For a while now I’ve been digging mountain bike tracks at the fabulous Lago Desierto. There are two sites linked in the same company (for those interested there is a website about it here) and the boys had been eager to get down to the other site, Lago Paloma, for a long time. Paloma is the original site with miles of unbeatable singletrack and some of the sickest terrain out there. So we were all stoking when it finally happened and it couldn’t have gone any better.
A quick note on Paloma. There are currently 40-odd trails on the site with more planned in the near future. There is a huge variety of riding there. First of all the terrain varies from open grassland right through to alpine Beech forest. All styles of riding are catered for as well. Over the course of our day we got to ride climbs ranging from smooth and gentle to technically challenging, hit tight technical traverses and smashed downhill’s both flowwy and technical. It’s pretty much paradise.
|The Niner on the move|
The day started bright and early with a jetboat ride to the sister site. From the start the weather was perfect. We went down in two boat trips and I was in the second one. When we arrived the boys had settled into the other lodge. I was quick to knock back a proper coffee from their machine and then we were into the riding.
The first climb, 80/20, wound its way gently up the South-West face of the hillside. This climb snaked its way up the hillside at a steady gradient for a gain of 260 odd vertical metres. The boys mostly stuck together as a group for this and there was a fair bit of bike swapping going on. It was pretty unusual to ride on the baby wheels but I have to admit they weren’t actually so bad.
From here we dropped into the Back Bowls area of Paloma, a valley facing Westwards towards a deep ravine. We split into a couple of groups here as no-one was too sure which tracks were the best to climb. I decided to go up a track called Snakes and Ladders, which headed down the Bowl for a while before climbing back up in a series of switchbacks. The track was pretty pleasant but it was here we ran into our first sign of heavy frost on the track, which made things slightly trickier.
|Dan lurks in Jabba the Hut|
We were ahead of the rest of the boys so we sat in the sun and had a quick bite. They soon caught up and then we headed upwards slightly on the Southern Traverse. At this stage we started running into areas of bush which was a pleasant change. The next track we went onto was Ewok Village, which was a mildly technical climb through the trees. It did feel like the Ewok Village out of Star Wars, with lots of wooden and rock bridges winding through the trees. I had a pretty pathetic stack on the track where I fell off the edge of the track and down a bank into a pile of rocks. It would have looked very funny if anyone had seen it. On Ewok Village there was also a point worth stopping at: Jabba the Hut. This was a hut made out of rocks and wood which had bench seats and a fire pit in it. Basically this place was pimp and I had smoko envy in a big way.
Ewok village rolled on to Alpine Monkey, which I now know is a downhill track. This explains why it was pretty tough going. We were back out in the open and a lot of the frost had melted, making the track boggy and greasy in places. We were all pretty pleased to get up to the LZ (that’s Landing Zone, basically a chopper pad) for a break and some food.
We split into two groups here, with some people taking the correct uphill climb and others, like myself, opting to take a sweet techy xc traverse called Terremoto Traverse and then attempting to ride up a section of steep downhill track called LTD. Terremoto traverse was excellent and I’m really glad I hit it but the climb, Gorse Pockets, sounds like it was a good time also. The traverse was good and tight as it wound through the trees with some rocky sections and tricky corners. For tracks of this nature, this rated as one of the best I have ever ridden. Riding up LTD was a bit of a pipe dream but walking it made us all excited to come down it in the near future.
At the topmost LZ we had climbed a pretty healthy amount (I think somewhere in the 600m range but don’t quote me) and we all enjoyed the opportunity to relax in the sun and take in the scenery. Autumn in Chile is a beautiful time to be in the Patagonian countryside as there are a lot of reds and oranges going on in the trees with snowy mountaintops above. Looking around we could see a lot of sick country and all the boys were pretty fired on the idea of more tracks going in further up or to get in for a reccy on foot (even though seeing either through is unlikely for us).
|Barry covets the Niner|
Once we had recovered sufficiently we started our run down. LTD or Live the Dream was up first and it did not disappoint, with big flowwy corners down its entire run through the forest. Halfway down we saw (for some of us, for the second time) Barry, a creepy cut-out of a person lurking in the trees wearing a yellow raincoat and dark glasses. Barry is pretty hilarious and he’s a good sort once you get to know him. LTD shot out into some rolling open land which would have been better if it wasn’t so wet from the frost. There were big sections of deep mud which somewhat took away from the flow of the track. But we followed a track called the Cattle track along to the Back Bowls and then headed up the Caboda Road.
|Steaming it down LTD|
The boys had been pumped to hit a few tracks because of their reputations. LTD was one. Flow Valley was one. Death Cookies was one. But Super Cougars was probably the most anticipated track of the day. I found it to be slightly too tight for the 29r in places but there is no doubt that it is an incredible bit of single track and left all the boys grinning hugely. The description for the track is downhill flowing and that was exactly what we got.
Back at the Paloma lodge we ruined all of the food we could find. Then we looked at the time and realised we had time for another quick run so it was back onto 80/20. The legs were starting to feel a bit cooked so we were grateful when we managed to scheme a shuttle up with the Caboda driver. Then it was onto Flow Valley. This was possibly track of the day (although LTD and Terremoto Terrace compete). It winds down the hill in a series of swooping turns which were serious fun to ride. Afterwards we went onto Death Cookies which was a bit more of a technical downhill track and also a great time.
Soon we were back on the jetboat home in perfect conditions. The day couldn’t really have gone any better. When we got back we relaxed in the dying sun with some cold cerveza to round out an excellent outing.
|Dan on the front of the jetboat, glassy good times|
More photos here