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Welcome to my blog which I hope to develop with some interesting material on ultra running both on the trails and road including reports on races and interesting training runs, views on kit and equipment as well as anything else I find of interest. I love running for adventure, opportunity and well being. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Days 34 & 35: Lake Sumner Forest Park (final section) & Arthur’s Pass National Park (to Lake Coleridge)

Day 34: Hurunui No. 3 Hut (2,095km) to Greynings Shelter (2,154km) – 59km
Day 35: Greynings Shelter (2,154km) to Harper Road - Lake Georgina (2,214km) – 60km
Cumulative distance: 2,214km

Firstly, apologies for the sporadic blogging over the last week or so. I would love to continue to push something out every night, but sleeping in huts and running late nights is not particularly conducive! I hope to come back and give you a detailed account of Nelson Lakes NP because that was such a special place. The South Island has been relentless so far; one big crossing or traverse of a national park after another. The challenge has been working out the best approach for each section. We’ve had some long stretches of inaccessible terrain to deal with, much of it requiring a fast pack. Mark’s recent blog post will have given you a great insight. Thankfully I’ve been able to make full use of the great network of DoC huts which are generally very well placed and spaced out along the route. That means I can get away without a tent or sleeping mat, and only need to carry a sleeping bag, stove, food, equipment, safety equipment, spare clothing etc. Unfortunately it does still slow me down quite considerably meaning long – well, very long – days.

In the past 48 hours I’ve had a pretty full on schedule. I completed the final section of Lake Sumner Forest Park, getting over Harper’s Pass and then running the downstream Taramakau River section. Rivers seem to be a common theme of the route in the South Island and, although it’s fascinating to run next to such interesting features, they don’t half make it challenging for various reasons. For example Taramakau River started as a relative trickle at the top, but by the bottom, the crossings had to be very carefully planned for safety, and all the rain we’ve had recently could easily have made them uncrossable. Give the routes nearly always criss-cross the rivers for good reasons – to avoid cliffs etc – it could easily have stopped me in my tracks. The rivers here are notoriously responsive to rain, and there are so many of them everywhere, that they really do dictate things and hold the power. You cannot afford to make a mistake with them, and sound judgment is critical. So far I’ve been ok – just -  thankfully I have long legs and plenty of determination!

Gemma & Jez reunited

Coming out of Lake Sumner Forest Park my wife, Gemma, was there waiting for me having just flown out from the UK for the last few weeks of the trip. So nice to see her after six weeks! We only married three months ago so she must be the most understanding wife out there. I had been out for a couple of days so was feeling emotional and tired but it was a very happy and special moment. My intention had always been to carry on running from that point although I had expected to be out earlier, so it wasn’t quite so clear cut now. I didn’t have a clue what was ahead of me, but soon established it was the notoriously difficult Deception River section. In the book it is described as ‘Hard Tramping’ – I think one of the first sections to get the classification – and something to take serious note of given how hard the terrain and under foot has always been. So the route effectively followed the river bed all the way up to it’s source, criss-crossing the fast flowing and surging stream regularly. I started at about 6pm so knew it would involve a lot of night running, but perhaps didn’t appreciate there would be so few markings, slowing me down further. I relied on mini stone cairns to guide me and eventually, after nearly 6 hours of climbing up the river and waterfalls (canyoning?!), I reached the pass. It was pretty crazy stuff, even by my standards! I actually felt quite good despite the night time running, although I didn’t make it back to the van until 4am, and didn’t get my head down until 5am, so it was quite some day….

Leaving, at 1830, for the 24km section through Deception Valley

Returning to the support van @ 4.34am after an almost comedy night canyoning up Deception River Valley

So today I had a lie in, until 9am, before a 10.30 departure. I was delighted to have got Deception River section out the way as it would have taken the best part of a day in the daylight – for only a 24km gain. That would mean being a day back. Not surprisingly I felt awful after my late night out but had a nice 10km run with Gem alongside to start the day. It was raining, and had been since I got in from Deception Valley, and continued to do so all day. All the terrain here is pretty high too, so it has felt cold too. I ran with full waterproofs all day, and just about managed to stay warm enough if I didn’t stop for any length of time.

A new pair of shoes to cheer Jez up after a difficult night, brought over from the UK by Gemma

Starting the day with a hug, followed by a 10km run with Gem

The main section today was over the Lagoon Saddle and down the Harper River. I was looking forward to getting this section done because it was the last of the wooded valley sections; we can see from the maps that the forests peter out beyond this point south, replaced instead with more classic alpine terrain. I’ve basically lost it a bit (mentally) with all the running through the forests – I have full on ‘forest fever’ (my term) – from the endless, technical, green tunnels I’ve spent so much time running through since the start. All behind me now….

Rivers were a big challenge again today, and again there was a high risk of me getting stopped in my tracks, particularly with the ongoing rain. But thankfully, and again marginally, I made all the crossings successfully and safely. The area we’re now in feels wild and remote – like the best of Scotland but better – so I will be enjoying the views and the ruggedness.

Now only just over 800km to go I’m feeling excited about the final couple of weeks. Each day the fatigue builds and the mental challenge gets greater, but my determination is responding ably.

Our spot for the night, by beautiful Lake Georgina, not that Jez got to see much of it in daylight

Our Kiwi neighbours in this remote overnight spot gave Jez some home grown beans to "help power him" to finish the South Island


Anonymous said...

Bless them for their kind thought! He appreciates every kindness.....

Sophie Bragg said...

I love that people are trying to help and be supportive wherever you all go. Swampy saving the van; a lady bringing some beans. What amazing people you're meeting. I can't wait to hear all these stories.. a real adventure!Maybe one of you should write a book!

S x

PS Jamie - your photos are beautiful.

Bethan Griffiths said...

I'll buy that book! Great idea Sophie!
Jez - I'm totally addicted to your blog now, 'enjoy' the last 800k. I'm really pleased to see the new Mr & Mrs Bragg reunited too (but then, I'm a big softie!)
B x

Anonymous said...

I was impressed with your whole adventure so far, but to run Deception/Goat Pass in the dark is astonishing.

It is tough enough in daylight, even if you know where to find the track and the best places to cross the river.

Anonymous said...

An amazing journey. It's good to hear you have met up with Gemma. Keep going!
Gran T.

Kaz said...

FORREST FEVER - Oh yeah! I bet - they really are brutal! Take care crossing the rivers and enjoy the more open sections. Loving the blog posts.

Sue and Antonio said...

Another great account, and so good to see you and Gemma! Take care Jez, you're fantastic - all the best, keep it up, not too long to go now!!!

Irene said...

I'm glad your wife is there with you, that must be encouraging for you. Good luck Jez !!

Irene- Matteo's girlfriend-

Anonymous said...

Understanding is not the word for it Jez!!! I shall think twice next time I moan about Mark going to the gym! Well done so far matey, just amazing, Helen x