“You ran where?”
“It took you how long?”
“Was it a race?”
“Were you by yourself?”
Some of the repeated questions posed by friends and family after completing the S-K Main Range in 29 hours (not sub-24hour – this time), which is what people always seem to struggle with being the ‘Why’.
The why is one of those questions that if you are not out there doing it, or dreaming of being out there doing it, then you can’t really explain properly. When every sunny day and you can see the tops from the western side, you think it is a waste of day to not be exploring.
For me the why this time around was to get out there and give it a try, to challenge myself and push myself in something that I didn’t ‘know’ that I would finish before I started. To get out of my comfort zone more than usual. I have dreamt about attempting the main range since I found out that there are people driven enough to get out there doing it, and I have a partial ability to pretend to be one of those people.
Everything fell into place leading up to the attempt, had drop off and pick up sorted, a free weekend between stag do’s, weddings and school Gala’s, and no other events on. This made for a very small window, but thankfully, the weather gods listened to the offerings and laid open the mountain tops for a hot day.
Start 3am Putara Road End to Herepai 1:10hr
I got underway at 3am from Putara Road End, cool and clear night, definitely not cold, and dry underfoot. Saying goodbye to Carl (support crew) it would be 23 hours before I saw him at Alpha Hut, but thanks to Chris Martin, I had the Spot Tracker on board to help with tracking my location and so that my wife knew where I was 😀
Run through to Herepai was steady and uneventful, with the only company 10 possums in the bush
Herepai to Dundas 3:15hr
Running into the dawn was special as always as the hills come alive with the red glow of the rising sun. the air was clear, getting warm already and the head torch was off by 5.15am. Thanks to the clear skies there were no issues with navigation, or route finding through here. Had a couple of stops for photos, and had my first facebook updates coming through which was awesome to know that you are not actually alone in such a beautiful but isolated spot.
No drop down to Dundas Hut as still had 3L of fluid on board and no issues so far.
Dundas to Arete 2hr
A couple of slightly more runny sections made for a nice change, and coming up onto Arete, then views in all directions toward Tarn, back to Dundas, and off to Gables and Te Matawai all looked impressive. Getting very hot by now even at 9.30am in the morning, no wind, and bright sunshine.
Arete to Drac 1:50hr
This is where any pretend speed wheels fell off well and truly.
Starting down to Pukematawai feels a bit like Christmas – nice firm trail that you can actually see underfoot, but this also marked the start of the section to Junction Knob that I hadn’t done before. Turning at Pukematawai, I was getting very hot and despite having lots of fluid still available, my stomach was deciding that it didn’t want my Tail Wind (have been using this for a while now so was not expected), and with the heat before getting to the cover of the bush, I think I got dehydrated through here. The bush was nice cover, but took a bit longer to Drac than I had reckoned.
The orange hut was a good sight, and stopped to dilute the tail wind but couldn’t take any food onboard due to stomach. Changed the t-shirt to a dry one as the next bit had some time in the bush.
Drac to Nicholls 2:20hr
Probably the slowest route finding through here of the trip for me, with the debris fallen down in places, but the shade remained well received. Again as can see from my timing the body wasn’t going too fast but I was still moving without much concern, other than the stomach. Still didn’t want the dilute tailwind, so was using my 500mL bottles of pure H2O, and still dry retching periodically. Continued on slow and steady.
Nicholls to Anderson 2hr
Again still feeling ok, except for the stomach, so just not fast. Kept moving without visiting Nicholls as still had plenty of fluid, and was keen for a sit down at Anderson’s. still struggling with food and fluid though. On reflection the pace was pretty slow but just kept plodding along.
Took a bit long to get up to Junction, and the next section through to Anderson’s was pretty slow – the last descent the body hit the wall and was moving very slowly. This was the first time I really hit the wall during the trip. Got to Anderson’s had a sit, chucked out the tail wind, refilled with water, had a red bull, tried some jet planes and 20 minutes later all good to go. Hello to the rest of SMR.
Anderson to Mangahuka 3:30hr
This is where my planned times had really blown out with the speed (or lack of) that I was managing, did some running, some scrambling up and scrambling down, as you do along SMR, and was very glad of the cool wind coming across. The views were fantastic, Bridge Peak was there in the distance beckoning me on. Getting the sunset at Kime was now out of the question, but time is funny on a 24hr + trip, looking at the watch and being concerned that there were only 8 hours left until 24 hours would be up, and this feeling like a short time!
This part of the SMR tends to start out well, and then it just keeps going, next ridge line looks ok, no still have to scramble up and down, next ridge looks like only one more up and down, no there are an extra 2 short sharp rises added in first!
Seeing Mangahuka is always good in the distance, but you know there is still a way to go to the hut, and my speed and nutrition meant that my internal timings kept being pushed back during the climb up.
At Mangahuka was the only person I saw on the whole trip (other than my support crew) but they were tucked in bed (8pm I think) in their sleeping bag asleep so didn’t say hi.
Stopped to put on my thin jersey and wind vest as the wind was cooling off now, topped up some water, ate a jet plane and continued onto the ladder.
Mangahuka to Kime 3:25hr
Same story, moving slower than I wanted (but still moving) unable to take nutrition on, stopping to dry reach periodically, and just kept going. I did eat half an OSM bit bar and 6 jet planes before Kime, hard to tell if they stayed down.
The Steel ladder was as awesome as always (I have been having a good run of nice weather at each attempt so far :-D) took extra care as the brain was a bit tired by this stage, and once peaking the ladder made sure to NEVER TURN LEFT.
The next part blurs into a continuous trip really, bridge peak in the distance, running the runnable sections, clambering where required, then slowly Bridge Peak disappearing with the sun, head torch coming on, and just keeping running and scrambling, eating a lolly where I felt I could and drinking the water.
I knew I was on the final climb up to Bridge Peak from having been there before, and once the reflectors up the top appeared, I knew I was there.
Hit the sign to Kime or Field, and turned left without considering going shopping, as despite being slow, I knew that I was going to finish.
Ran past Kime as was quite late now, and headed up to Mt Hector.
Right for shopping Left for glory
Kime to Alpha 3:10 hr
Scrambled up to Hector as fast as I could (nice wind up here) about 35-40 minutes I think, and headed off around Dress Circle. This was some nice ridge running in the dark, saw a few deer down off the ridge, and had beautiful view of the City Lights.
Once passing the turn off to Elder Hut, things slowed again (more than they had), as I hadn’t actually dropped down to Alpha before, and when I was checking out View Ranger on my phone, kept forgetting that Alpha Hut is not at Alpha Knob on the map, so was a bit further on (brain not the best at 1am).
This was where I really hit the wall the 2nd time on the descent to Alpha, legs slowed completely, and just kept turning them over slowly, but I could now see my friend’s torch light and knew that I was almost there for my last rest.
Alpha to Kaitoke 6hr
At Alpha had a good sit for 10 minutes, and had my peppermint tea, redbull and chips that I had ordered before he left from Kaitoke, which all went down well. 2 am we were off for the last stretch. I hadn’t been on Marchant before and my friend had taken around 4 hours to run in without pushing things, so I was still hoping that we could be out in 4:30hrs to Kaitoke.
The body and Marchant had different ideas though. Didn’t really have any problems down here, but was a walk on anything that sloped upwards slightly and then trying to move a bit faster on the downhill bits. I very quickly realized that it takes longer than you think to get down, looking at viewranger and knowing that we had only moved THAT far in 2 hours! And constant reassurance’s of ‘not far now’ I think that was the last decent climb’ and ‘I remember this bit’.
And the body still wanted to stop and dry reach periodically.
This was where I came into my 2nd dawn – at around 5am if I had been told to lie down on the track for a quick nap I think that I would have obliged! But soon after the Sun came up, my mind decided that meant it was ok to be awake again, and continued on without any issues.
- R) knee was a bit sore (usual falls and bumps on the way) feet were a bit sore (felt like might be some good blisters) but getting to around 4km to go, switched the brain off (or on) and pushed on with some good running on these sections.
However this made the last 1km down the last bloody slope to the car park the longest part of the whole trip as this was now too steep (!) for me to move normally down, but then there was the car, phoned the wife (who hadn’t slept much Dot watching either) and got in the car for the trip home. Had a good sleep back to Masterton off, dropped my support crew off, and then headed up to Eketahuna where my wife came and decided to drive the rest of the way for me due to being worried about fatigue, but at this stage was not actually too bad.
Mission achieved, although not in the original time goal, but goal 1 was always to finish which I believed I could, and then to see how long it took. I never considered not finishing at any stage, even reaching Kime I was more than happy to turn L) and continued on as I always felt ok, despite the issues with nutrition (the lack of from 7-23 hours) and knowing that I had support at Alpha to help bring me out.
The hardest thing afterwards was the lack of sleep. Sunday wasn’t too bad, but Monday at work was the most tired I have ever felt (how do people recover from 2-5 day races!) and was in bed at 7pm, but was ok by the end of the week.
The body was not too bad in the physical recovery and felt ok by Monday all things considered, no blisters on feet (they were just wet and wrinkly) but now 3-4 weeks later the skin is slowly coming off. I am back running now, but when you want to go longer, harder or faster, and ask the question of the body, it is like ‘nah not sure if want to do that’ so having to build back into the training levels gradually.
Thanks to everyone from BSR and facebook for the support, and knowing there are other people out there with strange ideas of fun (and it was), Carl my support crew, Chris for organizing the Spot Tracker, Tim for discussing equipment and my family for letting me out of the house for a while.
Will I do it again – Yes, but have other things lined up to do, plenty of other places to explore in the Tararua’s and I think that next S-K attempt will probably be the Valley’s.
Montane Dragon Via 20 pack with 3L bladder and 2 x 500mL soft flasks
La Sportiva Mutant shoes
Outdoor Research gaiters
Black Diamond Carbon Distance Z 110cm poles (love these)
Salomon running shorts
Smart Wool Calf compression sleeves
Nao with spare battery
Ground effect wind vest
Icebreaker 120gm jersey
Macpac Supanova down jacket (not needed)
Nutrition – Tailwind (but not for long due to stomach); Perpeteum (again not for long); Redbull x 2; ½ Peanut butter Sandwich; ½ OSM bite; 10 jet planes; peppermint tea and 2 bags of chips (at Alpha)
Herepai 70 Dundas 194 Arete 117 Drac 109 Nicholls 140 Andersons 123 Mangahuka 229 Kime 205 Alpha 202 Kaitoke 355