Sunday, July 6, 2008

It isn't always smooth sailing...

(please excuse any typo's or errors, its been a long weekend....)

I had to laugh when I looked down at the last post that we put up before we left for the Grampians. Something along the lines of its 'going to be a good one'. Well it was a good one, but perhaps not for the reasons that we were expecting...

Friday night as per usual we rolled out of Melbourne straight into peak hour, and headed west in the direction of the Grampians. This Epix saw just the two of us out there, but none the less we were happy to be getting out!

(BYO redwood sleepers for firewood - camp oven cooking is the bomb!!)

The western highway delivered us to the refuge of the Burra-something pub near Ararat for a surprisingly good Parma, and we also got totally up to date with the latest soil pH and rainfall courtesy of the locals. They also contended that we get 'quite a lot of snow down in Melbourne', so I think it had been a long friday sit-in for some of them....

We set up for the night sometime around midnight at the Borough Huts, a campsite a handful of kilometres from Halls Gap, with the shiny new camper trailer!

With the comforts of home on hand, warm porridge and coffee were brekky, although there was a marked lack of hasty movement due in no small part to the sub zero temperatures. Everything was frozen, from the gas struts on my tail gate, to my car keyless entry remote - nothing was working, but a bit of ingenuity and everything was back to normal.

As we began to thaw out, we got ourselves ready to rock and headed off into the sunshine. It was a beautiful morning, but just as we strapped helmets on, the first puff of breeze swept across the campsite. It sent a bit of a chill through us, but with clear skies and the forecast to hold, we were right, no wurries maaate!

Looking down the barrel of another mission on the bikes, the plan was formulated using some hazy 14 year old memory, parks vic maps, google earth and a healthy dose of confidence. We'd planned a loop of the southern end of the Grampians, taking in Mt William (the highest point) and the escarpment that runs south from that point, and a long run back up the Gramps on a low-lands (valley floor) linking trail. All pretty straight forward, plenty of information on the tracks, I'd done at least part of it at school and knew it was going to be a challenge, but nothing like how it turned out... Its amazing what the mind forgets, isn't it!

Climbing up to Mt William was perfect straight from camp, with heart rates up and bodies staying warm. It was so cold we could care less that we were climbing on bitumen, but all the people that drove past thought we were nuts!

This shot is for ex-Felt Racing teammate Ryan, who had a throughly miserable day over at the World Marathon champs, so I thought he might get a laugh from this wheelie shot. He's been known to wheelie entire hors cat. climbs, so this is my feeble attempt to replicate it.

Hell of a view though....!

Hello trusty steed! Our Felt Virtue ones were just the ticket today. 5" of travel was used almost constantly whilst we were able to ride, and the pro pedal was pretty much the best thing ever! By flicking a switch, the bikes just raced downhill in full control (note; the bikes were in full control. The riders, wellllll.....) We were loving it! Tyre wise, we were both on pythons and the big bag of the tyre was great over all the sharp edge rocks.

Happy days going up the climb! We climbed about 1000m vertical straight from camp, and didn't really lose that until the end of the day. The plateau made sure of that!

I know I didn't get sick of the view all day, so we've taken plenty of pictures of it for you!

"We're going up there!!"

Prepared? Check. Walker? Errr, no...

After the final jumping off point (and chocolate top up from wives, daughters and partners- this is a family show after all) we hit the summit. And promptly froze. That wind was howling over the top, not a good place to hang out, even with a bit of gear on.

It really did have that 'top of the world' feel. The granny ring grunt to get up here added to the sense of achievement, and also knowing that we had to keep pushing on was good incentive to keep going.

Corny, but it was a good little heart starter to get up there.

We really do appreciate the assistance of our sponsors, and with being the latest company to come on board and get behind Felt Epix, we thought that we should give some of their products a guided tour of our ride. These high density foam grips had a backpack ride from hell all day, but got to see some great countryside! As for grips that actually get used, with one of each on both our bikes, they came through with flying colors. No sore hands, no tears or rips on the grips (a concern of mine prior to using them) despite some accidental mistreatment - in one over the bars incident, my glove came off.....!!! Go figure?! We had some shots of the new Ascend bars that we're trialing as well, but the reflective silver wrapper photographed poorly, so just keep in mind - choc mint flavour!! Mmmm!!

Shameless, sure. Corny once again, perhaps. We're just happy if you remember the grips, and remember that you laughed when you saw them on the Felt Epix blog, and keep coming back for more silly and inane adventures :) Its a simple concept, we'll still be doing rides without you, but not on the scale that we currently do them, so keep coming back and we'll keep trying to provide a distraction from work for you! And what a view, just quietly!

And from there it pretty well all went to shit.....

Sure, the Grampians have some rock. Sure, its a big rock we're standing on, but we (I?) sure did underestimate the adventure we were about to have...

The first rocky cliff/descent was a heart starter. Sam Hill, more like Sam who?? The rocks were large, there was no line, and no, Randall would not have ridden it...

The track was defined by small ribbons of tape and yellow painted arrows. They were quite far apart....

We had plenty of cliffs to scale...

Lift, climb, lift, curse, lift, climb, scrape extremity, curse, lift climb,

Haha, yep, smiling, now how the #$^#& do I get up there??

To the right of the shot is many hundreds of metres straight down....

And this was about the closest we got to rideable trail for the entire plateau. Well that might be a bit of an overstatement..... Actually no, we specifically took a photo of it as that was the most dirt we found!

But by god the view was amazing!

It was a very very long way down. And what a perfect place for a photo. If it looks like I'm not comfortable and don't want to go any close to the edge, thats because for each of those rocky veins that point upwards that I'm standing on, I can see through the gaps all the way down... Creepy!

Play time.

'Yeehaa' (Can I get down now....!!)

Shishkabob! I don't think any tire sealant would have saved this one.. Check out the video to see what happened when I pulled it out!

Just another bit of glorious trail...

And one of our trail markers, loathed and loved in equal parts!

And pretty much from here, the photos dried up to nothing.... As time had ticked by all day, walking had taken its toll on our average speed, as you'd imagine. Scaling cliffs with our bikes, having to walk pretty well the entire 17km of the plateau in cycling shoes carrying a mountain bike was a tough gig. In fact it was bloody hard. I couldn't physically lift my bike any more towards the end, it was a brutal push, shove, hope kind of operation, but the sting in the tail was to come. We knew where we were pretty well the whole time, but our problem was the speed at which we were travelling. All day we were keeping an eye on the time, as the later it got, the faster we had to travel. Later in the day we were at 10/10ths, running as best we could with our bikes through boulder field after boulder field. Up, over, down and everything in between. We had patchy radio contact with the support people, but with no point of reference, and no way of assisting us, they were spectators. As 3.30pm went by, options were starting to look shaky. Still over 1100m up, we were forced onto a narrow ridgeline that continued along, so narrow we had to pass bikes to one another. If we'd had phone coverage, Jason would have called for a chopper to extract us. Thankfully, that wasn't possible, as I think it would have killed him to have the 000 operator tell him to find a hole to curl up in, have some water, and come down the next day... We considered leaving the bikes until the next day, and simply decided to push on as quick as possible. Taking as few a risks as possible, we descended (on foot mind you) down a super narrow, slippery, cliff top pass, where a fall meant life threatening injury at best. With time seriously working against us, we came to a management vehicle track, and thought we may have been home free. Right up to the point it went back into walking track, unrideable boulder fields...

With the clock passing 4.30pm, and the sun heading in and very unfavorable direction, we ran, jumped, rode, crashed and slide our way off that godforsaken rock and down, unbelievably to a great little flowing singletrack!

(its dirt, it was very welcome after all those rocks!!)

The last 3 kilometres were on a great, dirt singletrack and as we flew out the end of it onto the highway, we were some very relieved fellahs!

We rolled back along the highway for a few k's before pulling the pin, and loading up into the 'cruiser for a quick trip back to camp...

After a bit of decompression (it was shall we say, stressful up there) and a few laughs, we settled into a great roast lamb, and apple pie for desert, and told each other lies around the campfire. Our bodies were far more trashed that usual, our legs look like someone took a meat tenderizer to to them with the rocks and the pedals bashing them all day. The soles of our feel are totally smashed, we have at least 1 rolled ankle a piece, and our backs/abs/shoulders barely function even today. It was an Epix!

And in a final nail for our large box, both my inner aductors decided to offer up the worst cramp I can remember ever having. Screaming, locked in a chair, unable to do anything to help myself, my legs tried to tear themselves apart (and succeeded if today is anything to go by...) and Jason had the good sense to jump up and capture the moment for me :)

So the Grampians Epix was the bad one that we've been waiting to get out of the way. All's well that ends well, we handled it well in some trying conditions, but to look at what could have been, that makes me shudder.... I couldn't say we had fun, but there are some amazing memories and experiences that were had up on that bloody rock! Epix is all about the adventure for us, we love riding, and going an exploring, and we felt that we pushed the to the far end of the scale that we like. Bring it back a few notches (so we actually get to ride, not carry our bikes) and we'll be the happiest kids out there, so look out for the next one!!

Thanks for stopping by, enjoy all the photos and video's, and I know we'll see you back here soon.


Mak said...

and I thought I got frustrated riding single speed all the time an having to walk some parts!!!! Looks like a bit of an adventure was had

Bellie said...

Randall would ride it....soft ;)

Sorry I missed it. Looks like fun.