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  • Ali Middleton

Trail trials - technology, tent and me

How it happened that OUR overnight adventure to test the new tent became MY overnight adventure is still a blur but come Saturday morning, it was only me - stepping out on my own, for my very first solo overnighter.

I planned a route in the Remutaka Forest Park - some comfort in that I had walked most of the tracks before (with one exception), a familiar camping spot at Turere Hut above the river for the night, and a walk-in-the-park out Sunday morning. I was aiming for around 6-7 hours on Saturday.


The route plotted on View Ranger

I plotted the route on ViewRanger (my navigation App of choice) then exported/imported the GPX file into my Garmin Explore Mapshare account which syncs with ‘Minnie’ my Garmin InReach satellite communicator. I was curious to see how Richard (back at Mission Control) would see this with the InReach tracking information once I was underway. If successful I plan to import all of the TA GPX files into Mapshare so he has a full picture of the whole trail and my progress along it. So far so good.


The route was to take me up the Clay Ridge track to Mt McKerrow (706m), then along the ridge top to join the Whakanui track, down to the Orongorongo river and along the river to Turere Hut. Mapped at 18.2kms, 984m ascent, 7hrs 11mins walking.




















The climb to McKerrow is mostly through beech forest then sub alpine vegetation. All the huffing and puffing is finally rewarded with a clearing of trees and the most stunning views west back towards the city. It’s the first time that you get any visual sense of how high you've climbed.

Looking west to Wellington city
Through the more open trees along the ridge
Where the prevailing wind stamps it’s mark

I finally reached Mt McKerrow after 3 hours, where it's location is marked with an unceremonious stumpy pipe in the ground and no view. A mossy log made a perfect seat while the coffee brewed and I ate my lunch.

While I ate lunch I pondered the remainder of the walk. A sign I'd seen just prior indicated 2.5 hours to the Catchpool carpark (from where I'd come) and 3 hours to the Whakanui track, where I was headed 3 HOURS?? I knew I had done the majority of the climbing so how could it take that long? But this was the section of the trail that I had never walked, so it might... then I still had to descend to the river.... What if it DID take that long? It was now 12:30pm.... so that's 3:30 (or maybe 3pm) till I meet the Whakanui, then the track down (which is steep) to the river. That might take another couple of hours.... I could see the afternoon stretching out.... BUT -- I asked myself, Did it matter? What if I didn't get to the hut until 5:30pm, or even 6pm? Sunset was at 7:30pm so there was plenty of daylight.... Yes, it would be a longer walk than I had planned, but that was the worst of it. I have everything I need on my back and someone knows exactly where I am (within a 30min tracking ping). So I finally managed to quieten all the head noise, resolved to continue on, hoisted on my pack and feeling refuelled, stepped into the unknown. The track was not the easiest -- lots of bogs and logs, quite overgrown in parts and less-well marked than the climb up - but I stayed on track, occasionally checking the location of my blue dot on the ViewRanger App for peace of mind, and after just ONE hour, popped out onto the Whakanui track! Needless to say I was pretty happy and proud that I had arrived at that point.

Meeting the Whakanui Track
First glimpse of the river at 550m and voices heard off the riverbed.

The trail from there was another 3 hours, sidling around to meet another ridge, before descending 400m very steeply to the river valley and finally along to the hut. 7hrs 30min (including lunch stop), 21 kms and 1,046m.

Extensive predator trapping is doing the job protecting many Kiwi in this area.
The valley is dotted with private huts.

On reaching the hut, I stopped the tracking on Minnie, sent an 'I have arrived at camp' message, made up my post-walk recovery drink and set about with the next challenge -- pitching the tent! It was a breeze. What an epic wee tent is Tarptent's Double Rainbow. I had all the room in the world to get my gear inside, have a pits & bits wash and even string up a washing line. It wasn't long before dinner was done, the sun went down and the herd of kids playing chase around the hut went to bed. It was a beautiful still night with just the distance hum of the river.

Tent in action
Chores done -- time to relax

I am not a morning person. But trail life may change that... I was up with the birds & the sun, breakfasted, decamped & on the trail by 8:30am. I knew it would be a leisurely 2 hour walk out so wandered onto the riverbed to run through some river safety points from last year's course -- crossing a couple of small (ankle deep) braids, before heading up the hill onto the track for the final stretch back to the car.

Sunrise

On reflection, the whole experience was a great confidence boost with Te Araroa now less than 3 months away. I am under no illusion that TA will be anything like this last weekend and I still have a long way to go, but at least I move forward with just a teeny bit less trepidation. I am learning more and more about the technology and appreciate the peace of mind that carrying a satellite communication device & mapping App provides. And finally, it was a reminder of how far I've come both in fitness, strength and trail preparedness. All still very much a WIP but I absolutely wouldn't be here without the amazing coaching from Rowan Smith at Summit Strength, the Summit Strength Team community, my Osteopath (not giving you her name cos she's already too busy) and the ever-suffering support from Richard for which I am immensely grateful (even when he pulls the plug at the last minute. I knew he really wanted to go sailing). It really does take a village....:-). Thank you all.





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