That iconic twisting and winding road up to Mt Buller always gives us a giddy feeling of anticipation and excitement. As we climb we feel the air cool, the view out the window shifts from flat brown Victorian plains to towering alpine gum forests, we hear the roar of the mighty Delatite River in the valley. It’s a good feeling; the more elevation we gain, the more we’re pumped to start plummeting back down in the opposite direction on sweet Buller singletrack. Giddy up!
But this trip was different; we were meeting to ride with the one and only Josh Carlson. Ranked number 10 in the world in the highly competitive and thrilling scene of enduro racing, Josh ain’t a slouch on a bike. We’d ridden with him once before in Buller, at the official opening of the fantastic Stonefly descent a few years ago, needless to say, it didn’t end well, and with a thud to the dirt, we learnt never again to try and match his speed through the corners.
There’s a very valid reason Josh is employed to race, while we are not.
We invited Josh to film him ride Buller like we all do but at his pace. From the hotel, we warmed our bones on the rising sun and set off on our way, we blasted the top of Copperhead and split out to scoot through the town over towards Gang Gangs to begin our big ride towards Mt Stirling, way off in the distance.
As we flicked and railed our way down the mint turns of Wooly Butt trail, the morning sun lit up the greenery around us, giving us the warm and fuzzy feels. The trails felt great beneath our tyres and looked like a total dream.
The vast Stonefly ascent lay out before us as we began to climb what must be one of the most picturesque trails in the alpine region, the colours, the running creeks, the bark peeling off the trees ahead of summer and that superb mountain air numbed our fatigue and hid the dull burn in our legs.
Some of the best sections of trail are on this climb, the stark contrasts of the sun-bleached gums, dry and white from bushfire against the vibrant flowers and lush green undergrowth. We pause at Willow’s Breeze and remember a good mate, and push on towards Bluff Spur for a bite to eat.
The Mt Stirling Summit is a real burner; your legs will hate you and your lungs won’t let you forget what you did to them, but getting to the top is so damn rewarding that nothing else matters. The views are enormous, and you can see where you’ve come from, Mt Buller is a long way away in the distance, that’s where that sense of achievement comes from.
When you know you’re at the absolute top, with everything below it’s a pretty sweet feeling. To get down to Mirimbah there is much ground to cover, so we let it rip and hammered our way down the fire trail from the summit to the start of the Stonefly descent.
Ripping past the sign signalling the beginning of the 4km singletrack descent, it was time to turn it up and ride the narrow and twisting trail that we know and love.
Between us and the beginning of the Delatite River Trail is not exactly anyone’s favourite climb, Trigger Happy. It might be scenic, but it is steep and the best way to get to the Corn Hill Summit. We take our time and grind the final climb of the day.
Clancy’s Run is a real ball tearer, with huge swooping bowls and deeply banked turns the dusty and rocky trail is not to be taken lightly, but with excellent visibility and predictability the speeds creep up and up, and we were flying.
It’s at the bottom of Clancy’s Run that the formidable Delatite River Trail begins, it may be a fire trail but it’s ridden at the type of speeds that you’d be hard pressed to match anywhere else. It’s a rush, a wild and rapid mad dash down alongside the raging river and over it a dozen times across gargantuan bridges made from fallen trees.
Bursting out to the valley floor, with bike and body in one piece, buzzing and exhausted, it’s that Buller feeling we came for. Ahh, yeah. That’s real mountain biking all right.
Signing off the epic day is a tradition we can’t miss, watching the sunset with a beer from the Mt Buller Summit. Cheers.