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!

The Livingstone Range (6-7 June 2015)

Another late post! Dylan and I wanted to get away on an “easy” trip the first weekend in June. We finally decided to tick off a trip that Dylan had wanted to do for 3 years now – the Livingstone range which is the ridgeline just above the Greenstone track.

We set off from work earlyish on a Friday, and made it to the Divide in good time – around 9:30 or so. We had a very crisp walk into the Lake Howden hut – took roughly an hour. I felt very guilty as we arrived into the hut around 11 pm and disturbed another pair who probably weren’t expecting other trampers to come clomping in so late at night.

Frosty fern at Lake Hawdon Hut

Frosty fern at Lake Hawdon Hut

The night was very cold and frosty. I slept about as poorly as I ever have in a hut as it was absolutely freezing. I’m not sure how it’s possible, but I’m certain Howden hut was colder inside than outside. Honestly, even Dylan was cold. It was like sleeping in a fridge.

But we had a decent start and headed back up to Key Summit and had easy travel along the tops – there is a route most of the way. We were rewarded with many spectacular views.

Reflections

Reflections

Frozen tarns

Frozen tarns

As the day progressed, the wind started to pick up and clouds started to come in – it was getting cold and I was getting tired. After some discussion, we decided to head down towards McKellar hut earlier than planned (our original plan was to hit 1543 then come down the ridge as we anticipated there might be a bit of a track there). Instead, we ended up going down a very steep face and then bush bashing for ages. I’m not sure when the last time you tried to bushbash your way through fiordland forest but I do not recommend it. I had no idea that ferns felt so much like razors on bare skin (sure it’s winter but this is NZ so who wears pants, am I right?)!

Descending back down towards McKellar Hut

Descending back down towards McKellar Hut

Bush-bashing

Bush-bashing

After a couple of hours struggling to make our way down, we finally made it back to the Greenstone track. We were very glad to see signs of civilization again. So much for an “easy” day!

Nothing quite like signs of civilization!

Nothing quite like signs of civilization!

That night we had McKellar all to ourselves (some hunters were holed up in the warden’s quarters, however) and managed to get it nice and toasty. And being the good trampers we are, we left it stocked with more wood than was there when we arrived (as many previous trampers complained about the lack of dry wood upon arrival at the hut). I hope whoever arrived after us did the good thing and continued to replenish the hut wood supply.

Re-stocking the wood in the hut

Re-stocking the wood in the hut

Paying it forward... leaving heaps of wood for future trampers

Paying it forward… leaving heaps of wood for future trampers

Sunday was a super easy day after our wood making session. And as a bonus, we came across this little guy – a species of fungus I had never seen before – for which I was incredibly thrilled.

Hotlips Puffball - Calostoma rodwayi

Hotlips Puffball – Calostoma rodwayi

Have you been able to get out on many trips this winter? Happy Tramping!