Monday, May 14, 2012

Routeburn Track

Routeburn Track run in the Routeburn Classic, 1340 ascent 1400 descent A cold morning greeted us on the start line at The Divide side of the Routeburn Track. The rain from the evening before had stopped and as the sun started to rise we were presented with crystal clear conditions. The run started 500m from the trail head on the main road, giving the field a chance to spread out. Straight away the track was very rocky and started to climb through some classic South Island Beech. After a steady climb the track emerged at Howden Hut and then became more gradual heading to McKenzie Hut. This part of the track is spectacular passing Earland Falls with the Hollyford River and Darran Mountains in full view on the left. From McKenzie Hut the track climbed steeply finally emerging from the tree tops and into alpine terrain as the track zig zagged towards Harris Saddle a glance to the right gave stunning views down to the deep green coloured Lake McKenzie and surrounding peaks. The final push to Harris Shelter was a little easier on the legs and after a short climb we reached the shelter and the highest point of the track at 1277m. The scenery at Harris Lake was incredible, with the lake silhouetting the peaks above. The descent from the lake was initially extremely technical becoming easier after reaching the Falls Hut and the upper basin of the Routeburn River. Back into the trees the track followed the river all the way to the finish, crossing numerous swing bridges and through some lovely red beech trees. Finish time for the 32k was: Gavin 3 hours 34 and Sinead 4 hours 23.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Tongariro Crossing

A fantastic run over New Zealand’s most popular one day hike. It is easy to see why when you are presented with clear blue skies and views that stretch as far away as Mt Taranaki.

We started the run at the Mangatepopo carpark, the first 30 minutes of running where across a mixture of coarse volcanic rock and well kept boardwalks. After Sulphur Springs the track climbed steadily on the lower slopes of Mt Ngauruhoe before emerging in the South Crater and a scene that resembled something from Mars. From here Mt Ngauruhoe towers high above; sadly we didn’t have time to attempt the summit.

After crossing the crater it is a short sharp climb to the highest point of the track and to some sublime views. The emerald and blue lakes shimmer below, Mt Ngauruhoe dominates to the South, Lake Taupo is in the distance to the north, the Kaimanawa Ranges to the East and we were able to make out Mt Taranaki to the west. A scree slope drops away past the Emerald Lakes and into the Central Crater before rising to the aptly named Blue Lake.

From here the climbing is over and the descent begins. After winding around the side of Mt Tongariro the track Zigzags to the Ketetahi Hut and then gently winds down into the tree line with the final few kilometres alongside a stream and through some very tranquil bush.

Waipakihi Hut Trek, Kaimanawa Ranges

A fantastic couple of days spent in some of the most spectacular scenery in the North Island. A two-day loop in the Kaimanawa Ranges, which was thankfully bathed in sunshine and had little wind.

We entered the hike from a small carpark at the Umukarikari end of the track. It was a pretty steady climb through some fern clad bush for just over an hour before we emerged out of the trees at around 1000 metres. The views didn’t disappoint with Lake Taupo to our left and Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe on the right. The track then continued to climb along the Umukarikari Ridge heading east and peaking on Sharp Cone at 1500 metres. It was then a gradual descent along the ridge high above the Waipakihi River and the sprawling Kaimanawa Ranges on our right. After four hours walking we descended steeply back into the bush with the Waipakihi Hut in the distance below. A good 45 minutes later we crossed the Waipakihi River and camped for the night.

We had a early start the following day and after some porridge started down the Waipakihi River. For the first 15 minutes we bush bashed along the banks before realizing the quickest and most direct route was in the river itself. Five hours later after countless crossings and soaking wet feet we hit the Waipakihi Campsite and climbed the track to Urchin at 1300 metres. The climb was incredibly steep but thankfully short and after 45 minutes we again cleared the tree line and were once again towering over the Waipakihi River. The track then rose to give superb views of Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe, this time we were walking straight at them. Once we took in the views from Urchin summit the long descent to the Urchin carpark began. Sadly when we reached the road we had to finish the loop by walking an additional 5 kilometers to the Umukarikari car park.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lake Okataina

A nice easy run along the banks of one of Rotorua's lesser known lakes Okaitana. I ran the Eastern track which is somewhat easier than the Western route. The first half hour was very similar to a lot of the terrain in the Rotorua region, plenty of lush kiwi bush and a undulating track. The views to the lake were impressive with a sense that not many people venture down to Okataina. I took the short diversion to Te Koute bay for a close up view of the foreshore. After about 45 minutes I reached the end of the lake where the track cuts inland and climbs before dropping down to Humphries Bay on Lake Tarawera. Sadly that was all I had time for as I retraced my steps back to the car.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cape Brett Walkway

Day One. 1275m ascent, 1254 descent

Our first summer hike in NZ, we were looking forward to the extra daylight hours and not having to wrap up after arriving at our destination. The hike starts at the stunning white sand beach of Oke Bay, Rawhiti. We were quickly climbing, to probably the highest point on the track. Most of the track was in bush but every now and then we got glimpses of the Bay of Islands below, Urupukapuka and Roberton Islands the most visible. After the initial climb the track continued along the spine of the peninsula also affording us views of the infamous Whangamumu Bay and Poor Knights Islands in the distance.

After a solid four hours walking we reached the turn off to Deep Water Cove, a lovely secluded beach and where I managed to get stung by a bee. After a quick dip we headed back to the fork in the track and headed for the lighthouse. This section of the track was spectacular. After yet another steep climb we finally caught a glimpse of the end of the peninsula with sheer cliffs plunging into the glistening waters below. The final stretch to the hut was very narrow with a steep drop into the sea to our right. The cliff-top scenery was certainly some of the best I have seen in New Zealand. One final climb and the Hole in the Rock came into view along with the original lighthouse. Our lodging for the evening was tucked into a huge grassy expanse that went all the way to the sea. The hut was one of the Lighthouse keepers old houses.

The other benefit of summer hiking became evident as we took a dip in the sea to refresh ourselves.

Day Two: 1109 ascent, 1135 descent

The only negative about this hike would be the fact that on day two we had to retrace our steps. Given how demanding the hike is this is a daunting prospect fist thing in the morning. Our return journey was somewhat quicker as we didn't venture down to Deep Water Cove.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The T42

My second off road marathon of the year, the T42 was a race that I was looking forward to. The course was over the 42nd Traverse in the central North Island and is a very popular mountain biking route. It had been a destination that I have been meaning to tick off for some time.

The day dawned cold and very wet, thankfully the last drops of rain fell on the start line and the remainder of the day was in warm sunshine. The course consisted of more downhill than uphill, something that I had never experienced in my previous off road marathons. The terrain was predominantly 4 x 4 track some shingle and some clay based with a short section at the start through unmarked farmland. We were also treated to a 3k single-track section leading to the final climb and the finish at Owhango Domain.

The beauty of the run for me was the shear isolation, the sound of a couple of wild pigs reinforcing this. The majority of the race is spent under the forest canopy so the views are few and far between. But some dense NZ bush does make up for that, along with the real community feel at the finish in Owhango.

I felt strong throughout and picked up a couple of places on the main climb, mid way through and on the final climb into the finish. Spending more time running downhill did take it out of my thighs and if I were to compete again I would focus on this in my training. That said I finished in third place in a time of 3 hours 37 minutes.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Taranaki Falls

Taranaki Falls and the Mangatepopo Track: 1 hour 50 running time

Starting behind The Chateau the lower Taranaki Falls track is kept to a high standard due no doubt to the large number of walkers. The track in its entirety is a two hour loop. After 15 minutes running I turned up the Mangatepopo Track part of the Tongariro Northern Circuit. I ran out and back on this track through some brilliant tussock and shrub alpine scenery. On a good day the views up to Mt Ngarahoe and Tongariro would be superb. Back on the Taranaki Falls the track followed up the Taranaki River to the small Taranaki Falls. The track then wound through a lava field and returned to The Chateau.