MONS JOURNAL | INTERVIEW
Conor Macfarlane is no stranger to backcountry missions, and is usually exploring some of the most beautiful and remote areas accessible to mountain bikers. With the launch of A Screeeming Good Time, the first episode in his new series Natural Lines we caught up with Conor to chat about his recent scree hunting adventure, and he tells us about what makes the New Zealand backcountry so special.
We are stoked to be following your journey with Natural Lines – tell us a bit about how you chose your first mission?
I’ve have always enjoyed riding screes. They’re super hard to find in New Zealand but while we were staying in the Canterbury Region, on the way back from The Dodzey Memorial Race, I hiked up a mountain with my bike and spotted some amazing scree. So, I knew I had to come back and do a full mission in the area.
Who joined you on this scree hunting mission?
Casey Brown, Robin Goomes, photographer Jay French and videographer Paul Rayner. We ended up basing ourselves at Fowler’s pass, and camped at Stanley Vale Hut and Lake Tennyson.
Why Canterbury, and not somewhere local?
I haven’t found much scree in the local Queenstown area that is good, with a few exceptions. Most of the scree here is too big, and even if it’s good at the top, quite often the bottom is a boulder field. I looked at a few areas further north, but they were too chunky and not fully rideable. The scree we found (in Canterbury) for this trip was good – the whole way down. We found a slope which was 1km long and 700 vert, which was epic.
Why scree slopes?
It’s the freedom of it –you’re not restricted to a track. I find scree fun; likeskiing, you can go wherever youchoose, carvingyour ownway down the hill;and it’s quite relaxing. I love being in the mountains, whetherit’s on a bike or not.
Obviously, there’s a bit of gear and a few people to think about when you’re in a group. How did you prepare for the trip?
I’m pretty used to packing for overnight, but whenyou’re on a bike youhave to spend more time considering the weightof your kit. We were covering approximately 20km each day with our full kit –I can now see why people spend money on lightweight gear!Having saddle bags and handlebar bagsmade a hell of a difference to the trip. If you have the weight on your back, especiallywith a big bag, itpresses you down into your seat. My main aim was to try to getthe balance between the kit being light, while still having everything you need.
Did you have to carry all your food too?
We took just enough food to last us – heaps of snacks and backcountry meals. I should probably have taken more because I eat a lot. I was laughing when I watched the film back, there was a lot of the footage was just of me eating.
Trying to figure out how far you can go in a day was challenging too. I guess I’m used to going by myself, chugging away and not stopping. I tend to plan around how long I think it would take just me, but you’re only as fast as everyone else. On our next mission I’d schedule in more time.
“I love putting myself in the hurt box & chugging up the hill”
That was my next question, what was is like having the rest of the crew with you?
It was all good, I knew I wanted people along, doing it myself would have been boring. I’ve invited people on other missions before and they didn’t know what they were getting themselves in for, so that was my main concern. The first thing that popped into my head was whether the crew knew what was involved, and did they want to hike a bike up these huge scree slopes? I knew that both Robin and Casey had done some gnarly stuff before, they’ve both been to RedBull Formation, so I was like yeah nah, I knew they’d be sweet and there wasn’t a single complaint the whole trip.
Have you always been drawn to the mountains?
The last couple of years I’ve really enjoyed being out in the mountains.My family draggedmeinto the hills as a kid and I didn’t necessarily want to be there.Now though, it’s pretty much all I want to do at the weekend. I thinkthat desire slowly caught up with me, it’s in my genes. I’m not the most social person in the world,and I enjoy getting out, being away from everything, andfree from the hustle and bustle. It’s good to get away and clear your head.
We agree! Is that what makes the NZ backcountry so special to you?
What makes it special for me I think is a combination of everything. Beautifulscenery, good physicalactivity and thenworking towardswhatever goal you’ve got – whether you want to go point to point, go here, to here, or here up, to there; whatever it is! Ienjoy a good blow outtoo;you know when you just cook yourself, and you feel like you’ve done something great for the day.
Last question, what was the trip highlight?
Probably the 1000mscree, because it was so long which isunusual in scree riding.Also, the fact that (the trip) worked out. When we got therethe screes wereactually good,there would be nothing worse than hikingall the wayup with bikes and gearto find something you couldn’t ride!