Wednesday, April 29, 2009

St Pats Forest Rogaine

Penny is working what we call the "dark shift" at the moment. 8am - 6pm - she never sees the light. But thats not to say she doesn't get any exercise. She bikes backward and forwards to work through the great Mt Victoria MTB tracks, every now and then we get a run in and then occasionally a crazy adventure. The St Pats Forest Rogaine the other night was definitely a crazy adventure.

The rogaines in the Hutt, which is where this is, start at 6.30, so it was quite a rush getting out there, paying during the final stages of the briefing, bagging the maps as they said 30 seconds to go, then sprinting off with the crowd while trying to plan a route for the next few hours! We didn't even know how to cross the river but luckily there were plenty of people to follow. Going under SH2 via the culvert at CP 21 we decided to head straight up the hill via 53 and 42 to 91. I had decided that to complete a good loop around the track linking up 75-76 we needed to get straight out there. A good decision for enjoyment I think but possibly not the most lucrative decision points wise.

Being a little flustered and suddenly alone, the rest of the field without exception (?) and probably wisely choosing to visit 81 and 71 we wasted lots of time searching early for 53 "off dip in track". I knew that we should probably wait for the dip in the track but I we just couldn't make ourselves it seemed so far! The tracks were classic tramping tracks, or even taped possum trapper routes, so it was quite slow going.

We decided to get 54, which involved getting the compass out and heading west from the track bend and 74, dropping down soft needly slopes into a creek. But 82 gave us some grief as we overshot the first junction then struggled to find the control which was just sitting there between us in the middle of the forest. Great practice in hunting for TWALK this weekend! We overshot the junction by 103, but grabbed the four CP's here relatively quickly and headed off for 85 where Penny was onto it enough to stop me going too far again.

A steep gnarly descent in the dark with dull lights to 104 then our first adventure of the evening downstream to 75. Complete with bush bashing, wading through the creek and a series of little pools to skirt. The glow worms down here were amazing even in the rush and the track up the hill to 94 was full of them too. 94 itself was quite hard to find. A very small track deposited us on aforested spur, and it was only Penny noticing that the ridgetop track is broken by a light dotted line (so is broken and confusing on the ground) just north of the control that enabled us to find it in the end.

From here we were really pushing time. 34 was skipped, as was 35, but 76 and 93 seemed worth it. Then came our second great adventure for the evening, bush bashing between the tracks between 93 and 63....ugly...Penny was convinced I chose the wrong way through low scrub and fallen trees, in reflection she may have been right...but who was to know! It ate up time a little but we eventually emerged on the track and promptly failed to find 63. Our plan had been to take a lucrative route back through 83, 102, 62 and 92 but this had been getting less and less likely for the last hour or so and was now completely out of the question. So it was down the nice open spur to 24, then down the track beside SH2 to another culvert at 23.

We were late now. I had to inform Penny that it wasn't polite to verbalise the points we were losing every minute as we were running along. Especially when she wouldn't let me tow her, claiming that her legs couldn't go around fast enough. Marital bliss! But we got there back to the organisers sheltering under the motorway off ramp, (did I mention it was wet and miserable :-))and the pizza. Great event. Interesting navigational and route choice challenges. It would have been fun to do it for six hours.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bye Neil and Karyn

Earlier this week we were lucky to be the final stop on Neil and Karyn's farewell tour. Amongst the gossip, sitting around and attempt at training I took them climbing at Titahi bay, a brief photo essay follows...

Neil and Karyn, Mana Island, My Island (the south), Toitoi and a sneak glimpse of "Baby's Bottom Wall"

Scrambling up Orange Slab and ready to go

Cajoling Neil up the first pitch of Back Black Cleft

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Easter 09

We worked out that between us we have spent 25 of our last 26 Easters at Orienteering Nationals, so it was with some apprehension that we approached our competition less chocolate festival. Our first prioirity was the wedding of Bemily - Ben Revell and Emily Fackney. We shot up to Napier on Saturday and enjoyed the beautiful ceremony at Napier Botanical Gardens followed by festivities at the War Memorial Centre.

The enjoyment of seeing two friends so happy is awesome, as was catching up with all our mutual friends gathered from around the place.

Sunday was pretty laid back, gossip around a barbie then a tide thwarted mission to Cape Kidnappers. We caught up briefly with other friends Lisa and Tim in Napier before shooting off to the famous Reids farm on the banks of the Waikato river just south of Taupo. There really is an infestation of "self drive" tourists. Vans from Africa filled the massive Reids farm fields, and this is getting out of season.

Camping has recently become a more comfortable experience for us with the addition of thermarests, a new tent and a fluffy fluffy sleeping bag for me, my late 90's purchase now worn to smithereens.

Our major holiday destination was Kawakawa Bay on the shores of Lake Taupo. I have some connection with this area already having organised an Adventure Race through here in 2007, but we were returning this time to climb. Sport routes have been developed on the serene lake edge cliffs. It was a solid 90 minute walk in with big packs but worth every step.

The climbing was a continuation of our rock climbing journey. Quite a shambles. After quickly setting up camp we headed out on the rough track around the lake to the crag named "the point". I had attempted to memorise the online guide and was looking for a highly rated 3 pitch 16 named "High Hopes". Up to the base of the cliff, along a bit and mmmm that looks likely. We set up and I scrambled up the first pitch to an uncomfortable belay stance. Penny joined me and we uncomfortably swapped over for me to lead again. The next pitch quickly turned to farce. I hadn't experienced a 16 with an overhang and a big hand jam before. Then when I confronted some slippery looking moves with no positive handholds and sparse bolts I began to get suspicious. Luckily I was physically unable to go any further and suffered only the ignominy of loosing a draw. If I had completed the pitch I'm not sure how I would have managed to descend the 40m of grade 19 it really was - as well as the first pitch with a 50metre rope.

Regrouping, we went exploring again and managed to stumble over the easiest sport climb on the crag, the pleasant grade 15 "Mellow Yellow". Three pitches of scenic fun highlighted by the big first belay ledge in a garden of Kowhai's. The lake really was gorgeous below in the setting sun.

THe next day we gradually worked our way back to the Point, warming up (or wearing out) by picking out a couple of 16's on the "cracks" and "main cliffs" crag. I really enjoyed the first route "Rohans Little Sister", using an edge up a big blank slab, and Penny mastered "Jug Addiction" after I had found a more awkward route first time around. By the time we got back to the Point and finally found "High Hopes" - jjust further on from our previous days escapades - we were already pretty warn out. I set out though and the first pitch is amazing! Up onto a slab, then up and up and up then a big step right over space to a hanging belay. Exhilariting exposure for a neub like me. Wow. Sweat streaming off me everywhere. Penny was looking apprehensive below. Ideally she would climb up and lead through in this situation, but we are not quite there yet and I was worried about managing both of us up there so we decided I would abseil down and belay Penny from the bottom. I angled down taking out the draws and all was going well until the last metre when I lost my footing and took a masivve pendulm out across the face smashing into the side of an arete. Shaken and stirred. I had taken my hand off the belay rope (my lifeline) in the process of protecting myself from the collision and was lucky there was enough tension in the rope to keep me safe. With some justification Penny decided she didn't want to top rope this pitch (for fear of a repeat swing) so we bailed from this, with Penny instead leading her first 14, repeating the bottom pitch of Mellow Yellow.

By late afternoon we were out of there. Heading south now to Ross Leckies place at Turangi, to say hi to the big fella and spin some yarns. Thanks to Ross for my new favourite piece of kit a bright bright orange lightweight fleece T-Shirt which has reinvigorated my love for bright colours! The next morning before the long drive back to Wellington we headed up into the edge of the Kaimanawas. Umakarikari is a pleasant 90minute walk through ancient red beech forest and the typical rounded tops of that area to an easy summit with rocky ridges satretching down into the mist. Beauty. What a walk.

I wasn't back home for long. Just a night before heading down south to a Leave No Trace meeting in Castle Hill. This is an organisation dedicated to promoting a code of outdoor ethics that I have become involved in. It was a really fun weekend and a great group of people. I might dwell on this more some other time. In the meantime though I am at Mum and Dads place in Arthurs Pass, eying up an easy climb tomorrow before heading back home midweek. I can't wait to get back to the morning sun and the elemental harbour staring me in the face from my "office" all day. Not to mention the wife!!

Thursday, April 9, 2009


This is Sara and me up a trig, obviously when tights were more fashionable!. Our friend Sara (with husband Aaron) live in Sweden now. This could be anywhere in New Zealand the ammount of trips we have done together - though looking at a photo or two in context I think it was the trig of Mt Thomas in the Canterbury foothills. We were nearing the end of a long day mission which included "Pinchgut Hut".

Mt Oates

Mt Oates is the lovely classical looking mountain you see still in the sun if you are peering in the gloom up the Mingha waiting for your loved one to stumble out of their first Coast to Coast training run. We apprached it from Williams saddle, following its southern ridge till just past where both these photos are taken looking in different directions. We then sidled high through the old snow fields to obtain the easy western ridge we followed to the lower summit. The descent past Lake Mavis and Goat pass completes a lovely long day mission.

The Beauty of Belmont

For the first time in a while I went for an impromptu exploration and Wellington continues to astound me with the variety and choiceness of places to go running.

I headed out on the motorway to Petone and hung a hard left in the middle of the roadworks. The lowest entrance to Belmont Regional Park is in an industrial area. But cross the wooden bridge from the carpark and you are straight into a little gem of a reserve. The lower part of the gorge is open, with the easily sloped track sometimes sidling quite high above the creek. Stock have obviously been removed from the area for quite a while as there are all sorts of ferns and I guess coastal colonising plants. The southerly was howling through here, twisting gusts in a narrow corrider.

There was eagerness in my legs and it wasn't long before I took the LH option at the junction (it was to be a clockwise loop from here) and headed up the western branch of the Korokoro crossing the stream occasionally in the remnant forest. The first landmark was "Baked Bean" corner, perhaps named I suspect for someone who ate baked beans here. The track heads up steeply first then rolls and climbs up in a lovely mixture to Belmont Trig at 456metres above the car.

I was in my amateur (no make that amateurish) botantist mood. Which was great because it was a fascinating botanical journey. I started off the climb contemplating, as I often do in Wellington, how great it is that we have given the bush the chance, through time, to reclaim many of the hills in these parts - and how lucky we are that gorse as a monoculture is a nourisher not a smotherer. I picked out the plucky little natives making headway. Rewarewa, Rangiora and others Penny tells me the name of every time and I forget straight away.

I expected as the hill climbed wI would come out on a grassy exposed ridge. I couldn't have been more wrong. Where I least expected it the forest appeared first in groves then en masse. Predominantly Tawa, but there was kiekie and all sorts of ferns sprawling from the trees. Kawakawa in the darkness below and little clusters of baby lancewoods flourished where perhaps there was a little more light. There was even an ancient and dead Rata trunk ghostly beside the track.

This was great! And the track kept going up, till I sensed we were near the top, and then I realised I was running through a flaming explanse of Horopito, or pepper tree. Penny and I are both into this tree at the moment, especially after our trip to Mt Taranaki which just seemed to have the brightest specimens I have ever seen. Although I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder I do wonder whether there is a difference in the colouration from one location to the other. In a crazy coincidence after thinking about this stuff I was talking with a friend tonight who is going to be helping out with a phd research project looking at whether Horopito colouration is some sort of defense mechanism against herbivores and the research is going to be undertaken is this very spot!!

The trig site is a beautiful spot. A trig, some striking rocks and Horopito with views all around. I feel by exploring this part of the world I am developing a connection with it already. I can see my island from here, but in front of it is the Makara area with its cycling routes and as I swing to the right there is Colonial Knob (an adventure waiting to happen), Porirua with Whitireia Park and the "famous" rock climbing of Titahi Bay, Pauatahanui Inlet which we kayaked across recently (oops story to come!), Paekakariki Hill and behind that the dark mass of Kapiti Island which we look forward to visiting soon thanks to some friends generosity, then Battle Hill, the mighty Akatarawas, Tararuas, down to the Upper Hutt and the Blue Mountain climb, then Lower Hutt and the hills on which Casper and I rogained earlier this week. Then down on the other side of Wainui Road the hills above Eastbourne which we are also quickly becoming familiar with. Wow what country if you're into rough as guts running, mountain biking and exploring!

This place also feels alive. There is energy in them there hills - their ridges form waves flowing from the backcountry down to the urban area of Wellington where their force crunches into the salt spray of the other major influence in this part of the world, the sea. The harbour doesn't cease to amaze me, sometimes a mill pond, sometimes a brutal glimpse into the churning seas of hell. Supernatural Wellington, as the Forest and Bird locals have coined. Bloody oath, this place is powerful.

The track continues down through farmland then back onto some well made single track (how many kilometres of this exists in the Wellington region?). It twists and turns before when you least expect it dropping into a massive flat grove of Tawa in the Eastern Korokoro stream. Now this isn't Urewera like forest but the trees are bigger here, they have been spared and they stand proud. I'm enjoying the running and the track rolls up and down past the Korokoro dam, and then flies down to the earlier junction. It is only when the howling wind faces me in the gorge that my foot remembers to hurt.

Some people get tired from running, but for me a 90 minute loop through those wonders is incredibly energising and I am immensely grateful to those people that have helped create places like these. Lets make many more.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Discovered Photos

We got a couple of old rolls of film developed and digitised the other day. It was great to see the young faces and good times pop out of the fading past. Orienteering world champs Japan 2005.

Penny in the "Marae" she shared with the boys!.

A few of those boys: Karl, Brent and Neil

And then there is Chris!

Penny giving it heaps at the finish.

Just another Japanese evening

Monday, April 6, 2009

Seeing something you created flourish.

Events have been on my mind lately. I have been working on a few concepts which are quickly turning into real plans. But aside from that I am keeping the website up to date for the Taylors Mistake Rogaine Series which began last week on the hills above Christchurch.

I have been reflected on how fulfilling and great it feels to see something you have created flourish once you have passed it on. I like trying to create things for others, most of the time the things flop but the Taylors Mistake Rogaine Series at least is an exception!

I created the Taylors Mistake Rogaine Series in 2005 as fundraising for Penny and I to attend the World Orienteering Champs in Japan. I then ran it again in 2006 before passing it on to Matt Scott, Lara Prince and Michael Smithson to organise in 2007. Last year Chris Forne, Emily Wall and I organised an extended series - 5 events from the tip of Godley Head to past the Sign of the Bellbird. This year I have passed it on to Ian Edmond and Nora Audra to organise for as long as they like.

Ian and Nora by all accounts have done a great job so far attracting a near record field of 180 to the first event based high on the Summit Road above Governors Bay. The slideshow below is from their first event held last Wednesday.

The photos just bring back so many good memories of people with smiles on their faces running crazily on the rugged ridges. People just so stoked when returning to the finish after a starry evening high above the city lights. Theres people in those photos who were at the first events and are returning now by the looks of it with new girlfriends and kids. There are people that look exactly the same (and wearing the same clothes) as they did that time ago. The landscapes in the photo are so familiar now, the view over the harbour to Lyttleton, and indeed back the other way. Probably my favourite event ever was the first time we used the Gondola, it was just such a different experience starting way up there with a 360 degree panorama of an oncoming southerly. We didn't make any money when we used the gondola but it was a blast.

I feel like we have made a real difference in introducing people to all the beauty of the Port Hills at different times of day and night. The amazing red cliffs, the groves of forest, the deserted bunkers hidden by flax, the rugged sea shores of Godley Head. I rest easy in the knowledge that Ian and Nora are continuing this, and hopefully it continues for a long time.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Boohai!

Was just scoping around the net looking for images for a few ideas on topographical map navigation for my OSquad Blog, when I found a write-up and online maps from my own event!

The Boohai 2008 on the East Coast was an event I really enjoyed organising with friends Rachel and Rhys. In my unemployed state I am getting more serious about organising another for later this year! The map of the first day, which included some classic "East Coast" Coastal farmland with beautiful beaches and rugged headlands is included below", as is a little section of the write-up which can be found in its entirety here.

The first event, which was of 8 hours duration was held on the coastal Nuhiti station. Rugged ridges sweeping into the sea, bisected by streams lined with native bush and remnant puriri forest. The craggy coastal feature of Mawhai point home to a former whaling station was visited by most with high pointers located on its tip. A lone hermit sheep eyed competitors curiously as they scrambled over rocks to his gnarly island of grass and bush. There was some honest labour going on, with plenty of hills to keep the competitive ones busy. Neil Jones had brought over a team from Whakatane and beyond, including son Daniel and well-known adventure racer Grant Burke, who were expected to do well, but in the end the first day was taken by Hawkes Bay pair Hamish Goodwin and Chris Howell. There was no mercy being given in this competition, the latter moving fast into the finish.