Sunday, 10 January 2016

The 'S' Word - Safety

Just a reminder you will traveling in some remote alpine areas during the Great Southern Brevet and although this is the height of summer the weather can change rapidly. Safety (yours) is paramount and as this is a self-supported adventure you will be the first and last decision maker on whether to proceed or not should the weather, or other obstacle, pose a problem.

The New Zealand Mountain Safety Council's Outdoor Safety Code (see ) is a good starting point. Points 1 and 2 are pretty much taken care of as you will be following the GSB route and have a SPOT Tracker with you.  Points 3, 4, and 5 require you to be aware of the conditions. Below are a few of the hazards you should be aware of:


The 2012 edition of the Great Southern Brevet saw not one but two significant snow dumps in Central Otago during the week of the Brevet. Unusual enough to make the front page of the Otgao Daily Times.

Snap? It certainly was fast in 2012

Snow in the Hakataramea Valley in 2012
Be aware of the weather and know your limits. Crossing the Pisa Range or the Old Woman Range should only be done if conditions allow. There will be alternative routes for these crossings in case of extreme weather. They will be posted and added to the route GPX.


Yes, as benign as it might sound at altitude the wind can get up to astonishing speeds. The telltale sign is the presence of lenticular clouds. Those beautiful fluffy white shapes just above the ridgelines.

Lenticular cloud above the Cairnmuir Mountains in Central Otago
On the Pisa Range the area known as ''Sally's Pinch' just after Mt Pisa funnels wind through a narrow gap and winds speeds as so high not even lichen grows on the rocks.

Sally's Pinch on the Pisa Range, devoid of any vegetation
Crossing with a fully loaded bike on a windy day is a serious challenge.


Rivers rise fast in heavy rain in the Mackenzie and Central Otago. The main river crossings you will encounter are in the Manuherikia West Branch. Although there have been previously reported to be a half dozen or so crossings of the river, more reliable sources put it at 17 to 20 crossings ;-)

A much nicer day to cross the river

It goes without saying that you must assume all roads are open to vehicles and you could encounter a 4WD or Quad bike or other vehicle at any time. In general when you are off the main roads and on the back roads vehicle traffic is not so common.

However the route this year crosses several busy busy regional roads as well as crossing State Highway 1 in two places (near Dunedin). Please be wary of oncoming traffic and keep in mind your fully loaded brevet bike is not as nimble or fast accelerating as your usual ride.

Peak hour traffic again :-(
The Coast Road to Karitane crosses the railway line several times so caution is needed. Although there are no passenger services anymore there are frequent freight trains at all hours of the day so please check before flying through a crossing. From recollection most have signals but one or two do not.

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