Hot on the heals of his win at the Kepler Challenge, and earlier in the year being crowned the Aust/NZ Skyrunning Series Champ, Altra Athlete Sam McCutcheon teamed up with Danny Garrett to tackle the famed “S-K” route in the Tararua Ranges. Here’s Sam’s trip report-
The Schormann to Kaitoke (S-K) is a route that traverses the Tararua Ranges from Putara in the north to Kaitoki in the South (the track used to start at Schormann track but this has since been closed).
S-K profile- it is 77km with 6,800mD+ and it is tough.
[profile from https://tararuafkt.wordpress.com/routes/s-k/]
I first heard about the S-K when I went for a run with Chris Martin and his crew earlier in the year. At that stage I thought it sounded cool but was a bit beyond me. But as the year went on and I got a few more runs in the idea of completing the S-K started to appeal a bit more. This was almost definitely helped by the fact that Danny Garret kept talking about how the FKT (fastest known time) was on offer (current FKT was 19 hours 20 minutes).
Sam making his way South along the Tararua’s at sunrise.
Long story short we decided to give the FKT a crack this weekend. Now I need to mention that I would not have been able to do this without Danny. Aside from the logistics, there is about a c. 5hour section of the trail that is un-marked (from just after Herepai until just before Anderson Hut) and you just navigate along the ridge. This was alright yesterday as the visibility was good but in bad conditions I don’t think I would trust my map reading ability.
17 December 2016 – Up at 1.30am for the drive to Putara, 3.45am started running. We had the weather on our side. Clear skies and hardly any wind (this became a bit of a negative later on as the day started to heat up).
The track can only be described as relentless. I would describe this as more of a glorified tramp than a run. The climbs are steep and technical, the descents are the same. I can’t remember more 100m of flat trail in the whole thing.
Against the brutality this course is beautiful. We had unbelievable weather and could see the entire range and all the way up to Mt Ruapehu. The sunrise was an epic red line along the east and the mist/clouds were rolling down the ridges like lava.
There are two aspects that will stick out in my mind for a long time. The first was the approach to Anderson Hut I had hit the wall, big time. I was a little under prepared as to how tough this was going to be and starting out without specific preparation and a with the legs a little tired was a mistake. Given we were hardly half way I didn’t think I was going to make it but a small rest and a lot of sugar I managed to box on.
The second is the Marchant Ridge. This is right at the end of the track and it goes on forever. We were racing daylight at this stage with not much left on the legs. The track is full of tree roots so you can’t get much momentum and you are continuously climbing and descending. This was mentally the toughest part of the course for me.
In the end Danny and I came out in Kaitoke in 18 hours 15 minutes and managed to break the record by 1 hour 5 minutes. I have never been happier for a run to end. We were both very happy with the result although I think Danny had a bit more time in him if he didn’t have to drag me through the middle section.
Thumbs up if you just set the S-K FKT!