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Richmond Saddle Hut - Grade 5 Overnighter

Richmond Saddle Hut - Grade 5 Overnighter

With the 2019 Richmond Roulette only two months away and with no one having rode (to our knowledge) Mt Richmond

Getting ready at the bottom
Loading up ready for the long climb.

 

The ride started at the Top Valley road carpark at midday. Right of the bat there is a river crossing to wet your feet followed by a 300m climb up a 4WD road to the start of the track itself. Once at the start of the track you will pretty much have to push and carry your bike the majority of the way to the top. Most of the track is too steep, rocky, rooty or all of the above to ride. 

Mt Richmond
Mt Richmond.


Richmond Saddle Track
Richmond Saddle Track.

 

Richmond Ranges Beech Forest
Richmond Ranges Beech Forest.

Riding MTB in Richmond Ranges
A short but rideable section on the way to the top.

 

About halfway up the climb, the ridge momentarily flattens off and you can ride a few sections, getting you excited for what's to come on the way back down. Parts of the ridge are pretty exposed, with some serious drops down the sides. Ride and push with care!

Riding up to Richmond Saddle Hut
Riding up to Richmond Saddle Hut.

Richmond Ranges Bikepacking
The ridge has plenty of great little vistas like this one on the way up.

Rocky outcrops on richmond saddle
Rocky outcrops on Richmond Saddle.

 

Pushing up to Mt Richmond Saddle
Pushing up to Mt Richmond Saddle.

Rocky richmond saddle
Rocky Richmond Saddle.

 

After the climb up the main ridge, the track traverses over to Richmond saddle. While the pushing is a bit easier and some sections are ridable, the going is still tough. There are a couple of streams you can get water from along this section but I would guess that during the summer months they are bone dry.

Climbing the last bit up to Richmond Saddle
If you don't like carrying your bike, this trip isn't for you.

Richmond Saddle Hut
Richmond Saddle Hut

After reaching Richmond Saddle hut we ditched the bags and headed up above the tree line to get a bit of a descent in before the sunset. The views were spectacular,  spanning from Nelson to right down to the Kaikoura ranges.

Pushing up towards Mt Richmond
Richmond ranges alpine riding at its best.

Santa Cruz Bronson with Stealth Frame Bag
Santa Cruz Bronson with Stealth Frame Bag

Richmond Ranges Vista
Richmond Ranges Vista

Heading back down to Richmond Saddle Hut
Heading back down to Richmond Saddle Hut.

Richmond Saddle mountain bike riding
Dappled light on the descent back down to the hut made the riding even more challenging.

Enjoying the last of the sun
Enjoying the last of the sun.

 

Once back at the hut we enjoyed a beer while watching the sunset. We ate our dehydrated meals and were promptly horizontal. I had the pleasure of doing this trip with some great mates who all enjoyed the suffering of the climb and exhilaration of the descent. Thanks to Scotty who summarised the second day of the trip below.

The hut is in a grass clearing at Richmond saddle. The saddle has views out towards the north, and is sheltered from the south by mystical native bush. The hut itself is excellent, with bunks for 8 people and a pot belly stove. There is a rain water tank which is very handy for mid summer missions where fluid requirements are high - so long as you take treatment drops to be safe.


Richmond Saddle Descent
Richmond Saddle Descent.

 

The descent back out from the hut next morning was simply spectacular. The terrain is amazing. Above the tree line lies steep and scary alpine riding of the highest order. The rock is jagged and often moves under your wheels, but the rush is rivalled only by the astonishing views. You can get your bike up to about 1400m, and everything below you is rideable, but only just. Once into the bush the trail is lined by towering beech trees, and winds down a perfect tacky ribbon between fluorescent yellow green moss. The upper half of the ridge the ridge involves rough straights and some very chunky rock gardens, with very steep and technical sections along the way. We often found ourselves puzzling over seemingly impassable sections until someone was brave enough to have a go. Cleaning the whole track is possible, but you’ll need to have your endo’s and brake control dialled, and sometimes a little bit of ‘bones mend, press send’ attitude. The lower half mellows out in intensity, but the pace really picks up as you find yourself diving into chutes and taking outrageous high lines all the way to the bottom of the trail. Although we all had at least one crash, nobody suffered worse than scrapes and bruises, and we all agreed that it was one of the best trails we’d ever ridden.


Mt Richmond Descent
Mt Richmond Descent.

Richmond Saddle Grade 5 Bikepacking
Pablo navigating through a tight rocky section.

Richond Saddle Rocky Descent
Tom working his way through a chunky section.

Santa Cruz Bronson set up for overnight bikepacking
Santa Cruz Bronson set up for overnight bikepacking. Managed to fit everything I needed into the mini bar harness, frame bag, Happy Sack and Hightop bumbag,

The descent back down including the traverse back to the main ridge takes about an hour and a half, with a bit of time spent mucking around on a few features. If you think this ride might be to your liking then I would recommend walking the track first. Also make sure to check fire restrictions and river levels before you go.