Jane Peak, Eyre Mountains (24th-25th Jan 2015)

Jane peak Map

Map of our route.

Despite Christmas holidays I hadn’t got all the tramping out of my system, and although Rebecca wasn’t really up to it, I had no compunction in leaving her behind. So at the last minute I managed to convince my flat mate, Tim, and my friend from the Chemistry department, Cleo. We knocked off work at 2 pm Friday and drove in that afternoon which enabled us to walk to our campsite that night. After getting to the car park at 7ish we proceeded to make our way up the true right of the George Burn. Cleo had attempted Jane peak twice before and had said there was a vague track but was not always obvious and they needed to fall back on their route finding skills which caused them to take upwards of 3 hours. However, there was a recently cleared track marked with blue tape and the occasional marker pole spray painted orange which allowed us to get to the campsite a bit after nine. Which allowed us to take in the great sunset while eating a late dinner.

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Jane Peak (2022 m) from our campsite at sunset.

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Smooth Peak (1623 m, Top Left) and our campsite at the gravel fan near the lake. 

The next morning, after some discussion and route planning, I decided to do a loop by heading straight to the saddle between point 1876 and 2022, via 1652, traverse right along the ridge-line to Jane Peak then back down via the ridge-line at point 1913. Needless to say from the above map and as usual, my plan didn’t quite work. First off I was suffering from a persistent cough at the time which caused Cleo and Tim to wonder if was dying on the way up and they forced me to give up the collective day-pack. Although steep, it was pretty easy going to point 1652, however the last push to the saddle got much steeper and the scree turned into crumbly schist and it was clear from the whites in Tim’s eyes this was about his limit. Once the saddle was attained a discussion ensued on how to tackle the ridge line we had two choices go up the snow chute to the north-east without ice axes (Nope!) or go round the northwest which was pretty steep schist just above a 300 m bluff. Although a bit dodgy, the latter would have been doable but from Tim’s reaction in the previous 10 min he was at his limit and I decided to pull the pin. So we bailed on Jane Peak (Sorry Cleo fourth times a charm?) to go swimming in a high alpine tarn northwest of Jane Peak. (Note for anyone who wants to tackle this peak themselves I would suggest climbing to point 1642, southeast of our campsite, and then simply following the ridge-line to Jane Peak.).

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Jane Peak (2022 m) and the two possible ascents left up the snow chute obscured by shadow or right up the steel slope above the bluff.

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Eyre Mountains looking east from the ridge-line.

Once we got to the Tarn it was about 2 pm and getting ridiculously hot so we stripped down and Cleo went for a swim while Tim and I proceeded to have a bombing competition. As we left Cleo, who is pretty experienced, remarked that the tarn was one of the best for swimming she has ever come across. We got back to our campsite by about 4 pm with the day still getting hotter all the way up to sunset. The problem was that we were camped in a bowl surrounded on all sides by hills with no wind. Our solution another swim, while we plotted the strategy for the next day. As usual I was reluctant to go back the same way so I managed to convince the others to go out via Smooth Peak.

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Synchronized bombing.

The next day started off with an immediate slog straight up the hill to 1641, at this point Tim was feeling it and proclaimed that future weekend tramps should only consist of one hard day. Compounding this we were already getting low on water. The problem was that going back to the car from 1641 looked like a very unpleasant tussock bash, so I managed to convince the other two that it would be much easier to go along the ridge to smooth peak and down what I thought was a scree elevator to a creek at the bottom. Once we got to Smooth Peak we found that the rocks were indeed scree, which was lucky as by this time we were out of water. I felt vindicated as my route choice was easier but, as usual, no-where near as much as I had claimed. Strangely there was a small flock of wild sheep half-way up the mountain in the middle of the scree about 500 m away from any cover, foliage or water, what they were doing there in the middle of a 30 degree day I have no idea. After a 600 m scree slide and a refreshing dunk in the creek it was a short bush bash back to the car and then a hot evening drive back to Dunedin.

How to plan a tramping wedding

Hey readers.  So this is a very long overdue post.  Dylan and I actually tied the knot in December last year!  Yes  – it’s been over 6 months since we had our wedding, and in the time in between we’ve done a ton of tramping, moved house 3 times, had 4 weeks in the USA (another wedding celebration), moved overseas, I started a new job.  It’s actually been nuts.  So now that we’ve been in Australia for 2 months and have finally just gotten connected to the internet, I actually have time to sit down and tell you how to plan a hiking/tramping themed wedding.

We decided in May last year that we would get married in December (when Dylan graduated with his PhD, so his family only had to come for 1 visit).  I had been toying with the idea of having a tramping wedding as it is our obsession, but I wasn’t quite sure how to pull it off (e.g. spectacular scenery vs. ease of access for guests).  Sadly, a helicopter wedding was out of our budget, but we still wanted something spectacular.

In June, we decided to do a trip along the Livingstone range.  We had a fabulous day across the tops from Key Summit and realized that Key Summit would be the perfect spot for a wedding – only ~1 hour easy walk along the Routeburn track from the Divide – which is a mere 1 hour from Te Anau.  This was feasible.  Easy walk.  Spectacular Scenery.  All we needed was the weather to cooperate…

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Tarns along the Livingston range

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Key Summit – June 2015

In the meantime, I had to alert all of our guests of our crazy plan, as well as find a celebrant and photographer who were willing to get on board with a tramping themed wedding (and were sufficiently flexible considering we were very weather dependent).  Somehow I lucked out and managed to get the most perfect wedding celebrant – DOC worker and former Milford Track Guide, Christine Officer.  I lucked out again when the absolutely amazing photographer Jim Pollard agreed to shoot our wedding.

Fast forward to December…

The weekend before the wedding, Dylan and I decided to head up to Key Summit to scope out locations.  The weather was atrocious.  It was cloudy, rainy, freezing.  It was literally snowing.  Despite it only being a 2 hour walk, by the time we got back to the car, we could barely move our fingers.  We decided to drive farther up the Milford road to scope out additional and alternative locations, as well as possible photo locations – should everything go south on the day of the wedding (weatherwise).

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Scoping out wedding spots

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Lovely weather for a wedding

The week of the wedding was chaos with friends and family arriving from overseas.  To add to the ridiculousness of it all, on the Sunday and Monday before the wedding, Dylan and I took our respective Mothers & Sisters tramping to one of our favourite locations (Brewster hut) to give them a real tramping experience.  It was a pretty epic trip, and despite pushing everyone to their physical limits, they still had a good time.

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Pre-wedding family bonding tramp – success photo!

Upon returning from the tramp, Dylan and I were obsessively watching the forecast for the divide, and keeping our fingers crossed.  The day of our wedding (a Thursday, of all days!) dawned a little breezier than we’d hoped, but it was sunny enough.

We met up with all of our guests in the carpark of the Te Anau Community centre and made a convoy of vehicles driving out to the Divide.  As we got closer and closer to the Divide, the weather became misty, foggy and it started to rain (of course).

At the divide, we had a little pow-wow with our guests, celebrant and photographer and despite our guests being super keen to head up to Key Summit, instead we elected to drive 10 min down the road to a sunny spot…

And I’ll let Jim’s photos take it from here

So there you have it – our tramping wedding.  As per any tramp, the weather didn’t cooperate and it didn’t quite go to plan, but we had a great time anyways.  And of course, our photographer captured it perfectly!

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A pure New Zealand wedding, with guests wearing tramping boots and all.

Happy tramping!

Does the perfect tent exist?

I’ve written previously about my quest for the perfect tent.  When I first started tramping, I bought a MacPac Apollo.  I loved that tent.

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MacPac Apollo, pictured here at the Perry Saddle camp site, Heaphy track, Dec 2013

Despite many years of faithful use and generally being an awesome tent, I realised we had stopped carrying the Apollo because it was too heavy (e.g. our Waiua pass trip, January 2015, when we relied solely on huts for the first time ever). It was early 2015 when I became obsessed with getting a new, ultralight tent and invested in the tarptent double rainbow.

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Our tarptent double rainbow, next to Lake Mavis, Arthur’s Pass, Mar 2015

Now don’t get me wrong, the tarptent double rainbow is an excellent tent…  It just hasn’t been a perfect tent (outlined here).  Maybe I just got a dud?  But also, I miss the extra space we had in our Apollo tent.  The extra width and just a little bit of headroom makes it seem a bit more luxurious.  I don’t miss the weight, of course.

If I were going to get another tarptent, I’d get the rainshadow 2, probably.  However, I worry that this, still is not the perfect tent.

Maybe, like many things in life, I need to make the perfect tent myself.  It hasn’t really come up on this blog (yet! – though it should have), but I am a very proficient seamstress.  I actually have a degree in fashion design.  Sewing a tent really shouldn’t be any different from sewing anything else, right?  There are plenty of people on the internet who have made their own tents without knowing how to sew first.

So this begs the question, would you ever consider making your own tent?

So stay tuned, readers!  Maybe someday you’ll be reading about a DIY ultralight tent.

Happy Tramping!

PCT dreaming

For those of us who tramp (hike), we know how addictive it is.  It gets into your veins.  It becomes a part of you, and you feel like you’re not you unless you’re out exploring the backcountry.

I remember the first time I saw a presentation about mountaineering, by Danilo Hegg [for those of you who don’t know who Danilo is, he’s an absolute tramping legend and photographer.  You can find a link to his photography site over on the right under the links].  It was one of the first tramping club meetings I’d ever attended (back in 2011).  I just happened to luck out to see a presentation by Danilo about climbing Mt Tutoko.  Afterwards, I got the courage to ask him “how do you get started doing something like that?”.  And he said you just have to get out and start tramping.  Though it wasn’t until I met Dylan that the tramping became an every weekend sort of activity instead of an every once in a while activity.

The other tramping club presentation I distinctly remember was when a local man gave a talk about walking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  This must have been around 2012 or 2013, at least a year or 2 before the movie Wild came out.  Again, I remember being totally transfixed by his talk.  I had all these questions – how much does it cost?  What sort of gear do you need?  Where does a person even begin?  There was so much interest that he even came back and gave a second talk about his walk at the club.

I became obsessed.  I remember I was finishing up my PhD at the time but I was scouring the internet, reading blogs of other PCT hikers.  I came across Carrot Quinn and her blog before she was ‘famous’, before her e-book, thinking how ludicrous it was that she was asking people to fund her second thru-hike in 2014, and how she’d never worked a day in her life and was essentially homeless…  (and now her book is one of the top selling travel adventure e-books on Amazon.com…  Not that I’ve read it, but don’t even get me started.  I read her blog and that was enough).

I decided that the PCT was on my bucket list.  And then Dylan and I did a lot of tramping this past year, and I realized that thru-hiking probably wasn’t for me.  The Te Araroa trail appeals not at all.  We decided we’d rather do shorter, more spectacular hikes.  We’d be a bit choosier about where we’d go.

And then of course, I had to start reading Wild, and the PCT earworm has started working its way back in.

So I’ve started thinking about it again.  There are a lot of really useful planning websites out there.  I’ve started making a re-supply plan.  Working out how long it will take us to walk.  Drafting a budget.

No, I haven’t told anyone of these plans yet (apart from D) because the PCT is really a bucket list trip.  It might never happen.  Especially as I have a lot of doubts about my ability to physically do it.  The longest trip Dylan and I have done to date is 6 nights.  That certainly is a long way from 6 months!  And the boredom.  The monotony of terrain.  The monotony of hiking every day.  Setting up camp every day.  Sleeping on the ground every day.

And who knows where the next few years will take us career and life-wise.  Sometimes things happen that make these dreams impossible.

But I’d still like to give it a shot.  Especially as Dylan and I definitely have the trail and terrain experience needed for a trip like this.  It’s not like we’re green newbies who have never done an overnight hike.  New Zealand has been the perfect training ground for variety in conditions and terrain.  And I am now a big believer that skills and experience count for a lot in the backcountry.  Sometimes even more than sheer fitness (though you certainly need a base fitness to work from).

So hopefully, someday, I’ll be writing here about our PCT experience.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.  In the meantime, I’ll keep dreaming!

Cascade saddle/Lochnagar/Shotover saddle (Feb 6-11, 2016)

Hey Readers!  Sorry it’s been so long – Dylan and I have some very serious catching up to do – the backlog is actually epic.  I’ll update you on why later.  But for now, I’m going to post this post since it has been sitting in the drafts folder for – literally – months.

This latest trip was a doozy, that is certain (I needed several days to recover.  Dylan, of course, went tramping again straight after.  He’s a machine).

This particular trip has been on our list since last year, and my personal bucket list pretty much since I first ever saw photos of it (in 2011?  2012?  A random OTMC meeting).  We had intended to do it over Easter 2015, but decided we didn’t have enough time (I’m honestly quite glad we didn’t attempt to do it then).

Waitangi weekend forecast for central otago and the Aspiring region was perfect, so we went for it.  We drove up from Dunedin on Friday after work.  I kept having the feeling that I’d forgotten something (we had moved house the week before and were still unpacking at our new place).  Finally, around Roxburgh I asked Dylan if he had packed our double sleeping bag.  shit.  No, he hadn’t.  Fortunately, we had a quick stop off at the Warehouse in Alexandra, where sleeping bags were conveniently 50% off.  This brought our sleeping bag total up to 7 [we already own 5, which let’s be honest, is already too many].

Trip ruining crisis averted, we packed our new and enormously huge sleeping bags and walked into the Cascade hut in the dark (and camped nearby).  Saturday morning promised to be hot, but luckily we started our climb in the shade.  It was at this point that I remembered I forgot my sunglasses back in the car.  Not a very fortuitous start to our trip.  I ran back down to Aspiring hut to ask the warden there if he had any spare in his lost and found.  No joy (he suggested I ask at the Dart hut as it also gets a lot of traffic).  He then grilled me on our route, pointed out that Lochnagar was very difficult to get to and repeatedly told me not to go down Snowy Creek.  Then he took down my name and details “just in case the police ring up”.  I know he’s just doing his job but still.  I’m tired of DOC telling us all tramping is dangerous.  We know and plan accordingly.

And then we were off again.  It ended up being a smoking hot day, not a cloud in the sky.  I can definitely see why the Cascade saddle gets all the traffic it does.  We met a lot of people doing it – especially a group of 8 young Germans doing it backwards – which if you’re familiar with the Cascade saddle, is not recommended.  Dylan suspected it may have to do with the ability to hitch-hike out.  He asked them about it and they admitted that they thought it would be easier to hitch-hike from the Raspberry Creek Carpark than muddy creek.  And fair enough, I suspect they’re right.

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This section reminded me a little bit of Rabbit Pass

We made it up to the tarns just before Cascade saddle and identified a campsite.  I made sure we camped away from the other 2 tents already there.  Hah, what a joke!  By the end of the evening, there were easily 10 tents and at least 5 different parties camped up there.  I was absolutely smoked, but we all managed to soak in the tarns a little bit.

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From our camp: Day 2

Day 2 turned out to be one of the single hottest days we’ve ever had.  We got a slightly late start, and it really was scorching.  We stopped for swim at a little (dart glacier) fed tarn around 10:30 because of rule #1 “if it’s hot and there is a good swimming hole, stop and swim”.  So thankful we did, as the rest of the walk to the Dart hut was absolutely roasting.  At one point I stopped, took my top off and dunked it in a frigid stream to cool down.  I’m so sooo so glad I did, as the last hour to the hut through the dart valley has no shade.

We had lunch at the hut and decided to wait out the heat of the afternoon.  We had a solid 2 hour break, including a siesta and swim before heading out the door again around 4pm.  Even then, it was still roasting and after only 1 hour of climbing we had to stop and wallow in the merest trickle of a stream again.

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Wallowing in a trickle

Finally, around 7ish, we reached the Rees saddle and despite wanting to camp farther up snowy creek, we decided to call it a day.

Day 3, the slave driver (let’s call him Dylan) made us get up and start walking before dawn.  We knew this would be a long hot day and wanted to get as much of the nasty climbing done as possible before the sun came up.  I spent the first hour of the day chasing the boys, who were on a mission to cover as much ground as possible in the shade.

The climb up to 1950 was reasonably straightforward, apart from the top bit which was a bit of nasty, steep crumbly shale for ~100m.  However, we made it to 1950 in good time, and enjoyed morning tea and taking in some spectacular views of the Tyndall Glacier.  At this point, we were constantly referring to Moirs about our route through the head of pine creek “pick a path through bluffs” and subsequent sidle into Lochnagar.

The sidle from the head of pine creek to the saddle between 1896 and 1865 is not for the faint-hearted.  This was a particularly nasty section, with lots of slippery tussock, and not much in terms of goat trails.  We were all rather uncertain as to the route at one point, it was starting to look quite nasty and Moirs had little to offer apart from “follow benched path”…  What benched path?!

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Does not accurately convey the nastiness of this section of the route

Suddenly, we found boot marks in the dirt (a father & son duo who we knew were several hours ahead of us), rounded a slight ridge and the benched paths were immediately clear.  Lochnagar lay in front of us in all its glory and I honestly don’t remember when I beheld anything so beautiful.

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Lochnagar Success photo

After a reasonably straightforward descent (follow the ridge as soon as you can), we stopped and had an incredible swim in Little lochnagar.  We couldn’t believe how warm the water was – positively tropical by NZ standards.

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Little lochnagar

Though we were loathe to leave this beautiful spot, I had spotted an ideal campsite (a far beach on Lochnagar) during our descent.  Even though the boys were exhausted by this time, I insisted that we press on another 30 min past the hut to one of the best camping spots we’ve ever landed at.

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Camping next to lochnagar

Once again, we had several long swims as the water in Lochnagar was again, surprisingly warm and tolerable.  Honestly, it was one of the warmest lakes we’ve ever encountered on our tramps.  We highly suspect it was due to the previous days of very hot weather, combined with prevailing winds that very conveniently blew the top layer of warm water down to our end of the lake.

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Enjoying the relatively warm water

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Is this the most remote place a Warehouse sleeping bag has ever been?

We knew day 4 was going to be short so we elected to enjoy our campsite as long as possible and got a very late start.  We met another group of 4 guy trampers near the Goatel, who were going on even crazier trip than we were (also, one of them looked like he was actually carrying an empty pack…  Talk about ultra lightweight tramping).  Once again, the day was sweltering and I’m pretty sure we did more swimming than tramping.

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Swimming hole #1003 along the shotover river.  At this point the boys were just jumping in completely clothed, boots and all.  As you do.

Because it was our short ‘easy’ day (estimated at around 5 hours), we got a bit slack and ended up scrub bashing for nearly an hour above the shotover when it started to look a bit gorge-y (we had just been following the river up until that point).  Big, big mistake.  We were nearly torn to shreds in the scrub, got completely bogged down and generally had an utterly miserable hour or so.  Getting to Tummel Burn hut was an absolute relief, and we determined to ensure we didn’t get lost making our way up to the shotover saddle (as the party we met earlier in the day had difficulty navigating some sections, as did many others who had written in the Tummel burn hut book).

Despite the heat of the previous days, on day 5 we actually woke up with frost on our tents and frozen boots.  Our leader, Dylan, managed to navigate the first couple of hours up from Tummel Burn hut, through the bush and even found a barely visible (due to scrub) waratah described in Moir’s.  I still can’t believe that he found it.

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The route up from Tummel Burn hut

For some reason, I had been sleeping poorly on the trip (I’m blaming the el cheapo Warehouse sleeping bag and my REI mat which after 5 years suddenly decided to wear out, i.e. deflate slowly every night) and really struggled to keep up with the boys on day 5.  Luckily, Dylan and I decided to stretch our trip out another day and join our companion for one last night of camping on the Shotover saddle, thus breaking up what would have been a very long final day.

Day 6 was another beautiful, hot, amazing day and we decided to climb Red Rock first thing before returning to the car park via the Shotover Saddle route.  Once again we were rewarded with some absolutely spectacular views of Rob Roy Peak and the Matukituki valley.

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Panorama from Red Rock

We then expected a much easier descent via the Shotover saddle route – however true to its name, it was a route (albeit well marked with snow poles), not a track as our rather sore legs were hoping.  By the time we reached the Matukituki river we were more than ready for another swim and some proper food (we held out for ribs from Lone Star in Wanaka.  It was an absolute feast!).

To sum up, this was probably my favourite trip to date.  Yes, it kicked my butt (I was really exhausted afterwards – I blame the several poor nights sleep on my worn out old mat), but we didn’t get a drop of rain for 6 days (in New Zealand!), we saw some of the most spectacular scenery in Central Otago, we made it to one of the more remote and special lakes in the area, and we probably did more swimming than tramping.   Our companion, Ian, said it was one of the most fun trips he’d ever done.  Yes, there was a fair bit of navigational skills required, and there were a few technical sections where a good head for heights and sure footing was paramount, but we had the necessary skills to be up to the challenge.  I also personally feel pretty proud of the fact that of the 2 other groups we met going into Lochnagar, not another single woman was to be seen.  Go team!

What trips are on your bucket list these days?

Happy Tramping!

How to dehydrate your own backcountry meals

For a little over a year now, Dylan and I have been dehydrating our own meals to take with us on our trips. I bought a used Sunbeam food dehydrator on trademe for $40, and I’m pretty sure we’ve gotten our $40 of use out of it!

Dehydrating meals may seem like a lot of work, but considering how expensive most backcountry cuisine or other pre-packaged freeze dried meals are (around $10/meal), and that they’re not really that tasty… Dehydrating your own meals may suddenly seem a lot more appealing.  If you’re someone with particular dietary needs or food allergies, finding appropriate meals can be difficult, so the option of creating your own meals from scratch may be the answer!

We’ve actually enjoyed trying different recipes – giving ourselves a lot more variety in our tramping meals, the ability to include your favourite veggies, etc. And the best part is, they weigh almost nothing and take up very little space.

I’m not going to proclaim to be a food blogger or a masterchef. This is just to give you an idea of our process of dehydrating. This happens to be a chicken curry (yes I used sauce from a jar – like I said, not a master chef – but your meal will only be limited by your creativity in the kitchen!).

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Veggies!  I love veggies.

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Sauce (yes 2!  We like our meals to be “saucy”, tomatoes, rice, chicken

Step 1:  Chop up everything into quite small pieces (more surface area, easier to dehydrate).  I am very bad at cutting things up finely so for me this is small.

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Chopping into small pieces

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Small pieces

Step 2:  Cook everything up as usual.

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Cooking

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Cooking…

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Lots of sauce!

Step 3:  For this meal, I mixed the sauce and rice together.  Depending on the type of carbohydrate I’m using, I may or may not include.  Rice takes a long time to cook so if I’m doing a meal with rice I often include it.  However, I have made meals that were a meat/veg/sauce only and then served them over instant mashed potatoes, couscous or pasta which I cook when we’re in the backcountry.

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Mixing rice into the sauce

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Our dehydrator – stained from many tomato meals

Step 4: Spread your meal in a thin-ish layer on each of your dehydrator trays.  I made a huge batch of curry so I’ve packed it in pretty tightly here.

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Layering up the trays

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Outside of the dehydrator.

Step 5:  Dehydrate on high for 24-36 hours.  This meal took 36 hours.  Time depends on how much food you’ve got in there, etc.

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The finished process

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Definitely dehydrated and crunchy!

Step 6: Remove from trays and place into a bag.  Carefully label what it is, and when you cooked it up.  We store our meals in the freezer and portion them out into individual servings as needed (yes, I just guess every time – eventually you get better at guessing serving size + water ratio).

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Bags of dehydrated meal!

And voila!  You’ve just completed your dehydrated meal.

Tips: Mince, beans and veggies re-hydrate best.  Chicken is worst (it will never fully re-hydrate perfectly and will be a little chewy).  Tomato based dishes work really well, we like to add a lot of cheese as well (seriously, cheese makes everything better).  If you’re going to make a sweet dish (e.g. Honey soy chicken, or Terriyaki chicken which are some of Dylan’s faves) make sure to mix the rice in as the sugar/honey in the sauce will act like glue to your dehydrator trays.

Have you tried to dehydrate your own meals?  Any trips, tricks or fave recipes?

Dehydrating is a bit of trial and error, but honestly well worth a shot.  You’re only limited by your skills in the kitchen.  Good luck, happy cooking and happy tramping!

 

 

From the backlogs: The Kepler Track (in a day) Dec 2012

Back in 2012, when Dylan and I were still tramping newbies, we walked the Kepler track in a day with the tramping club.   This is more or less the post I wrote back then.

60 km (okay, we only did about 50 km), usually takes 3-4 days, about 1500 metres of elevation.  In a single day.  It was with the tramping club, so we weren’t the only crazies out there starting the track at 6 am.

What can I say?  There are people even crazier than us that run the Kepler in an annual race, the Kepler Challenge.  The winner usually takes 4.5-5 hours.  Tramping club usually does their “Kepler in a day” trip the weekend after the Kepler challenge.

Ok, so a quick sum up.  We left at 6 am and took about 3 hours to get to Luxmore hut.  We got there right as the multi-day trampers (who I shall refer to as the “tourists” from now on) were leaving.  Very amusing as we arrived to Luxmore, Dylan already had his shirt off (poor boy, feels the heat), and the tourists were kitted out often in full pants, jackets, beanies/stocking caps, and of course their absolutely enormous full packs!  He is gaining a bit of a reputation as a man that doesn’t feel the cold.  At this point I also had 2nd breakfast (nutra-grain cereal) (my reputation is as a bottomless pit).

D with no shirt, tourists in background

Dylan with no shirt, tourists in background

We stopped only to fill our water bottles and were off again.  Our next stop was a side trip up to the top of Mt. Luxmore.  The views are amazing and even though this probably added 30 min total to our time, we would have felt we missed something if we hadn’t gone to the top.

Silliness at the Mt. Luxmore trig

Silliness at the Mt. Luxmore trig

Then it was off again along the ridgeline, which was all up and down, past the two emergency shelters.  I had 3rd breakfast by this point as well.  And just before the 2nd shelter, we switched packs (Dylan had the food pack which was heavier than my pack) as I was feeling quite good and Dylan was feeling the effects of the climbing.  Then it was the long descent down to Iris Burn hut.

Descent to Iris Burn hut

Descent to Iris Burn hut

This took ages and by the time I arrived I thought I was going to pass out from lack of food.  I was also extremely grumpy at this point because Dylan had gone ahead and assumed that I had stayed with the group just behind him.  Well, after falling over/tripping over a step, I lost a little momentum, plus the lack of food equated a very grumpy Rebecca arriving into Iris Burn hut at about 1:30 pm.

Dylan and I inhaled some lunch, refilled our water bottles, and were on our way again lickety split.  No dawdling when you are on this epic ‘day walk’.  We felt quite refreshed (Dylan said he was simply amazed how quickly I perked up after lunch – of course, it may have been the chocolate fish) and set a cracking pace on to Moturau hut.  Well – at halfway we had to stop for a toilet break (yay – great walks have plenty of toilets along the way!) where I was devoured by sandflies.  At this point, we really started to drag.  Not too long after – we had to have a stop to attend to our feet.  Both of us has blisters that needed taping (thank God for athletic tape – honestly this stuff is the best for preventing blisters).  Then we continued to slow down as we trudged to Moturau hut.  Dylan kept thinking he saw the hut (seriously nearly hallucinating!) – unfortunately it turned out to be Lake Manapouri or the beach!  Somewhere along this point we also decided that we were stuffed, our feet were absolutely hammered, and that we would stop at Rainbow Reach instead of back at the control gates (where we started and thus completing the loop).  This would put our total trip at about 50 km instead of the full 60 km.

Moturau hut - thank God!

Moturau hut – thank God!

We finally arrived at Moturau hut, had some snacks, refilled 2 of our water bottles (as we only had another 1.5 hours to go, we probably only needed about 1 L each), had a sit down, chatted with the tourists, and then we were off again.  First 15 min felt great, we took some photos at the wetlands, etc.  Then the wall hit.  This must have been at hour 12.5.  Honestly, I just about came to a halt.  The end couldn’t come soon enough.  And where was Rainbow Reach?  Did we miss it?  Surely we would have seen the sign and honestly it’s been at least an hour.  Oh – there are some people coming this way – we can ask them!  Sure enough – Rainbow reach is 5 min away.

We finally reached our end.  We had no desire to continue on the last 10-12 km (probably another ~3 more hours at the pace we were going!) through more of the same never-ending beech forest.  So instead, we sat down at the picnic table, ate an entire packet of lollies (that was the 3rd packet of the day) and took some photos and waited to be picked up.  We were finally picked up about 8:15 – we probably arrived at 7:30.  It was definitely a wise decision not to go to the end as we probably would have been walking until about 11 o’clock at night!

I'm dead!!

I’m dead!!

However, we were slightly dispirited to realize that nearly everyone else finished the entire 60 km in roughly the same time or less than we took to do 50 km!  So yet again, tramping is a wake-up call that I am not nearly as fit as I think!  I should also add that we were nearly the youngest people to do this in our group.  So yes, all the people that are a lot more fit than us are in their 40s, 50s and 60s!!!

Would I do it again?  Hell no!  I honestly thought I might die at the end.  That last hour was the worst hour of tramping ever.  That was definitely my longest, toughest day of tramping to date.  You might be wondering how my feet fared with “the blisters” (that was a result of a trip up to Big hut in the Rock and pillars some weeks before)?  Well, they are fine.  Totally fine.  Blister blocks covered with athletic tape worked a miracle.  I did end up with 2 giant blisters on each of my littlest toes, however, which was the most painful part of the end of the day.  Also my feet felt as though they had swelled to 3 x their usual size.  At least I can hassle Dylan as this was his idea!

What did I learn?

  1. Walking an entire 3-4 day track in a single day is probably not the best, nor most enjoyable way to see a track.
  2. Dylan and I can probably condense tramping days on other great walk tracks if we want (e.g. two 4-5 hour days can probably be condensed and still be manageable)
  3. Athletic tape is miraculous.
  4. I feel great up to about 7-8 or even 9 hours of tramping.
  5. Hydration salts are a must (we used 4 packets).
  6. I get very grumpy if I’m not fed, like irrationally grumpy, but at least I recognize and acknowledge it.  Also, I need to eat pretty much continuously throughout the day.
  7. I’m not as fit as I think.  There is certainly room for improvement.
  8. Horrible blisters can be managed with little pain.
  9. My legs are much fitter than they used to be (tramping wise), but I need to toughen up my feet!

So how do I feel today?  My calves are a bit tight.  My blisters feel better (now that I’ve popped them).  My lower back is a little sore.  And my dozens of sandfly bites itch like mad.  But I think I’m doing pretty decently all things considered.

Readers, you might be interested to know that shortly after we survived walking the Kepler in a day, I decided to sign up to do the Kepler Challenge in 2014.  I was seriously derailed in my training by some injuries (stupid ITB) but persevered.  My goal that day was to finish within the 12 hour time limit – which I made, only just!  I was one of the nearly last to finish, but I did it.  60km in a single day, in ~11.5 hours.

Happy tramping!