Friday 19 October 2018
Over the 2018 Winter I had managed a few forays into the hills, normally limited by Snow, weather, and time, so was keen to get out for a long trip. Since completing my SK Main Range (29 hours), I had been keen on SK Valleys to see the different side of the Tararuas.
I decided that it would be good to drag someone along with me for the adventure, and contacted Johnny Atkins from Manawatu Trail Runners, who I knew from running part of the WUU2K with, and while he hadn’t done anything this long, it this was the sort of thing that he would be good at.
I tend to do Big Friday Runs, and this worked for Johnny so we locked in Friday 19 October with the long weekend afterwards to recover.
Logistics is always interesting from the Manawatu, but got sorted, with an arranged pick up from my Father-in-law at Kaitoke and Johnny picked me up to head to Putara.
Base Camp was empty except for us on the Thursday night, and managed to get a decent 5 hours sleep before up at 3.30am for a 4.30am start.
Friday 19 October
Morning brought a cold clear morning, with a decent frost, so had to get out the hose and scraper to clear the windscreen.
Putara to Roaring Stag
Running into Roaring Stag was nice, even tempo along the undulation into the park, steady climb up the first ridge, and at the track split before we knew it. I knew this part of the track and we made the most of the easy running down the hill to Roaring Stag, and popped out at our goal split. There was a hunter up early who had a quick chat to, before setting off down the Ruamahanga and into unknown territory. The only other section of track I knew was Atiwhakatu to Pig Flat.
Roaring Stag to Cleft Creek
Starting down the Ruamahanga was one of the parts that I was most apprehensive about, with the unknown of the state of the river, would we need to swim, and of course making sure that we got to Cleft Creek safely.
As it turned out the river was cold, but welcoming, with a relatively straight forward path for us, no real tricky bits, and only really got upto our knees. We had to do a few crossings, but it was quite straight forward. While the cold wasn’t too disturbing ,it does play on the fine motor skills the longer you are in it – I had to physically look at my zips to get them open by Cleft Creek.
Cleft Creek to Cow Creek Hut
This was probably the most eventful part of the trip as when we entered Cleft Creek we missed the start of the track and continued up the creek (still cold), until we got to a little ‘waterful’ part where we decided that we should really be out of the creek and on the track (which we knew where it should be), so we backtracked 50 metres and clambered up a 20 metre bank, and sure enough the track was right in front of us. So 30 minutes of exploring that wasn’t required, but good a good look at the creek.
With the extra time in the water, hands and feet were very cold and as they thawed out, a bit sore, but we managed to continue on at a good pace, and were warmed by the time we finished the climb up to Cow Saddle, and the short descent to the hut. I remembered Roel’s notes about cutting across the river, and sure enough was an easy approach, saving some time and distance.
Cow Creek Hut to Mitre Flats Hut
Probably the more straight forward part along here, with a steady pace on the running stuff (some good frosts in the valley still next to the river, and on the trails. This section seemed to pass relatively quickly, we didn’t have any problems with following the trail. We took good note of all of the recommendations to avoid slipping on the wooden planks as we approached the hut, and we made it across safely, remembering that there were 2, so thanks for the heads up everyone.
Mitre Flat appeared with a whole bunch of tents set-up with a group that had stayed the night and been for a morning summit of Mitre Peak, from YMCA Kaitoke, so they thought that we might beat them back there that evening.
Mitre Flats to Atiwhakatu
Not really sure what to expect through here, the first climb was steady but quite manageable, before it all steepened but we kept a steady rhythm. Johnny and I had never actually run together before (other than during WUU2K for a while) but our running/climbing styles and pace appeared to fit naturally which was good.
After the 2nd big climb and the steep descent, we were then on the lookout for the hut – but forgot about the 2nd track that heads to Jumbo, so when the hut wasn’t right there, I struggled with that mentally for the next few minutes, purely because my expectation was wrong. The hut was a welcome sight.
Atiwhakatu to Totara Flats Hut
Back onto track that we both knew, it was nice to have the good bench track for a change heading to the climb up the Mountain House Track. Heading up this part was not fast but steady as we didn’t want to over exert before the next half of the run.
Pig Flat provided the first Cell phone reception for the day, and made the necessary text and phone calls to update on time expectations, all going well etc. This was also our last cell phone coverage until the top of the Puffer.
From Pig Flat the terrain was all unknown until Kaitoke for us.
The track to Totara was enjoyable, with a fun rooty descent, before a short climb/sidle up and finishing the descent with a steady run across the new bridge and down into the hut.
Totara Flats Hut to Cone Hut
Leaving Totara again had not idea what to expect – as it turns out looks like you could have some cattle in the river valley with the flat land and grass, and this part went past quite quickly and relatively easily. It does keep on going, and we were on the look out for Cone as we knew there was the climb in front of us.
The climb didn’t fail to disappoint and just pointed ourselves uphill for 40 minutes and hit the false top before starting the sidle around the side of the hill. This part ended up being quite long, and I did check View Ranger just to have some idea to how far we were going around before hitting the saddle, which was welcome. An easy drop to Cone Hut and what a cool little place that is. There were a group of 4 here who we had a good chat to, before refilling bottles and heading off on our last stretch to home.
Cone Hut to Smith’s Creek
Looking at the profile of this section made it look downhill – sure enough it was. Particularly some of the early kilometres ticked off quite quickly, as I pushed our pace a bit to make the most of the energy levels and good terrain, I think we hit around 13kmhr’ along there for a (very) short period. Eventually all of the sidles up and down the edge of the tree line slow you down and reduce the energy levels and took a quick check of View Ranger again to see where our bridge was.
Sunset was coming in now, with the light starting to fail, and we hit the bridge and put our head torches on to light the path onward.
Smith’s Creek to Kaitoke
Definitely didn’t stop for a photo here, but pushed on, knowing we still had the last gradual climb and ascent to go, but our time was looking ok – still no real idea of exactly what to expect.
During the lower slopes that are runnable, I again tried pushing the pace a bit, with the hope of the finish in my eye, may have paid the price for this heading up Puffer.
There was no doubting when we hit the puffer, and at this point my legs decided that there were tired, so it was a plod and eating wine gums up here. Top of the puffer and cell phone reception, called out to everyone we needed to and continued down the hill – still not actually knowing exactly how far to go (my only other time there was after Main SK, so land marks weren’t that clear in my head :-D) and when we hit the fence line there was that feeling of Ýes we’ve done it’ and the sprint to the end to the car, mission achieved.
Great trip, great experience, great running partner, awesome country, loved it. Quite different to Main Range but beautiful in its’ own way and the trees kept a good temperature for us all day. Most of the trail was unknown to me, I had only been into Roaring Stag Hut before, and the section from Atiwhakatu to Pig Flat
The main things that I took out were an improvement in hydration and nutrition (read my SK Main report for how to NOT do this) with no vomiting, good energy levels (until Puffer) and good recovery afterwards. Doing it again, would make the track at Cleft Creek properly first time around, and reduce our time a bit.
As always thanks to my Family for letting me out to explore the world, Johnny for agreeing to come along on the adventure, our pick-up crew, and the support from our various Facebook groups and trail running friends, keep on inspiring.
La Sportiva Mutant Shoes
Outdoor Reasearch gaiters
Montane Via Dragon 20L pack
Black Diamond Carbon Z poles 115cm
3L water bladder (water) and 500mL soft flask (Nuun)
Various food – bread rolls, leppin, chips, donuts, bliss balls, chocolate bars, muesli bars etc
Icebreaker running tee
Salomon running shorts
Suunto 9 Watch
View Ranger GPS
PLB, maps, compass, and first aid kit.
Thermals, rain jacket, Macpac down jacket, Smart wool gloves, survival bag