Heli-Biking of a different kind.
This summer they are offering an overnight, heli, hike and bike adventure they call 'Yocals'. Myself, wife Kylie and son Ezra set off from the aerodrome in Glenorchy at about 1030am. Dan fills us in with some history on the extensive Scheelite mining that occurred in this area, while Christine runs us through a safety briefing. The 5 of us are lifted by our chopper up above the mines, my boys face is filled with excitement, pointing out all the huts, mines and mountains as we ascend to 1500 metres and land at Mt Alaska. Dan and the pilot work together to offload our bikes and here locked they will spend the night. The trail above this point is a bit 'risky' to ride. Back to the chopper, we circle Mt Alaska and climb above the valleys below, in the distance we see the summit of Mt Larkins and our wee cosy, circular hut some 400 metres vertical below. Our pilot brings us down, with the blades still spinning Dan and Christine open the hut and over the noise welcome us 'home' for the night. We wave them off and watch the Heli disappear over the ridge. Silence. The juxtaposition of such noise to sudden peacefulness makes the moment impactful.
My son is keen to poke his head over every immediate ridge, we run around exploring and rolling a few stones to his excitement while Kylie prepares a daypack at the hut. We couldn't come all this way without summiting Mt Larkins.
Within an hour we were on our way. To be honest I suffer from a mild case of vertigo and to say I didn't have a lump in my throat looking at the ridge we needed to gain I'd be lying. It did look a lot steeper that it really was. Ezra was skipping up, until a point. Just shy of the saddle still on the ridge we came to a rocky bluff. The exposure got me frozen for a moment. My son lead the way up giving me the poke I needed to release my grip and keep moving!
Ninety minutes from leaving the hut we were high fiving each other on the 2300 metre summit. Feeling a million miles away but just 20 kilometres as the crow flies away from home.
After a delicious lunch just below the peak and many a laugh trying to communicate with the local mountain goats we descended home to our mountain cabin. After a 3 hour round trip and exhausted we found some silence, read a book in the long grass and relaxed.
We took some great shots at sunset before heading into the cabin. The hut is complete with a log burner so keeping toasty was easy, cooking in the kitchen we made a delicious batch of fajitas before playing some cards and climbing into or sleeping bags for a well earned rest.
We awoke at sunrise and I hopped outside still in my bag to greet the first rays. Some coffee and omelettes we packed up and began our hike down and around Mount Alaska back to our bikes. Our home for the night was a welcome reprieve from the distractions of modern day life. A chance to really connect and be inspired by challenge and the amazing nature abound. Our decent was meant to take about an hour, but it took two we didn't want to rush it and two groups of hikers lead to some friendly conversation. We descended scree fields, navigated slips and passed old derelict cabins. Every turn offered a new vista. Just as Ezra's legs started to tire we came to the side of Mt Alaska and back to our bikes.
Being a riding family we were really looking forward to this. We loaded our packs and headed on our decent, down and down, the trail got more blown out and obscure as we continued. Kylies' anxiousness in regards to our whereabouts was now apparent but I did my best to conceal my uncertainty. We finally go to an impassable slip. It was time to fess up and admit I'd taken us 250 vertical metres in the wrong direction and we would need to push up. I wasn't the teams most valued player at that point but we started our ascent and before too long came to the switch back I had previously missed. Now on the proper 'Zig-Zag' trail out decent took us 1100 vertical metres, approximately 10 kilometres down past miners cabins, over creeks, through native forest, along valleys and passing Scheelite mines before returning to the Glenorchy aerodrome where our adventure had begun.
The trip was more than just the bike, other than the great exercise, it was truly an experience steeped with history, nature, excitement and simple conversation between us that created a moment of punctuation for our family this summer to look back on. Thanks Dan and Christine.
Justin, Kylie and Ezra Worth