The subject is "coast to coast", particularly the history concerning the route of the famous race. The theme is keeping an eye on the travellers focus on time and comparing that to todays event culture. Maori pathways are covered in good depth as are the stories of the first pakeha, exploreres, surveyors and sheepmen. The new stuff for me was the story of the recreationalists, starting with Mannering and Dixon (famously the first to use skis in NZ outside the lodge where I am working) through to the stopwatch trampers and early mountain runners. Theres a good account of the Mt Bealey Run (see below for my afterwork reccie), the precursor to the Avalanche Peak race, which was organised annually by locals through the 1970's. The inaugural event was won by Eric Saggers. Apparently with boots compulsory, many of the competitors chose skellerup gumboots because they were lighter! I was talking to a local in the pub tonight too, and she remembers sending her 11 year old son out on one of the races and worrying that he'd never make it back.
Probably my biggest disappointment of the book was its quick treatment of the Coast to Coast phenomenom, brushed by in a few pages, especially given that coast to coast photos are very prominent on the cover. Some good qualitative analysis of the culture of the racers compared to the earlier passers by, would have made interesting reading.
But anyway, inspired somewhat I thought I would go and check out the former Bealey Race circuit after work this evening. I have covered the terrain before but not for a while. The bushline is achievable in 30mins if you go solid, and its great to be up in the mountains in the sun as the village sinks into shade below.
The open tops are lovely. I could imagine the potential shortcuts and contested routes where racers tried to get that little advantage. The ridge narrows in places and there are huge slips off both sides. Down to the left are the Cora Lynn flats of the Waimak while off right mountains poke their heads up. I was in no hurry, enjoying the sun and the Crow glacier face of Rolleston.
While pipits were hanging around during the ascent it was keas that met me at the top, what choice birds they are. As I ran down the top of the scree they can hurtling over my head several times in pairs chasing each other, what an amazing bird they are!
The scree slope is long and intimidating, the top is loose and easy, but from about halfway down you have to pick your way more carefully. its about 15 minutes down to the river going along ok. I remembered rough creek as a pleasantish boulder hop, but the winter was hard on it. Avalanches have choked the creek with trees, slowing progress. With the rivers a bit high there were some commiting jumps to keep my feet dry and I sure wouldn't be sending my 11 year old down here! It was about 2 hours all up, and to be honest I can see why they don't run the race anymore! Not bad for a nice evening after work though.