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Ben Nevis Heli-Bike


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By Captain_Spong - Posted on 25 September 2012

Re: This ride meeting: 
Heli Bike - Ben Nevis


http://youtu.be/5frDaHnkBi8

After several bad weekends and postponements we finally managed to do the Ben Nevis Heli-Bike that we have been looking forward to. This was a big unknown for me, having never been up here, or even on the Downhill Tracks in the forestry at the bottom. When Toby from Reid Helicopters first suggested that this was a possibility, I was a bit doubtful, having been told that it’s basically unrideable; however, others told me that there was some good riding to be had, and based on this we decided to go ahead with it. Three weeks ago there were 28 people on the list to go, but due to other events and commitments this weekend we only managed 15, but as Toby and Rachael were keen to find out if this was going to work as a Heli-Bike in the future, they decided that three loads was enough.
We were originally going to do it earlier in the day, as often the cloud develops a bit later in the day, but due to three of our party being stuck at work until midday, we decided on a later start. As you can see in the Photo above, the cloud was just down on the peak of Ben Nevis, so we actually landed about 100m down the ridge to be safe. Other than a bit of low cloud, the day couldn’t have been any better, with very little breeze and a perfect riding temperature.
So… What was it like. ?.... I though it was great, a real fun and challenging trip with some great views and a wide variety of track types to keep you on your toes.
Starting at the top up on the ridge, its pretty full on, and unless you are fully kitted up with a big suspension bike and balls to go with it then like me you might find that most of the ridge is a walk. I did ride sections of it, and to be honest, next time I will ride a lot more of it, as it wasn’t as bad as it looked once you go going. Rowan Watson and myself partnered up for the trip down. As the first group of downhill boys had taken off before we got up, and the third group were still to come.
Rowan and I are both pretty compatible riders both in skill and sense of humour, so we had a ball on the way down together.
After working our way down the ridgeline to the edge of the Beach Forest, the riding started to become a bit more sustainable, and we had some pretty good runs down to the saddle.
One of the picture below shows Rowan after he did very well negotiating some pretty steep loose rocky stuff around a corner, but just didn’t quite make the turn! We were both kitted up with armour which we didn’t really need, but gave us a bit more confidence on track we were not familiar with.
What I didn’t know was that you descend down to a saddle, and then there is a bit of pushing, climbing and carrying for a while working your way up through some spectacular rocky outcrops with huge drops and spectacular views. This is where you don’t mind the carrying because just being up there in heaven is good enough!
As you can see from the profile below, from the saddle back up to the next peak requires several little climbs and clambers over rocky outcrops. Each one is unique and some have pretty spectacular drops and views from them. You are basically following the very edge of the ridge all the way down, and you have a great outlook over toward the Private Wairoa MTB Park and can see several of the trails winding their way down the hill.
Once you get to the second peak, there is some great riding from here and it’s almost completely rideable from here down to the top carpark. Before you get to the carpark however, you come across the Private helipad and top of the Private MTB Tracks on this side of the valley with some pretty big and obvious signage that tells you that you are not welcome to ride them!
Once down at the top carpark, there is a great run down the Downhill Tracks to follow. These tracks are used a lot, and due to the fact that the road is open up to the top carpark, many of the downhillers come here and spend the day shuttling up and down, hence the reason some of these tracks are so used and well maintained. While there are lots of pretty wild jumps and elephant traps, they all have chicken lines for the likes of me which made riding them a lot of fun. Some of the big bermed corners enticed me to let the brakes off and “let ‘er rip”
Our only casualty of the day was Auks who ended up riding all the big stuff and then loosing it on the road on the way out giving himself a decent set of gravel rashes to take home to show his wife! When we found him at the side of the road he was a bit confused as to where he was and was looking for where he had parked his car, which he would never find as he got a lift up with me! He had even forgotten that he had been up in the Helicopter. By the time I got him back to Nelson he was back in the real world, so I dropped him home to his wife with instructions that he better go have a checkup if there were any signs of problems.
Rowan and I both had GoPro cameras on our helmets, and there was some good footage to play with so I have edited up a bit of a video of the ride and posted it up on Youtube so you can get an idea of what it’s like up there. Just beware though that the cameras make it look a lot less steep and rocky than it actually is, so bear that in mind when watching it.
Would I do it again – Hell yes, and we are going to do another run up there in November for those that missed out this time round and anyone else who this might inspire to join us!

Photo's
Ben Nevis as seen from about half way down
Rowan coming down ridge with Helicopter in background
Rowan heading toward the bushline
Rowan haveing a "Rest"
Rowan scrabbling over one of the rocky bits
Some of the great Beach Forest
The Track Profile

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