I had been thinking about a valleys SK for a while …How it would be a cool idea not as hard or full on as a Main Range SK and a good chance to test myself in a wilderness environment that i knew well as i had been through parts of the valleys on numerous occasions. I hadn’t done Roaring Stag Hut to Cow Creek Hut or Mitre Flats hut to the Mt Baldy turn off yet though.
All the same i thought as i knew the area well and there were get out option numerous huts to stop at it would be a good place to see how far i could push myself as a pair or even as a solo runner . I knew as a bail out there was the luxury of Thrive at Waiohine Gorge and Ash Walker . So all in all it was a wilderness challenge but a most benign one. I had been inspired by everyones SK attempts last summer and Iains plans for a Main range SK….So when he said he was doing it first weekend of Sept i thought i would join him …Knowing i wouldn’t be able to stay at his pace but we could stick together till Cow Creek Saddle as this involved the back country nav and river and then from there i would go solo and not hold up Iains new A pack speed he has developed over last year or two while on many hut bagging missions with Helm.
Do not put this man in an office. He will break out. Well at weekends he will. Iain Atkisnon man of the mountains and Main Range SK trainee.
He was to ‘go into the hurt locker this weekend and take a good look around’ as he said. Iain is very accomplished in back country nav and building up a great base of experience.
I asked Caroline to join me as i knew we were about same pace and she was always up for pushing herself into an unknown place. I knew this would be what would happen. Unfortunately she got sick closer to the date and had to drop out. However Roel and Andrew Thompson said they would be keen to drive up drop us at Putara and run into Roaring Stag the Fri night then on Sat morn when Iain and I took off to Kaitoke and glory they planned to run to Dundas and out via Herepai a 10 hour ish round loop
Roel and Andrew
As we drove towards Putara the sky was black and the rain lashed down…..Noone wanted to get out of the car everyone was quiet…..When we did suit up and put on our kit and take off it felt like were embarking on a great adventure i was stoked with my new Coast head torch which meant i could actually see!! There was heaps of water and the river was well up ..I said to Iain we wont be taking the river to Cow Creek Saddle track …he said lets check it in the morning. The run in was awesome and it only took 1 30min
We got to Roaring Stage and i felt excited to be going on an x factor night mission it was so cool. There was noone at hut and we got fire going Man Roaring Stag heats up inside was awesome the wind was blowing a gale it was raining and the river outside was roaring so loud -we chatted away happy inside warm and cooked up a meal…we hit sack ready for the big day ahead
Navy Seal mission kit on
The next morning the weather seemed ok and not raining but the river was up so Iain and I crossed bridge and started sidling beside it towards a NZ Topo track that purported to take us up towards Cow Saddle and from there we could take the valley tracks so this section was hardest. We eventually found the trail that took us along a stream it was well marked and clear and took us to a great valley and the weather started getting better (although on tops Roel and Andy were going to have to return as it was too windy and claggy….
This is when we made the big mistake of trying to follow the ridge as per the NZ topo map and using gps we were directly on the said track…But there was no track. So we ended up doing about 90 min of bush bashing and steep climbing then sidling until we finally found the main track down towards Cow Creek hut.I lost iain and ended up taking the river to the swing bridge and then crossed to the hut where iain had been waiting.This section i thought would take us about 3 hours and had ended up taking about 5 i think….!!
All the huts in Tararuas are in such cool spots….We then took off along valley to Mitre Flats hut another lovely hut…It was about here after about 8 hours i stopped taking pics as was too tired but getting to this hut i thought Iain would have taken off as we had discussed but he waited patiently with a cup of tea!!
Across the flats was a man laying back relaxed on the porch waiting..Mr Atkinson i do believe….
After that I said “well just an easy section to Atiwhakatu mate”…He said “what you are joking this is the section v hilly that broke Ash on out 3 Kings mission last year”…I realised what he meant as we hit the big hills was v full on until the Baldy turn off and i was using my poles alot here …Note always take poles they will save you…..Iain and i had parted ways at Mitre so from now i was on my own. By the time i got to Atiwhakatu it was night and was dark…….It was about 9pm ……I had 2 big blisters and was knackered so stopped ate dinner and contemplated why i was doing this …all the way through the trampers at huts were great asking what i was doing why and some looked like i was nuts..One guy looked at me like he thought i was lying …….They said your other crazy runner mate came through an hour ago…he looked v focused…anyway i considered stopping but i got extra tape from a v enthusiastic tramper and even gave me some panadol i didnt ask for anything they were great. ..I knew i had so far to go so i took off into the night ,it was getting cold…the trampers asked if i had an epirb i had so that was good.
As i made the plan to at least get to Totara Flats i was happier esp after a meal….My nutrition was pretty poor as i left half my food in car by mistake so was on half rations and also took no electrolytes which was a mistake as my feet and hands swellled up after that run…….i found out you should def take salt or nuun tabs….
The Lou Mountain Loaf i had made saved me however it was great !! You smell it before you see it! GU gels potatoes and Lous loaf was great ..but i still had a few huge dips in energy which coincided with my dips in morale -You get huge highs and lows in morale eh so much is in the mind and nutrition!
Go fast 5kg pack with poles……Great No bladder just one bottle as there are heaps of streams…
The sky was amazing so many stars and the big holly climb to the tops was preceded by wind i know i was getting to top just a left a drop of a few hundred then the descent down to Totara Flats
I heard some amazing birdlife and was so cool being out here at night all alone was so peaceful and i felt close to nature….
As i descended towards Totara it was a huge descent i knew well and it went on and on and on…i then lost the track and ended up in a bunch of trees and twigs sat there in my dim head light my head torch had run or was running out of light so it was so dim i had lost track…..What made matters worse my viewranger didn’t seem to work and my garmin was taking time to get its gps i walked around a bit and luckily re found the track and started off in wrong direction back towards the tops….!!…I heard river on wrong side of me checked my garmin and realised i was going wrong way put new batts in torch i could see again!!!! Miracles my spirits rose somewhat as i was in dim light as after 14 hours on a ridge in cold i had wondered if i should choose an easier hobby….
I smashed the last bit got to the flats crossed the huge swing bridge looked up and the canopy of stars filled the sky was magnificent one of my best bits of trip.
The hut still took a while to get here It was midnight! I was smashed totally after starting at 7am ish…..Non stop…basically.
Laurence had told me to not stop ,,,What should i do?? I knew what i had still to go the valley then the bloody Cone climb and even worse Cone saddle…..So i knew if i kept going unless i got more energy i wouldn’t make it so i decided to take a micro nap ….at 1 i got to bed and woke at 5 30 was so happy to be able to stop it was like heaven in my warm sleeping bag.
7am I was so tired though i still knew i had a long way. Do i look tired?
I started on this second leg by 7 ,,,Spirits high after a cup of tea again the trampers were great telling me my mate had come through about 9ish……I was way behind anyway I ran the Valley i knew well past Sayers…..Then Cone the Cone Saddle ahhhhh then the sidly descent to Cone Hut then a veritable highway to Tutiwai…..1 valley to go!!
Block xvi turnoff across the river i could see a magnificent huge valley,,,the drizzle started i met the first 2 trampers near Tutiwai
Then eventually a bridge across the Turinikau !!! yay ,,,Then the sidle towards Puffer that went on and on and on. Past Smiths Creek shelter.
I was v tired’when i got to base of Puffer but spirits were very high at this stage….
But i had my special joker my last GU gel and 2 no doze so i smashed puffer and got out at 2 30…..
That made 1 30 min Fri night
Sat was 7am-midnight so 17 hours
Sun 7- 2 30 so 7 30 for Sun
……I have thought alot about this trip and i would recommend people to give a solo mission a crack as it teaches solo decsion making##self reliance, you meet trampers easily…..plus you feel a special bond with nature when you are alone.
I must admit though when i got to Totara i was a bit broken and my morale was low it really made me realise for people to do it in one go esp the main range people they must be extremely fit and REALLY want it. You will not achieve these things if you don’t want it enough. It also gave me as greater appreciation of what a main range sk would take..Although i sort of knew after Ash and my 48 hour plus a morning SK last summer…
Iain wanted it and smashed it out in 18 all up he got to Kaitoke car park of glory at 3am the night before
What a great trip