The Old Ghost RoadIntermediate
Submitted by Malcolm Law
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Back country - remote
Point to Point (one way)
Native bushRiversideOpen ridges/tops
This route is part of the Tailwind Ultra Collection
Starting from the Mokihinui (north) end you get a long, largely gentle ascent alongside the Mokihinui River, often with great views down into its fast-flowing awesomeness. At the 17k mark you reach Specimen Point Hut.
The trail then continues through the bush, never far from the main river and crossing several side creeks, until Goat Creek is reached. Ignore the right-hand turn to Goat Creek Hut and instead continue straight on. Up until now it's been pretty cruise but the hard work is about to start with a 300m climb over just a couple of kms.
After cresting the hill at Solemn Saddle the trail becomes more rocky and technical as it descends toward an area known as the 'Boneyard' - watch your footing here, a fall on this stuff really hurts! A couple of kms after the Boneyard you have re-entered the bush and arrive at Stern Valley Hut, which marks the half way point of your run (more or less)
Beyond the hut the trail continues to follow Stern Creek, ascending gradually at first and then becoming steeper, eventually reaching the infamous Skyline Steps. The effort of climbing these is rewarded with stunning views as you break out on to an open ridge at the top of them. Stunning vistas now abound as you follow the ridge south.
A steep descent and a long re-ascent on zigzagging trail bring you out to the gorgeous Ghost Lake and just beyond, perched precariously and imperially at the top of some impressive bluffs, is Ghost Lake Hut. But you're not yet done with the climbing, for beyond there is still another 150+m of ascent before you reach the high point of the trail and another long traverse across the open tops with stunning views in every direction.
Shortly after passing under Mt Montgomery the trail re-enters the bush and you now have what is probably longest downhill you've ever run to the finish at Lyell - some 23k of well graded running on moderate/easy trail that is an absolute blast if there's anything left in your legs.
PLEASE NOTE: If running the Old Ghost Road in a day please consider contributing to trail maintenance - This can be done via the Day-Users contribution link
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Features of interest
In the North West corner of the South Island of New Zealand a ghost has awakened. A long-forgotten gold miners' road has been revived as a mountain biking and tramping/running trail - connecting the old dray road in the Lyell (Upper Buller Gorge) to the mighty Mokihinui River in the north. The 85km-long Old Ghost Road traverses majestic native forest, open tussock tops, river flats and forgotten valleys.
Make Up of Run
Technical Single Track: 5%
Moderate Single Track: 30%
Easy Single Track: 65%
Rough & Tumble Lodge, Mokihinui Rd, just inland of Seddonville.
It can also be run from the Lyell end where there is plenty of parking.
This north - south route description uses the same direction as that used in the Old Ghost Ultra race that is held every February.
There are several transport operators that can help if you don't have two cars or a support driver. Check out https://oldghostroad.org.nz/transportation/
Make navigation of this route super-easy by using the Capra app on your phone. View on Capra .
The trail is very obvious and well signposted the whole way.
Thermal leggings, Lightweight fleece top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival blanket, Cellphone, Map, Headtorch and spare batteries, Crampons / microspikes (for winter conditions).
All streams that you come across are safe to drink from and all huts should have good quality drinking water. That said there aren't a lot of easily accessible streams in the first half of the run so it would pay to set off with a min of 1.5L and top up whenever you get the opportunity.
The trail is very well made to MTB standard so withstands most weather pretty well, but the tops get snow and ice in winter. Realistically this is a late spring/summer/early autumn run if you want to get through in a day.
Watch out for mountain bikers - this is a dual use track. One advantage of running it north - south is that you'll be running TOWARDS most of the MTB traffic.
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