group to disappear into the milky nebula, as I watched them hike away. I turned and headed back down to wait at the cars, telling myself not to miss out on an opportunity again. It would take about an hour and a half before I had already broken this promise.

DSC_0078It was fifteen minutes before shadows started appearing, moving within the cloud and snow that had now enveloped everything. The wind, now seeing that I was within the heated comfort of the car, had changed tactics, and now just blew constantly and fiercely, reminding us not to leave the 4×4 fortress. As the shadows ambled closer, their shapes took on familiar form, with matching smiles. From the hurried debrief, as the group frantically tried to get out of their gear and out of the wind into the safety of the cars, the weather wasn’t much better at the peak. Visibility had been minimal, thanks to a horrendous combination of cloud, wind and spindrift, making the ski down disorienting, confusing, but totally awesome. I was happy everyone was down in one piece, and that they had had a good time, but I didn’t want to hear any more about it. We were behind schedule, I’d missed out on the skiing (by my own doing), and with it now snowing on the mountain, this would no doubt translate to rain at our next activity, bouldering. We drove off the mountain in blizzard conditions, which at least felt a little bit epic.

For those of you that haven’t been to Castle Hill, it’s difficult to describe exactly what makes it such a special place. It is the final resting place of hundreds of limestone rocks, each one unique in size and shape, all interacting with each other, forming familiar shapes for the more imaginatively inclined. Between the rocks and the sky are the mountains, encircling the rocky graveyard, stubbornly bearing down from above. Lush, green grass spreads itself between the base of the rocky features, making the area feel as if you’re walking through a sculptor’s garden, appreciating the contemporary, limestone works of art. And best of all, it’s only a five minute walk from the car park.crop


With a scene as incredible as just described, I had grand plans for this activity. I had allowed an hour, more in the hope of getting some spectacular panoramic shots, rather than an allowance for ample bouldering. These contrived shots I had planned in my head the night before, were quickly becoming washed away as snow began to fall, while we marched towards Castle Hill. Unable to do any bouldering in the wet, although that’s not to discredit some of the braver souls of the group who still gave it a go (in some cases dressed in a mankini – but that’s another story), I knew deep down this was over before it began. I put away my mental director’s chair and stood shivering in thermals and waterproofs, angled against the snow that was quickly turning to sleet, as we launched the drone to at least get some aerial shots of this spectacular place. It could be the end of the world, fire and death everywhere, and Castle Hill would still look good. With the small consolation that’s it’s never a wasted trip to Castle Hill, we shuffled back to the sanctuary of the car heaters.

As we drove the ten minutes to the next activity, I stared glumly out the car windscreen. Watching as the wipers frantically attempted to clear the pouring rain, I couldn’t help dwelling on the fact that bouldering was another failed activity, and the caving we were about to attempt wasn’t looking too promising either. I started mentally scripting my director’s commentary for the DVD extras, which would inevitably result in losing our PG rating due to offensive and inappropriate language.


Activity number four involved negotiating Cave Stream, a 600 meter long, underground cave system with a steady torrent of water running through it. Under normal circumstances, it’s an exciting walk / climb in the pitch black, as the cave system weaves its way through smooth corners, ledges and mini-water falls. Arriving at the car park, it seemed that my pessimistic attitude had spread and was now infecting some of the others in the group. With the rain continuing to pour down, I ran between the parked cars, trying to gauge everyone’s feelings. Although I was mindful of not breaking the earlier promise I made to myself regarding not passing on opportunities, it quickly became apparent that my promises aren’t worth a great deal. It was hard to get excited, when stood in the cold and wet, about getting intentionally cold and wet. To his credit, Steve turned this argument around to his advantage – ‘we’re cold and wet anyway. May as well be cold and wet doing something interesting’. At that point I should have replied with ‘you’re absolutely right’, high fived him, and followed Steve, Jackie and Caitlin into the cave. Instead I just nodded, wished them good luck and returned back to the relative safety of the car. Instead of the freezing, shadowy depths of Cave Stream, the rest of us opted for sugary, tasty coffee and cake at Darfield, on our way back to Christchurch.

Sat in the cosy coffee shop, looking out at the blue skies that we had escaped to since leaving the Craigieburn area, morale was definitely  improving. As we chatted and laughed amongst ourselves, I started to mentally write off the morning’s activities and toy with the idea of revising the title of the movie to ‘Mega Multi-Sport Afternoon’.

We had arrived back in Christchurch around the time I had originally planned, and I had again allowed some time for the gear swap.  Within minutes, equipment had been strewn everywhere, with all available floor space covered with bike gear, surf gear, ski gear and climbing gear. But instead of quickly packing up the trucks and moving out again, we ended up sitting around drinking tea. My time paranoia generally resides just below the surface, so it doesn’t take much provocation for me to start getting stressed. Knowing that we were back on track just meant that we were now had the ability to be late, and I was desperately trying not to be that guy ordering everyone around and killing the good time. Resisting the urge to sit in the truck and rev it loudly, I was able to drop enough hints to get people assembled and moving onto the second part of the day.
Climbing2Earlier in the week, Steve and I had gone exploring to find the most suitable crag to climb on. The last two activities, biking and surfing, naturally flowed into each other, with the bike trail ending at the beach. We needed to find a crag that ticked a number of boxes; proximity to the bike track, video worthy scenery and an easy route, allowing everyone the opportunity to climb. Amphitheatre Crag was well located, with epic, 30 metre high routes and requiring an abseil in, but would absorb too much time. Godley Head Crag had easy routes, a nice view over the harbour, but it’s location would have extended the bike ride by at least 30 minutes. Farm Terrace Crag was right at the start of the bike trail, had equally nice views as the Godley Head Crag, but we’d never climbed there before. So on an overcast, grey Thursday evening, with the light rapidly fading and no guide book, Steve and I discussed how difficult one of the routes looked from the ground. Anyone who has tried doing this will know how deceptive a route can look when viewed from below, and it’s usually not long before the first ascent ends in shouts of frustration and abandoned gear. Scouting the crag, it was apparent that this was a spot still recovering from the quakes, with large sections of the cliff missing and boulders strewn everywhere. Unlike Castle Hill however, where the scattered rocks added a unique charm to the area, these boulders just served as a constant reminder of how temperamental the rock face could be.

Slightly limited with our options, we essentially settled on the only route that looked climbable. A few metres off the ground, and at a new vantage point, it appeared that the route was slightly more technical than expected. A slight overhang now made an appearance, and as is always the way with new routes, the crux was the last move. It required locating a secret crack and faith that it would hold your entire weight, as you frantically snatched for the safety of the summit ledge.

‘This’ll have to do’ I muttered to myself, slightly out of breath and sweating, as I threaded the rope at the top, allowing me to descend after the climb. The route wasn’t as straightforward as I had hoped, but on the plus side, the location was perfect and would provide some great climbing shots as the camera panned out to the view over the harbour.

We arrived in convoy on the Saturday afternoon, refuelled on tea, and in high spirits. The route was led by Caitlin, who started by immediately pulling off a chunk of rock that was masquerading as a hand hold. This served as another reminder of the slightly dubious rock quality at the crag. Despite my struggles leading the route a few days previously, Caitlin shot up it having never seen it before. I looked on in relief that someone else was able to put the rope up, and therefore I could enjoy a leisurely top rope climb. With views across Diamond Harbour and over onto Banks Peninsula, it was an excellent spot for hanging out, climbing and cheering people on as they made it to the top of the route. Finally an activity was going to plan. We got the drone launched, took some lovely photos, and I was even starting to reconsider the Tina Turner sound track.

Climbing 1

As was the theme of the day, we couldn’t stay for long. The light was starting to fade and drops of water were starting to materialise from above. A short scramble from the crag led us to where we had left the cars and our awaiting bikes. Climbing gear was replaced with biking gear, which essentially amounted to taking harnesses off and sitting on a bike.

We then set off down the Anaconda. Aptly named, the bike track contorts itself down the hillside towards Taylors Mistake, our final destination. The previous drops of rain were starting to organise themselves into something more threatening, and we needed to get down to the surf boards quickly. However, with Taylors Mistake coming into view, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity of launching the drone to take what would have been an epic shot of all of us rattling down the track, with the sea in the background. If only Tom had remembered to press the record button. Moving on…

We were almost there. Arriving at Taylors Mistake, the earlier Craigieburn weather, that had been chasing us all afternoon, had finally caught up. Getting changed into our wet suits in the hammering rain, it should have been a miserable affair. But we had survived the day. In spite of the weather, the faffing, the weather again and more weather, we were stood in the dark, the cold, the wet, eager to get even colder and even wetter. How things had changed since the Cave Stream incident earlier.

Running onto the empty beach, surf boards under our arms, my heart sank again, as we were greeted with zero surf. Typical. Some of the more competent surfers in the group attempted to get up on the boards, but I basically bobbed about a bit, got cold, and came ashore. Not quite the epic, hanging ten end to the day I had hoped for.

There was no barbecue.

Instead we went to the Indian Sumner curry house to refuel on spicy food and reflect on the day’s adventure. While the team laughed and joked, I sat at the end of the table, slightly distracted as I dwelled on whether the day could be considered a success. I had completed about half of the activities, got very limited GoPro shots, and spent a large portion of the day clock watching. Technically, only the climbing went to plan, not being affected by weather or participation. This had been far from the grand adventure I had envisioned at the Craigieburn camp site the night before.


Several weeks had passed since the Mega Multi-Sport Day, and enough procrastination had occurred for me to finally be able to start putting together a video. Anyone who has attempted to edit a video based solely on GoPro footage will know that it’s a monotonous task. Most of the footage consists of two people having a debate over whether the GoPro is actually turned on, followed by mostly unusable material due to the camera pointing the wrong way.

Three things transpired while I spent several evenings staring at the computer monitor;

  1. We would have been lucky to have done one activity, let alone seven, based on how terrible the weather was.
  2. Even though the day didn’t go as planned, it was still an epic adventure and upon reflection, brilliant fun. We had a great team, with everyone intent on having a good time, despite the weather’s best efforts to literally put a damper on things.
  3. I am a terrible director. Having good weather, sticking to an itinerary, and capturing nice GoPro shots that aren’t shaky, low quality and blurry is just a bonus, and a reason to attempt it again next year.

To find out more on the testicular cancer charity we were supporting, visit www.teamlumpybumpy

For the finished montage of the day’s events, check out ‘MEGA MULTI SPORT DAY – VOL 1‘ on Youtube

Peak to Pub – 2015

There is a race that is held annually in Methven in Canterbury, New Zealand that involves a combination of skiing, biking and running, all in the name of getting a free beer at the end of it. It’s called ‘Peak to Pub’ and is held towards the end of the ski season, which unlike the majority of the English speaking world, is in September.

The ‘P2P’ route starts at the top of the Mt. Hutt ski field with a 100m mass sprint to the top of a ski run. At that point you don your gear and ski/board/fall/slide/fall again/tumble down a 2km ski run to the first transition phase of the race. At this point you ditch your skiing gear and switch to your biking attire and cycle the ski field access road for 18km. At the end of the ride there is a final 12km cross country run to the finish line in the township of Methven where you’re greeted with a bottle of beer as you cross the finish line. You can enter the event as a team or solo. We opted for a team of three, with each person doing a specific leg of the race: Steve being the snowboarder, me riding the access track and Logan completing the final running leg.


This is Steve


This is Me

This is Logan


There was a bit of a briefing before the race started, which would normally be of no interest, except for the fact that the organizer asked if there were any Australians here and when the answer came back as no, made a sheep shagging joke. Which I thought was a bit odd coming from a Kiwi. But being a Welshman myself and having to put up with endless sheep shagging jokes, it’s nice to see that it can be applied to almost any nationality, as long as they aren’t present.

Mass Running Start

Representing team ‘Wales Rules’ (the team name I selected as I couldn’t think of anything wittier at the time and was obviously in a bit of a patriotic state of mind) for the skiing leg was Steve. As I didn’t take part in this leg, I can only comment based on what Steve said and footage from the GoPro we had attached to my bike helmet which he was wearing. So first off was the 100m run, in snowboarding gear, through snow, with 150 other competitors. I think the politest thing that can be said about Steve is that he’s not much of a runner in the best of conditions. The first 50m went relatively well but it appears that a combination of initial adrenaline wearing off, being stabbed a number of times by other competitors ski poles and ultimately being over taken by a number of 10 year olds, eventually slowed him down to a heavily breathing, walking mess. He eventually located his board and after a bit of a faff getting strapped in, finally got moving towards the beginning of the ski run (such was the extent of the faffing that watching the GoPro footage back that evening, I found myself yelling at the screen ‘FUCKING COME ON!!!’. Momentarily forgetting that it wasn’t a live feed and the race finished several hours ago).

Switching perspectives to me, I was based at the bottom of the ski run, in the designated transition point where I would continue the race on the bike once Steve arrived. Being able to see the ski run from where I was stood, it appeared to be complete carnage as a hundred odd people tried to negotiate the slalom flags down the length of the run. There were people sliding and rolling all over the place, wiping out flags and other competitors in the process. After the first wave came through to change onto the bikes, Steve arrived a bit dazed and covered in snow and ice. He mentioned something about it being really icy up there but I wasn’t really listening as I took the numbered jersey and bike helmet from him and jumped on my bike for my section of the race (watching the GoPro footage back it appeared he had been one of the many competitors that had fallen and banged themselves up a bit. Including a hilarious fall towards the end of the track that looked like it really hurt). There appears to be a number of techniques for a fast transition between the ski and bike section, such as being on the bike ready to accept the numbered jersey as your team mate arrives, having all your gear in place, and being in a designated spot so you can find each other easily. Steve and I opted for the ‘I shout and wave while he looks around confused, unable to find me. Have a quick chat regarding how icy the run is and then me scrambling around trying to remember where I have left my bike’.


access track

Finally my leg of the race began. Now, considering it is a ride down a ski field access track, it was a bit of a surprise when, for the first few 100 meters, I was having to pedal up hill. Something I had failed to notice on the drive up was that the access track didn’t have a constant gradient all the way to the top. Which meant that with all the adrenaline and excitement of riding off, I was completely knackered before even completing a kilometer of the 18km bike section. The second mistake of the ride was to not adjust the strap on the helmet after Steve handed it over to me. I think the second politest thing you can say about Steve’s large head is that it is…large. Which became a problem as the strap was too large for my proportionally sized head, resulting in the helmet fitting like a sombrero and sliding down the back of my neck. Under normal circumstances I would have stopped to adjust it, but I was in racing mode at this point so instead opted for the more time savvy, yet ultimately more dangerous approach of adjusting it with one hand whilst trying to maintain control of the bike, at speed, with the other. Safe in the knowledge that if I was to come off at that point, the helmet would provide ample protection for the back of my head and neck, and nowhere else.


access track1

It wasn’t long before I was passing the odd person along the way, including some poor guy who had a puncture about half way down and didn’t appear to have the equipment to fix it. Meaning he had at least a 10km walk to where the next transition stage was. I would have offered him some help, but you know, I didn’t see anyone offering to help with my helmet, so I assumed we were working to ‘Prison Rules’. Which was the same reason why I slashed his tyres earlier in the race.  Eventually I made it to the end of the biking section and to where Logan was eagerly waiting. Seeing as Logan wasn’t up for wearing the bike helmet with the attached GoPro for the run, I can only comment on what he mentioned afterwards (personally I thought it would have been comedy gold for him to run with a bike helmet on, looking like a very safety conscious runner, but he failed to see the funny side). We opted for a similar transitional technique to that which Steve and I had done earlier, commenting on the nice weather and what not, generally faffing about a bit before he proceeded with the rest of the race.

Much of the running section was off road, running through river beds and fields. There was a section where you had the choice of jumping into a river and swimming across or opting for the bridge further down stream that added about 10 minutes to your time. Logan, like most people, plumped for the stream option, which would have made a good GoPro shot had he decided to not be a spoil sport and run the entire race looking like a tool, for the sake of an entertaining 3 second shot of him jumping into the river. Cold and wet but not hindered by the additional weight of a bike helmet and attached GoPro, he strode his way to the finish line where he was met with a fire engine spraying people with industrial strength hose pipes, hot air balloon burners lined up firing bursts of fire into the air for some reason, and a cold bottle of shite tasting beer; I would like to add a slight criticism here that we only got one bottle of shite tasting beer per team, which seemed a little unfair seeing as it was, by definition, a team effort.

The day ended with us chatting about each of our sections over nice tasting beers (we went and bought some) with me and Steve stood in down jackets, nice and warm, while Logan stood shivering in saturated clothing as he’d forgotten to bring a towel and change of attire.  I would have offered him the spare change of clothes I had brought but, you know, Prison Rules applies to all.

Team Photo at the Finish Line

Team Photo at the Finish Line