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YONDER JOURNAL: BRODRICK PASS

With the help of sturdy shoes, bombproof bikes, and a local helicopter service, six Yonder Journal riders traverse New Zealand’s South Island.

Since our very first days on the bike, the allure of adventure has been at the very heart of the ride. In the days of our youth, it meant striking out to the furthest outskirts of the neighborhood. Our worlds felt small then, but as we grew, so did life's enormity. What once seemed small and understandable slowly became intangible and out of reach. The bike, however, has never waivered in its ability to break down borders, whether physical or mental.

Our friends at Yonder Journal share this feeling. They understand the intrinsic value of adventure, which is why we've dispatched them to seek it out and follow it wherever it might lead. Through their travels, we'll reconnect to the essence of riding, to the adventurous heart of the bicycle. Check back often to follow their travels, exploits, and finds.

NEW ZEALAND

DEAD RECKONING

“The act of deducing (guessing) your current location (in the absence of proper equipment like a sextant or GPS unit) using a known starting point (the fix) and estimated speeds and direction is called, all puns aside, Dead Reckoning.” - Yonder Journal*.

*Yonder Journal is a group of cultural anthropologists and sportsmen compelled into the Wilderness to explore, document and publish a lasting and meaningful record of our experiences there. Through a collection of Reports, Briefs and Guides we endeavor to understand and relate those people, places and pursuits under the purview of Yonder. Dead Reckoning and the ideology behind adventure by bike speak directly to our mission. Visit Yonder Journal for a more in-depth study of Dead Reckoning and additional investigations into the nature and meta-nature of Wilderness.

Is it not perhaps true that the bicycle is man’s most ingenious, most capable, most enjoyable mode of transportation? Self-reliant, dependable, lightweight, and highly functional, a bicycle has the ability to quickly cover ground with a pace that so perfectly contributes to the traveling experience. Still, the general consensus is that bicycle functionality is relegated to established tracks, to the world of roads, paths, and trails. Yonder Journal believes this to be patently false and in 2015, with the gracious support of Specialized Bicycles, we seek to explore the boundaries and edges of what can be done on a bicycle. We will ride, walk, carry, push, float, ascend, descend, and overland across the globe in attempt to redefine just what is possible from the saddle of a bicycle. We will carry our gear, be self-supported, and take care of ourselves; we will be bikepacking, ultra-lightweight touring, and overlanding. We have set lofty, audacious goals, and while we hope to achieve all that we have planned we are not afraid of failure, because it’s through failure that we learn to excel. This coming year we will travel to five different locations around the globe, each location presents a different set of problems and will require us to use our bikes in different, unique ways. For each trip we will catalogue the trials and challenges that we faced through photography, words, and other resources in order to contribute to a global understanding of what it means to have an adventure on two wheels.

Our first trip was to New Zealand where it was supposedly summer, where we would ride our AWOLs across the south island from east to west laying down fresh tracks in places where bicycles had never been before. But how would we do this? A friend of a friend of a friend turned out to be the perfect guide, Paul was game. We told him we wanted to go over mountains, and we wanted to avoid established routes, we wanted to ride bikes where they had never been ridden before. After a weeks of back and forth we established a route; we would head out from Dunedin traveling west, towards the opposite coast, and while we would face a wide variety of challenging terrain along the way, the crux of expedition would be our passage over a little unknown break in the Southern Alps called Brodrick Pass, after which we would rendezvous with a rafting outfit based in Wanaka that would take us out to the sea. On the map with your fingers pinched the distances appeared reasonable, the elevation gain achievable, so we made our best guesses, bought our tickets, packed our bags and flew halfway around the world to ride our bikes over a pass that no one had ever heard of.

There were six of us, a full band: Paul (the guide), Patrick (the coach), Benedict (the muscle), Erik (the dark), Daniel (the eye), and myself (the support). Over a period of six days we would ride paved roads, gravel roads, double track, single track, livestock track, no track, sand, rocks, rivers, and mountains. We would face howling winds, freezing rain, newly fallen snow, nearly vertical switchbacks, sweltering heat, endless false flats, countless flat tires, aggressive washboard, swollen rivers, glacial runoff, and miles upon miles of some of the most beautiful country we had ever seen. On the fifth day of our journey, we woke in the pre-dawn darkness to a misting swarming rain that would quickly morph into an all-out jungle squall. We had been covering sixty kilometers a day over rough terrain and we had six more to go before we reaching the hut on the eastern slope of Brodrick Pass. Shouldn’t be a problem we thought, but as we hiked up the quickly swelling river that twisted through the nearly vertical valley that would act as our trail, our progress came nearly to a halt as we were forced to repeatedly ford waist and chest deep sections of frigid water, and scramble over rain slicked boulders and scree fields. Six hours and five and a half kilometers later, when Erik was nearly sucked under water while crossing a wild thrashing tributary just a half kilometer from the Brodrick Hut and the spectre of serious bodily harm looming before us we decided to set up an emergency bivouac on the side of the valley. We struggled through the shaking signs of hypothermic onset as we set up our humble shelters and waited out the tempest. Four hours later the storm passed and we tanned our gear in an alpine field as Paul attempted to reach our raft guide via satellite phone.

In the end we would make it only as far as the hut. We needed to make contact with our raft guide before heading over the pass or else we risked being very very stranded at a rendezvous point where our only option would be retracing our steps back three days to the nearest sign of humanity. We never made contact with our guide. We ended our trip out of food and out of time stranded two days into the bush, and we had no choice but to call in a helicopter evacuation. As we flew out over the Southern Alps we saw no trails and witnessed no people, we were leaving nothing behind and we were taking all of our memories with us. Read the entire story at Yonder Journal.

Total Distance - 187 Miles
Total Altitude Gain - 11,854 Feet
Longest Day - 57.8 Miles
Shortest Day - 2.8 Miles
Highest Daily Average Speed - 8.9 miles per hour
Lowest Daily Average Speed - .9 miles per hour