The Tararua Up and Down
We started at 3.08am after Ron rushed me through my morning routine at about twice my normal speed. Other than thinking about whether I’d remembered to lock my car, I was thinking about the wind and at what speed it would be driving up on the tops.
We arrived at Herepai Hut without too much fuss. Ron had complained about hitting all the spider webs since he was leading but that only improved my tired mood. As we headed out of the tree-line, we were rewarded with great views of dark clag. It was still pre sunrise so there was time for improvement.
By Dundas, we realised clag was on the breakfast and brunch menus. The expected winds had arrived with some rain but the torches were off and we were in good moods. Ron had been navigating while I was assisting with comments like “maps are good for telling you where to go” and “this cloud makes it hard to see huh”. We were both providing equally to the cause, but, be that as it may, without Ron I might still be roaming around in the mist in the Northern Tararuas. In the future, people would be afraid to enter the Northern Tararuas at night for fear they’d come across the ghost of me still wandering around looking for the correct ridge.
On the way down Arete, we got our first views of the valleys below and it was quite a sight. It was great to not only see the valleys but to see the path ahead and to guess where Dracophyllum Biv might be situated. After about two minutes we were both well and truly sick of the view and requested for the clouds to return, and so back they came.
Surprisingly my guess as to where Drac Biv was, was well off. Another under-estimation which was the standard method of estimation I was using on the trip. Once we arrived, I aimed myself toward the water tank while Ron headed for the toilet. I downed some water and ate another one of my acclaimed salami wraps. Ron ate one of his dry marmite and cheese sandwiches which looked to have been made with very little care. He insisted he was happy with them but we both knew that I had outshined him in the food department. We were able to see the mountains ahead of us again and so we headed off with Mt Nichols in our sights.
Nichols and Andersons came and went with little drama. We were starting to get use to the idea that the SK involved a lot of up and downs. The up to Aokaparangi looked like a big up and as it turns out, it was. As we climbed, we discussed the possibility of DOC building 400-500m long bridges across and over the saddles so that we wouldn’t have to head down and back up each time we reached a high point. There were a few other bright ideas thought up in our brain-storm such as building tunnels and flattening the steeper hills with bulldozers. At some stage we are going to have to pass on our suggestions to DOC because they were certainly interesting.
As we headed down Aokaparangi, Ron looked sore and sick of the downhills. He’s not what I would call a mountain goat on downhills, he’s more like a giraffe or an ant eater. I like the downhills myself but this section was gnarly and had a troubling effect on me as well. I was ready to see Mangahuka Hut 20 minutes before we actually arrived. Ron dealt with some sock issues (they had holes in them) while I filled our water containers from a tap similar to a fire hydrant. Fuck it was frustrating.
We left Mangahuka for the ladder which was my favourite section. Steep drops and climbs, and some dizzying views. At the ladder we came across a group of three heading for Mangahuka Hut.
“Where are you headed?”
“Kaitoke” We replied.
Their jaws dropped to the ground and they all started clapping while bowing to us.
“Wow, you guys are amazing!”
That didn’t actually happen. It would’ve been a great boost of confidence though. We just said hello and bye, and they mentioned that it would be dark soon. The sun was retreating like a scared little cat behind the clouds and horizon. Before it completely disappeared we saw some ominous looking clouds approaching us from behind with a confident swagger. This was also when big rocks started to look like signs and people to me. My mind was getting tired too.
The Bridge Peak climb kept giving and giving. It was like some sort of sick pain Christmas. The rain had started as well and it was different from before. Maybe it was because I was tired but it felt colder like it had been in the fridge before reaching us. The earlier rain felt like it had come from the pantry. The wind was also picking up so it was relief to reach Kime Hut at about 10.30pm.
The hut was full of sleeping people so we stayed in the hut lobby while we put on all of our wet weather clothes. I ate my 11th and final wrap, and thought about how Ron had scoffed at me when he saw the amount of food I was bringing before we started this assignment. Ron didn’t look like he could handle a “I told you I would be able to eat all eleven wraps” speech so I stayed quiet. Instead I listened to the rain and wind pelting on the hut. We left very reluctantly.
About half-way up Mt Hector from Kime Hut, Ron stopped and turned to me.
“Do you reckon we should be out here? This is a bit silly. We could go back to the hut”
I could barely see him through the rain. I really didn’t want to go back to a hut full of people and I actually felt OK and warm enough to carry on. Also, I was thinking about the following morning if we stayed there. In my mind, it would be the worst morning walk of shame to walk through. I was leaning heavily towards the ‘carry on’ side of fence. I was still in the frame of mind that we were going to make it to Kaitoke.
After some back and forth we decided we had the safety gear needed to survive a night on the tops if something happened. With that in mind we carried on. In retrospect, I probably wouldn’t have carried on. I was just assuming that the conditions wouldn’t get any worse and that we were both feeling good.
Anyway, it got pretty cold and we were moving pretty slow. We made it to Alpha Hut and had decided we’d have a meeting in the hut to decide what we were going to do. Once in the hut, I was fully over on the ‘don’t carry on’ side of the fence and the fence didn’t have a gate anymore so there was no way back to the other side. Ron made a fire and I wrapped myself up in my emergency blanket and fell into an hour long sleep. The rest of the night was spent cold in my sweat but I felt safe in the hut sheltered from the weather outside.
We were a sad, sorry state in the morning. I was wearing a stupid looking orange poncho and Ron didn’t hold back to let me know I was looking really stupid with it on. I removed it shortly after we started our trudge out of the Tararuas along Marchant Ridge. We came across a bunch of runners from BSR that made us feel like we had done great which brightened our moods. My flatmate, Courtenay, was waiting for us at the end with oranges and water. She seemed incredulous to our condition.
“It was sunny in Wellington. You two were slow as, I would’ve finished faster”
It was 11.35am. 33 hours after we’d left Putara road end.
Ron and I got to reflect on our trip as we had to go pick up my car from Putara. We felt we had done well and were proud of ourselves after reading the flattering and kind comments from the BSR community on facebook. We also decided we would probably have to do it again. I’m in awe of the people who have run any form of the SK in under 24 hours.
After we downed $35 worth of KFC, I felt like a sleep. Unfortunately, Ron has a similar attitude so it was a tough old drive to Putara. Ron announced upon arriving that driving the length of the Tararuas was still easier than running it.