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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!

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Days 44-45: Lake Ohau to Hawea River

Start: Lake Ohau (2,465km)
Finish: Hawea River (2,567km)
Distance for the 2 days: 102km
Cumulative distance: 2,567km

I’ve just touched down after a fairly full on couple of days, running a real mixture of different trails ranging from easy gravel roads to seriously rough hillside. The fragmented nature of all the different tracks has made it hard to really settle in, knuckle down and get the golden kilometers in the bank. I had to change modes a couple of times, from lightweight daypack setup for the low level accessible sections, to full mountain fast pack setup for my overnight.

Starting the day from the support 'camp' near Lake Ohau

I definitely started on the back foot yesterday, taking nearly 3 hours to complete a supposedly easy lakeside trail. Unfortunately parts were incomplete (literally under construction) so I needed to make a diversion, the consequence being a 20km leg instead of 13. It was then away from Lake Ohau to tackle a ‘hard tramping section’ over a rough, rocky and at times boggy set of hills called the Ohau Range. The weather was grey, misty and overcast creating a rather gloomy and negative feeling to the place. I just got my head down and patiently fast hiked it across – anything more would have been risky and probably not that productive. The main highlight can right at the end with a crossing of the Ahuriri River, which sits right down in it’s own mini canyon complete with vertical rock sides. From the words in the book we envisaged a crossing without needing a craft and, as I approached, Mark was just about to set off on a test run which proved that to be the case – just. It was rib cage height so much more height and the buoyancy aids would have been lifting us afloat! Anyway, there wasn’t too much drama, and it was all nicely executed thanks to Mark’s handywork. It’s again worth pointing out that we were properly equipped to be making the attempt.

After completing the Ohau Range I needed a quick turnaround in order to tackle the next part of the trail

I say goodbye to Gem before  leaving the comfort of the van for the Hawea Range

Heading into the cloudy mountains for a tough 54km crossing over to Lake Wanaka

Having climbed back out the canyon, and romped across open moorland for a kilometer or so, I was back at the van for a big turnaround. A big feed helped me get warm again, then I packed my big rucsac ready for a 54km mountainous crossing of the Hawea range (Breast Hill Track). I had hoped to set off early afternoon, but in the end it was at 7pm; far from ideal mentally, but I did feel ready for it.

I set a 10pm cut off so I didn’t push it too hard into the dark (a developing trait of mine) and then just plugged in some tunes and hiked. Fast. It felt very much like being in the highlands with golden coloured tussocks, loose rock and scree up high and a reasonable balance between tracks and fences, so still maintaining a feeling of wilderness and isolation. The vehicle tracks were a real savior to be honest, not something I’ve seen too much of on Te Araroa, and made my average pace reasonable as opposed to poor. I had my tent with me because I knew the first hut at Top Timaru would be just out of reach, so aimed to get as close to the Martha Saddle (1,600m+) as possible, ready to complete the rest today. I made it to within a few kilometers of the saddle and set up camp on a flat a sandy pitch literally right on the trail. I dozed in and out most of night, never really settling, feeling a little chilly and damp from the lingering cloud and drizzle, but getting some sporadic deep sleep eventually.

The terrain felt like the Highlands and had the weather conditions to match

Waking this morning I had hoped the sky may have cleared as the forecast suggested, but the clag was still down unfortunately. I stayed in my cosy down bag to brew up – a dehydrated cooked breakfast and a black tea. It was hard tearing myself from the warmth of my nest, but the inevitable moment came and I packed it back into my pack and continued my march up the pass. I wasn't too sure how long the final climb would take and I couldn't see much more than 10 metres ahead of me. Some golden glowing patches of sky suggested change was on it’s way and soon I was starting to see breaks in the cloud. Then, in a moment as quick as a click of the fingers, the sky was blue and the mountains were there. Quite incredible. I had climbed through and was now above the clouds. What a transformation to my mood and how the excitement ran through me knowing it would be a lovely clear day. It seems the cloud was stuck in the valleys behind me; they had been holding the bad weather which hadn’t been forecast. Martha Saddle had a classic alpine feel to it; craggy and raw. I enjoyed taking some snaps in the morning light.

I emerge from the clouds into a perfect blue sky

Having a spot of lunch en-route

The vehicle track continued down the other side of the pass, descending deep in to the bottom of the valley. My first hut of the day was Timaru Creek Hut, installed very recently, in a lovely position. I was still a little chilly as the morning sun hadn't quite broken the valley so I heated some water and had hot orange and sandwiches.

The next leg down the Timaru River valley was tough, as I knew it would be. The track sidled and undulated an awful lot to navigate the numerous narrow sections, bluffs and cliffs. Patience essential. I settled in for a 4 hour downstream slog, some of which was spent wading the river, to reach the turn off to Stody’s Hut – climbing up and out. The climb out wasn't much better; a brutal 500m vertical clamber up a rocky spur. I worked hard all morning, and set Stody’s Hut as my proper lunch stop, a satisfying point at which all the tough stuff was behind, and the start of a Te Araroa highlight along the ridge towards Breast Hill.

The trail along the ridge towards Breast Hill

From Stody’s I picked up the broad vehicle track to take me to the ridge. Once up on it properly, it was a real treat with far reaching views in every direction. There was also an added bit of excitement for the afternoon – the guys were coming out by helicopter to watch me (can’t be bad!) – and the crew were doing some filming by helicopter. My time up on the ridge was extended quite a bit by all that was going on, but it was fun and interesting so great to be involved. I got a lovely 20mins on my own at the top of Breast Hill taking in some of the most incredible views imaginable…..

The film crew spot me running along the ridge from their helicopter

Mark takes a photo of me from the chopper as i make

The final descent was, errrr, steep. 1,200m in not many kilometers. But unusually for Te Araroa there were switchbacks after the technical rocky spine at the top.

The steep 950m descent to Lake Hawea

The view from the descent

Arriving back at the van at 7.30pm I decided on a final little spell of running to round off the day, so I ran the Gladstone Track and a little bit of the River Hawea Track for another 13km. I’m done now….


The Sunday Adventure Club said...

Wow, some amazing photos! Good going Jez, keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Love the latest update we have been missing them!!!!!! Love from Supergran & all at Lansdowne xxx

Steve Pope said...

Jez, can you get a shave please? I don't want to hear any more from Penny about how 'rugged' you look.