Archive for the 'Gear' Category

2007-04-29 The task at hand

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

The three days at Kick Off were great but all the talk of hiking, and meeting people who had done it before, just made me want to get back to it sooner. This morning Sandles, who unfortunately needs time off for family matters, drove Paul and I back to Warner Springs to restart the trail. He did the loop around the town while I got to the small picnic area and took up the siesta position in the shade. I think we were there for about 3 hours and it was still waaaay to hot when we set off again.

Up and around the hill we came across George and Caitlin cooling their feet in a stream, good idea. A few more miles and I stopped on the path to eat some of their extra meals. They are one of those super-organised couples with healthy, freeze-dried, large and varied meals set up and waiting for them from here to Canada. Luckily for me they made a bit too much for the last section and have chosen to share some with me. Today was curry couscous.

I’m sleeping out again, as I suspect I will until Idylwild at the end of the week. It’s so warm here and a tent is too fiddly. It makes me glad for my sleeping bag that Nana and Grandad bought for when I went to Europe back in 2003 ! I think. I’m very cozy in that. And the pack cover Dad got me.

There has only been one day of rain, but I cover my pack with it every night to protect everything inside from dew and things that are out-smarted by elastic. Tonight I got my first skanky water from a spring, there were definitely things floating and swimming in it, so I filtered it through one of the bandanas Tania and Rachel gave me. So thank you for those :-)

I’m at mile 119.5, heading to Canada!
More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Warner to Idyllwild

Google Maps

Strolling in San Diego

Monday, April 16th, 2007

I’ve done some more exploring today. I walked from my hosts’ house to REI (3rd visit in 3 days, my wallet hurts!) and managed not to get hit by those crazy drivers on the wrong side of the road, arrested for jay-walking or die in a hail of bullets*. I did hear a couple of gun shots but on closer inspection it was a nail gun and the guy was a qualified builder, panic over. With the purchase of some new underwear**, a 1 gram razor*** and a lot of dry pasta meals I am now ready to send off my first care package and sit on the door step waiting for the data logger. I thought you might like to know what I’m doing with my time here so I’ve taken a photo of my organizing efforts and one of of Barney and Sandy’s. Can you guess which room is used by someone who only turned up a few days ago?

stuff everywheremeasured and weighed

*this is not a joke. Lots of people asked me if I’d be bringing a gun, some of them were referring to the bear danger
**quick drying for all the sweat and the occasional bear!
***1 gram razor Not recommended. It hardly works, and when it does you wish it didn’t. So it’s a beard for me

Google Maps Path

San Diego

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

It’s the end of day 3 in California and I’m full. The Mann’s had a neighbourhood pot-luck dinner here and it was very well catered. I’ve been sorting things out here, buying bits and pieces, stocking up on food, insect repellent and water bottles. I even had another go at a support system for my solar panels. I say *I* did but really I mean Jan did. After the one I designed before was found to be too tight around the sleeping pad I redesigned it to wrap around and fasten with velcro. And after messing up Mum’s sewing machine with velcro that was stuck down on one side I have learned to use the stuff that only requires sewing. At it works wonderfully.

Sewing the solar holder

Solar holder V2

As you can imagine I owe people here a lot. Jim and Jan, who hiked the PCT in 2003, have been driving me back and forth from REI and helping me sew, Sandy and Barney were incredible in offering me their home and hospitality, it’s all too amazing for a complete stranger to be taken in so well. I’m really going to have to payback all the good karma that has come my way thus far. I guess my efforts will have to be towards Te Araroa, if and when it gets completed

Google Maps

Home made gear

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

I’d like to think completing this hike is all about me, but it good equipment plays a big part too. I’ve made some efforts to adjust some things to fit my plan and I thought they might be worth mentioning here. The first thing was the GPS logger by OHararp LLC which I’ve already gone on about. At my request they made a little voltage regulator so the solar panels I got could be used to keep it charged and logging without ever having to buy batteries or find a power outlet. I designed a very simple pot stand to go over the pepsi stoves I was making with my sister. I’ve since opted to go with a Trangia stove because it has a lid to put the flame out and hold the fuel in. A few nights ago my mum and I tried our hands at gaiter making, but it wasn’t a great success. Without a proper pattern to work to, and totally the wrong material, things were bunching in the wrong places and we couldn’t work out a cut that fit, so I’ve gone with Dirty Girl Gaiters despite them having the worst website since the early 90s. Today I finally got around to making the modification I have been planning for ages. I got my dad to pick up a Big Agnes Seedhouse Sl 1 last time he was in America. It’s nice and I like it but with an all mesh top putting it up in the rain will suck. I had planned a webbing mechanism that would involve straps between each pole and sewing hooks onto where the loops are on the inner tent, but in the end it turned out much simpler. With some strong cord I tied the front two poles together and then ran a length down to the other pole and tightened it until it held the poles in the same place as the inner tent does. I can now put the poles up by themselves, throw the fly on over the top and put my pack underneath to keep dry while I peg out the fly. From underneath I can undo the long pole, put it through the loops on the inner tent and back onto the cord. The loops run up that pole to their normal position. I then climb inside the inner tent with my pack and proceed to clip it onto the front poles. No rain has hit the inner tent, I am safe and dry, all is good. Of course some people would choose to skip the inner tent altogether and just sleep under the fly sheet. At that point it’s just a tarp tent with some fancy poling.

Here are the photos of setting it up
Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1 frame
Magic, a frame with no inner tent or fly!
Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1 as a tarp tent
Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1 as a tarp tent
Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1 threading the loops
Threading the loops
Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1 hanging the inner tent
Hanging the inner tent

Pick a pack

Friday, March 9th, 2007

I got a lot done in the last 24 hours. I now have a suitable backpack. I chose a MacPac Ascent Classic. It’s only 55ltr which I feel is pretty small, but it’ll help me limit what I take and I have the Aarn Balance Pockets coming to add 15ltr on the front. If you’re in New Zealand and looking for long distance stuff you’re recommended to talk to Paul of Living Simply, he’s done the A.T. and Te Araroa which is pretty cool. I also picked up a Trangia stove and a MacPac windstopper, mustardy-yellow in colour should help me be spotted if a search party ever has to come looking for me :-)

I’ll be using all three tomorrow and I expect to come back with views on all of them, except it’s supposed to be dry this weekend so the waterproofness can’t be tested.

Oh yeah I got my train ticket to San Diego, now I’m all sorted for transport.


Thursday, March 1st, 2007

In 2003 Scott “Squatch” Herriott discovered the Pacific Crest Trail during his daily commute. He had stumbled into the world of long distance hiking and the film he made that year shows it really made an impression. In 2006 he walked a considerable amount of the trail and gathered film and photos from other hikers to create the third installment of the Walk series called Even More Walking (view the trailer). I really enjoyed the first two, and this third continues the tradition. I read a few TrailJournals last year and it was very cool to see and hear the people I had read about. Even Gloves, the one who told me about the PCT rather than the AT makes a guest appearance. My favourite bit? The guy jumping into the watering hole, and falling, and falling, and falling. I’m going to try to find that place. And the high sierra sequence, I’m really looking forward to 10 days in those hills.

Training comes and goes. I do walk 5km to work every day, and sometimes replace that with an hour in the onsite gym if I need to drive for some reason. This weekend is a write off as my sister is in town to get married! Next weekend is the Rangitoto night hike which will be novel.

Tongariro Crossing at speed

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Another training weekend under the belt, and another mountain summit reached. For the third year in a row I took park in The Great Lake Relay, which circumnavigates Lake Taupo taking in 154km of scenic New Zealand. This year I had the first (at 2am!) and 14th legs. With a little sprint I was even leading the pack coming out of the first road and our of Taupo, but once we hit the first hill (about 400m from the start) I was being overtaken and was probably somewhere around the middle when I finished. I was then in the support car until just after sunrise and back to the house for a nap before getting to my next start point. We had a dozen or so runners and together we made it in 14hrs 15 which is much faster than last year. That night I attended a talk about the Oxfam Trail Walker Challenge which Rachael and Tania are taking part in. It’s 100km in 36 hours and I’d love to take part but it’s after I fly out of here, speaking of which I need to get my tickets sorted.
On Sunday the three of us did the Tongariro Crossing and we did it pretty fast with the stair case taking only 30 minutes. I took an hour long side trip to the peak of Tongariro while the girls happened upon a wedding going on at the top of Red Crater. The bride was even in a proper dress, but she was wearing sensible hiking boots :-) While Rachael and Tania went light weight, carrying only what they’d need for their charity event, I loaded up an Aarn Natural Balance which they lent to me for the weekend. It was as full as I could get it and weighed close to 20kgs, but true to their word it didn’t hang from my shoulders. The clever rigging puts the weight on the belt and with front packs taking full water bottles I was standing up straight the whole way, no back pain. Physics being physics I still had to carry the extra weight though and it certainly wasn’t easy keeping up with two trail runners on the long down hill after the Ketetahi hut. We reached the road end in just 6:40, a respectable time in anyones books.
I was also wearing brand new New Balance 1222s I’d bought the day before. They sure let the dust in as I ran down the Red Crater gravel slope, hopefully that means they’ll let the water out just as easily. The arch of my right foot got a little sore, but some strapping tape stopped it getting and worse and I didn’t get any blisters. The GPS logging unit didn’t quite do as well. It logged the whole way, at least I think it did. But when I got it back to a computer the files were really messed up, unreadable on my Mac. I think I turned it off while it was writing, that can cause trouble. So I walked to work with it today, no problems. Now that it is fully changed I am leaving it on until it goes flat, to see just how long it will go without the solar panels.

New Balance pack at the top of the Devil's Staircase
Shoe grit after running down the Red Crater gravel chuteDirty feet after completing the crossing
Ha ha, I just realised I was wearing New Balance shoes and carrying a Natural Balance pack

Google Maps

Round The Mountain

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

With the completion of the Round The Mountain (Ruapehu that is) last weekend I have done all the Central Plateau hikes this year, and this weekend I’ll doing the crossing again just for fun, and to try out a pack from Aarn. On this trip I used Paul’s MacPac Ascent Classic. With the size 3 harness it is 70L+ and I was glad for it. My sleeping bag is bulky and clothes for 4 days are similar in size to clothes for 9 days. This was my first time with a CamelBak and I really liked it, I kept two water bottles in the outside pockets like I usually do, but only drank from the hose, with it being so easy I found I got through a lot more water which is probably good for me, so I’ll have to get one of those in San Diego.

The Round The Mountain track is by far the longest and least trodden of the tracks. It starts in Whakapapa and heads across the Tama Saddle to Waihohonu which is the reverse of the last leg of the Northern Circuit. I had taken a long time to get going that morning so I powered up to the saddle, scoffed lunch and set off for the hut, where I promptly found that the tag the DOC lady at Whakapapa sold me wasn’t valid for camping at this hut. I really have my doubts about the DOC staff there. Last time they sold me camping tickets for huts that didn’t have campsites, and this time they sold me a back country hut pass when I needed a Great Walks Hut pass. Grrrrr. The very particular hut warden took my credit card number and will now charge me an extra $15 for that night. Anyway, I got a prime tent spot, being the only tent there, under the trees to avoid the dew and talked to a guy from Scotland about him trying to convince his girlfriend to move to Canada. Back to my tent and I found the only other person not staying in the hut had decided to set up about 10m from my spot. In the whole camp ground, were every other spot was clear, he preferred to make an entirely new place in the middle of the big flat communal area (instead of one of the areas cleared marked out by trees and bushes) to face directly into my tent, geez, personal space man. Back to the hike. I set off quite early and took the time to see Onipango Springs, very nice and worthy of a swim, but not at that time in in morning. A long gentle rise on a dry sandy river back and then across some rocky plains to the dirt road before the Rangipo hut. This is a pretty desolate place, as my pictures will show when I upload them. Luckily for me some kind souls have put bridges in over most of the big rivers, and since this area is entirely rock it is really appreciated. Getting washed away here would be very bad. I crossed the Wangaheuhu River, where the lahar will flow when it finally bursts through the damn, the wire bridge there goes over the deepest part and feels really flimsy compared to the flow of the glacial melt below.

By the time I reached Rangipo it was raining, I ate inside and carried on when the rain died away. Down in the valley the army were testing explosives though I thought for a time the rolling sound was thunder, or maybe even the lahar coming down. After Rangipo there was a really big gorge, a steep descent and then a climb up the other side was really hard, good thing the wind was blowing my way. Since leaving the river bed that morning I’d been in the true Mordor but now I was reaching the tree line again. One last copse of trees and I smelled wood smoke and sure enough the hut was right around the corner. Again I struggled to find a tent spot, but with my trusty orange trowel I dug out some roots and made room. The tent held up fine in the wind and rain and I was off early again.
After only a couple of hours I was at the Blyth Hut turn off and retracing my steps of a few weeks before. back to Oakune Mountain Road, up the hill to Taranaki Corner, down the Cascades (much scarier going down that way) and lunch at Mangaturuturu. Then on towards Whakapapaiti. At some point earlier that day I had decided that if I reached Whakapapaiti by 5 I would carry on and walk out that day. I rolling in at 4:30 and did indeed carry on. My feet were sore and I was thinking I’d gone too far but I was down at Whakapapa before 7pm and thus completed 31.9km that day. With the additional walk to the car I had made 20miles, and that is only the average for the PCT. The first few weeks are going to be good practice for the rest.

Google Maps

Tongariro Crossing

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

On Sunday I got another training session done on Mount Tongariro. With the support of Nivi, Quizzy and Robyn I did the Tongariro crossing in almost gale force winds and at a good speed. I had to start a while after the others so that I could drop the car at the end and shuttle to the start, thanks Mountain Shuttle for the ride. I was using a borrowed back-pack from the excellent Paul at Living Simply to try out the MacPac harness. I’m not sure I can pack well enough to fit everything I need for the nine day Sierra stretch into just 55l but I guess I’m going to have to learn. At the moment I am leaning towards a MacPac Nikau, which has a zipped sleeping bag access that I like, but the side pockets look next to useless. I might need to sew on two bottle holsters from REI.

The hike was fun and once we got passed the Emerald Lakes the clouds cleared and the wind dropped. Then we just meandered down the other side and into the waiting car. I really prefer that way of shuttling, no pressure to reach the end by a certain time, and no waiting around for the next bus.

Google Maps