Saturday, April 3, 2010

2010/04 Ruapehu challenge = pain!

I just got back from my attempt at walking around Ruapehu in a day . Basically the mountain looked like this the day before - and on Friday ....

It's about 67 km around and wasn't going to let me off easy .

After 50km I drank bad river water at the hut , apart form the fact that I had double blisters under one toenail that lifted it out of its 'mountings' - 

Thursday night at Whakapapa camp kitchen , I had the laptop going and wanted to see what the gopro helmet camera could do in low light [ wb adjusted ] Exif says iso 313 .

Just before 5 am I walked past the camp shop , the beginning of my adventure . When I plan on waking up early I usually wake up

at 3:00 am and then every half hour from then on so I was up at about 4:20 am .

At 7:00 am the sun was starting to makes its presence known .

By this stage I had twisted my right ankle [ about 6 :00 am ] . I've learned to roll my ankle all the way when this happens to avoid hurting it but it was quite a distance that my foot slipped and I managed to pull a muscle in my upper thigh at the same time . It hurt every time I lifted my right leg from then on .... after about 3 hours I think my leg gave up sending pain signals to my brain but it did resurface later .

I never realized that my camera lens was fogging up , luckily it has a waterproof housing .

The walk to the "New Waihohonu " hut is rated at 5 1/2 hours though these ratings are normally very conservative . I had to go slowly when it was very dark so I was satisfied with 2 3/4 hours .

I made this my 'breakfast stop' and allowed myself 15 minutes before heading off again at 8:00 am .

The walk to Rangipo hut is rated at 5 hours according to the sign . I'm not so good on flat ground so I battled to halve that rating and had to settle for 2 3/4 hours again - along with a 15 minute break .

You have to cross the Tukino 4X4 track as well ...

and this bridge

There's my shadow crossing the bridge

And the Rangipo hut !

From Rangipo hut to Mangaeheuhu hut it is rated at 6 hours though on the map it looks shorter than all the other walks . The reason is that there is this huge valley you have to cross

That's where my advantage comes in , I'm slow on flat terrain but tend to be able to maintain my pace up and down steep hills [ so far ] and I turned that 6 hours into another 2 3/4 hours .

Someone had built a wind shelter at the top of the climb , I needed shelter from the sun because it was an unusually [ for Ruapehu ] clear day !

I was going through the only desert area in the country ...

I got some temporary relief from a small bit of forest before the hut ....

By this time I had done "16 1/2 hours"[according to the map] in 9 hours including rest and I thought I had it " in the bag" since the total walking time is rated at something like 30 hours. I estimated that I could be back at the village before darkness [ 8pm ] . My calculations were wrong and did not include rest times - my mind wasn't too clear .

I aired my feet out and put my socks and boots back on and decided to ignore the fact that my right shoe felt a bit stuffy in the front after that stop .....

I headed off confidently .....

In areas where the vegetation is fragile they build platform/tracks to protect it from hikers .

I went past the Waitonga falls as well , the sign had stated 3 hours to the road so I was happy , and confident , with 1 1/2 hours .

It was a really nice day and I got a few good views of Ruapehu

It is amazing how much of a relief it can be to see a road and cars !

This is where the real adventure begins , things had been going too well so far . [ apart from twisting my right ankle 3 times by now , and the muscle tear on my upper thigh ] .

Now you have to walk about 3 km up this steep road heading for the Turoa ski-field .

but it was when I started going down this hill that I felt the pain that was building up on my right foot in the front where the sock was bunched up .

I knew I was in trouble when a 1 1/2 hour rated walk took my 1 hr 10 minutes - it should have taken 45 minutes .

This area is well worth a day trip though , there's a white band of rock running down the centre of the water ....

It might be a bit scary for someone scared of heights because you have to make your way down the ridges and jump across the river in places .

And there's the Mangaturuturu where I was greeted by a sign that stated that it was 8-10 hours to Whakapapa village . It was 17:38 when I took this picture .

I had been walking for 12 hours 45 minutes , this was about the 50km mark . In the early stages I was cutting the rated times in half and at that rate I should have been able to get back to the village in 4-5 hours but the fact that I was now limping and took almost the rated time to this hut meant that it may well have taken another 10 hours to get back - and I might have run into trouble along the way especially at night .

I decided that it would be wiser to spend the night at the hut . I had packed a light fleece blanket and could tuck my legs into my pack with my track pants and fleece jacket on and be warm enough .

My emergency rations were three cups of cheap two minute noodles which I don't normally eat by the way .

Now let's list my mistakes :
The water tank was empty at this hut and 1.) I was too tired to walk to the fast flowing river to get water . I walked to the 2.) slow moving stream nearby and it was easier just to sit on the bridge and dip my bottle into the still water in the centre .
3.) I was too tired and couldn't be bothered to dig out the water -purifying tablets .
I never had a stove with me which is ok but I lit a fire in the fire-place and put one of the hut pots full of the water on it and 4.) as soon as I saw bubbles decided it was enough to kill any germs and poured it into my three cups of [ 5.) different flavour ] noodles .
At 9:00 pm I went and sat outside to cool down because the other occupants had the fire so hot that I was sweating .
At around 11:00 pm everything was cool enough to fall asleep , I was wrapped in my fleece blanket with all my warm clothing on ..... and I woke up wanting to throw-up .
I spent the rest of the night with a bucket next to me for 'just in case' and realized that this was the end of my attempt to go all the way around the mountain even in two days .
I knew that in the morning I would have to make my way back up the 1 1/2 hour track

I thought it might be a 4 hour bout of suffering and sickness , crawling up the hill to get help ....

I won't state that I 'woke up' because I'm not sure that I actually slept but at 7:00 am I got up , packed my things and started walking - I forced down an energy bar to give me something to work on even though the thought of food made me feel sick . That was all I ate in a 24 hour period till tonight .
I also forced some water down [ with purification tablets in it mind you ] because I knew my body needed it and was surprised that it stayed down .

I didn't need to force myself to admire the scenery of the morning - I wasn't that sick ....

It had taken me all of 10 minutes to start overheating with all my clothing on . There was frost on the ground but I had to strip down to shorts and a T-shirt [ the same smelly clothes from the day before
] to keep cool enough to walk comfortably .
I was surprised that I did ok , it took me 1 hour and 20 minutes of the rated 1 1/2 hours but mainly due to the fact that I was going uphill and couldn't slide my feet forward to hurt my toe and ankle . I think my right ankle was protesting about being twisted 3 times the day before , my upper thigh was now really complaining about the torn muscle and I had to help it up with my hand a few times .
There was ice on the ground in places ...

This is one of my favourite pictures because even though it is a slight downhill it looks like an uphill .


It was a huge feeling of relief to get back to the road again ...

Then there was this fear of " What if no cars come past [ 15 km walk into town ] , what if nobody stops to help me ?" .....

It was a very painful walk downhill for about two kilometres before I heard a car coming down the hill - it turned out to be the same car that went up as I emerged from the track . I put my thumb out and it didn't sound like he was slowing so I decided that for the next car I would lie across the road and they would have to stop .
But he did stop and I was shaking and falling over by then when I loaded my pack into his back seat . It wasn't the cold , I had put all my warm gear back on plus my wet-weather gear because of the icy wind and slow pace I was moving at . I think it was some sort of shock my body was going into because I was still like that an hour later .
I had been in this situation before on this road on my first 3 day attempt around the mountain that failed due to a heavy pack and not drinking enough water which caused my knee to ache ... only that time I hadn't gone down to the hut and back up again .

It was such an amazing relief to be back in a vehicle cruising down the road effortlessly ......

he dropped me in the middle of town next to a tour company that organizes transport for the Tongariro crossing . They told me the next trip to the village was late afternoon unless I was prepared to pay $60 for someone to return for a special trip .... I would have paid $500 happily just to get back to a greater sense of security .

I had gone into the cafe over the road and looking at all the food made me feel sick so I drank a coke which seems to be good medicine for stomach trouble [ and de-greasing engines ] .

I ate my first meal in 24 hours tonight and all seems to be ok apart form the slight nausea - hopefully I will get some sleep tonight !

Basically I told my workmates that I wanted some good old "blood and guts" adventure and I got it - whether it was being caught in a blizzard or simply getting sick from river water after noticing one toenail perched above two blisters that had to be popped independently [ I reckon it will fall off soon ] . I'll be sore for a few days but will look back on this adventure with great fondness in future
My father always told me that you forget a holiday when everything goes right but when things go wrong you at least have a story to tell .... well I reckon I have a good story to tell with this one !

Update : One month later on 'Star wars day ' [ May the Fourth be with you ] my one toe-nail fell out [ second toe ] , the next morning [ Revenge of the Fifth [groan]] the same one on the other foot fell out.

Update : 17 July 2010 , the two toenails are half grown back again .
September I hope to climb Ruapehu and sleep on top in a bivy bag and then my training will begin for 'round two' .

Notes to myself for next time :
1.) Don't wear such thick socks .
2.) Have some 'toe room' .... eventually went into R&R sport in Hamilton and got some professional advice and some decent footwear .
3.) Prepare for the 'chaffing'
4.) Think about a two day trip rather ?
5.) Go counter -clockwise so there is no escape route and the hard part is over with first .
6.) trim toe-nails .
7.) Go in the middle of summer for maximum daylight .
8.) Do some Carbo-loading
9.) Should I harden or soften my feet ? I've read varying opinions on this .

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