Archive for the 'Pre-hike' Category

Not So Scary

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

I came eyeball to eyeball with a bear, and they’re not so scary, but first….

At 6am a van load headed for Campo. Davey and Bruce starting that morning, Craig and Scout just watching for now. While they prepared to get on with the walking two more were dropped off, Stacy and Rachel, and two others were already on their way. 6 in just the short time we were there means it’s just about hitting peak season I think.
This time tomorrow I’ll be a hardened hiker. Sweaty and dirty as I trudge my way north to Canada. But I’m not there yet. More granola to buy, a food shipment to send, and things to see.
Yesterday I made it to San Diego Zoo. I walked up there from down town (by way of many computer stores in an effort to fix my stupid memory cards that only work in my camera not any computer) and therefore I didn’t have much time. I did have time to see the bears and they’re pretty laid back creatures.

Not So Scary Bears

The polar bears were more active. Wrestling with each other right in front of the glass and keeping all the tourists very interested. I had to high-tail it out of there in time to help Scout (Barney) with an airport run. Last night there were four of us interlopers at the Mann residence, tonight there will be seven!

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

Coming to America

Saturday, April 14th, 2007

So I’m here in San Diego at last. Just 50 miles from the start of the trail. The flight was fine, I was so tired I managed to sleep through most of it, only having time for one and a half movies, and eat. But the train was not so fine. I was there on time, the train was about 3.5 hours late. So late that the 2, 4 and 5pm trains all got hooked together as one that eventually got me to Solana Beach at 7:40pm where the wonderful Jim & Jan were waiting for me. They’ve fed and watered me and now I’m going to sleep at Barney & Sandy’s house. Tomorrow I get to open all the packages I have sent here, camera, Dirty Girl Gaiters, permits and books. Then I go to REI!

Google Maps

On my way

Friday, April 13th, 2007

Amidst a maelstrom of last minute panicking I am writing my last journal entry from New Zealand. Training is over, this is it. I have my ticket, my passport and far too much gear. I’m going to have to throw some stuff out in San Diego while I get acclimatised to that heat. Here in Auckland the winds are about to start knocking down trees and I’m actually worried that the plane won’t be allowed to take off in this weather.

Before leaving Peter pulled out a pen and gave me some useful information for completing my trek in the form of a maple leaf and phone number ala Prison Break

Prison Break from PCT

Google Maps

Falling into place

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

3 days! In just 3 days I’ll be on that plane and there’ll be no stopping me. I’ve cancelled my phone, got a new debit card, picked up my hiker trading cards (sure to be collectors items), moved most of my stuff, thrown out lots of junk and started to group the maps and guide books into sections. Everything is slowly falling in to place and all I need to do is go with the flow.

Not a very optimistic view but I’ve had it on my wall at work for a while now so I thought I’d share it with you. This year the trouble is going to be right at the start, a serious water shortage is developing and if I make it to bear country I’ll be very pleased with my self. What do I mean if? Of course I’m making it that far, as far as I am concerned this thing is in the bag, I just need to get there and get on with it. Canada that way—>


One week to go

Friday, April 6th, 2007

According to my countdown widget I have just 7 days and 9 hours until I board a plane and start this silly adventure. This week I received my New Zealand passport. It appears I need an NZ passport to reenter the country when I am coming home. If I tried to come back in on my UK passport I’d have to have a ticket to leave again or they’d not let me in, despite the fact that I am still me and I am still a citizen. Stupid regulations if you ask me. I also got my Canadian entry permit, so that when I sneak across the border out there in the woods I can turn myself in to the authorities and they won’t stress out about how I managed to leave the US without the customary retina scan, DNA sample and cavity probe.
In my last week I am gathering maps, packing up home and trying to sell off some of my larger possessions. Anyone need a motorbike or a futon? I’m getting a new datalogger due to connecting it to a malfunctioning wall supply that made my current device let out a little smoke. I’m just a little nervous that the new one won’t get there in time. Like a bunch of other things I have had it sent directly to my gracious hosts Scout and Sandy in San Diego. My new camera is there, memory cards, gaitors, and the Data Book that Amazon managed to loose the first time.

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

Northern Circuit in one day

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

Yesterday I completed the challenge I was unable to finish last week. Under perfect skies I hiked, and at some points ran, the Tongariro Northern Circuit in one day. Less than 10.5 hours actually, and I’m pretty pleased with that because usually it is billed as 3-4 days though that does include a side trip to stay at the Ketetahi Hut. The day started with my alarm at 3am, the drive to Whakapapa which I know pretty well and I was on the path just after 7:30. The first leg, from Whakapapa to Mangatepopo is relatively flat, undulating within a 100m range over 9km. From there I joined in the queue as scores of day trippers fresh off the tour bus climbed the Devil’s Staircase as part of the Tongariro Crossing. I think I was doing pretty well at this stage, not that any of them really needed to rush but I was overtaking everyone and feeling good. I’ve never seen it so busy, because I’ve never been there so late on a sunny day, the crowd at the top of the staircase was really something else. Then comes the flat South Crater (which isn’t really a crater) and the steep ascent to the edge of Red Crater. This is where I had to turn back last time, but there was hardly any breeze this time and I cruised on through and got to my favourite part, the gravel descent :-) I like this bit the most because while others gingerly edge their way down, worried about falling over into the fairly soft rock, I jog down at quite a speed. The trick is to dig your heels into the soft area, then your feet can’t slide about and you can go fast. I almost wanted to walk back up to do it again. Then I came across Antz and Kat, two hut wardens waiting for the rest of them. I had met Kat last week as the three of us set off from Mangatepopo but she hadn’t identified herself as the warden then, so when she questioned our plans I thought she was just a tourist who didn’t like a small rain shower.

Tongariro Northern Circuit Profile
Click for a larger version

I pushed on and passed a couple of Californians. They had done parts of the Pacific Crest Trail last year and come across a few of the through hikers, but it wasn’t until I reach Oturere Hut that I thought about asking if they knew any names. I was only at the hut for 30 minutes so I never saw them again. Just after leaving Oturere, about 1:15pm now, I realised I had a problem with the balance pockets with the metal beam cutting a hole in the bag, not particularly great after less than 10 hours of use, the designer is going to see about reinforcing that part.
From Oturere to Waihohonu is mostly down hill, and all pretty easy. It’s open, it’s clear and the ground is easy, the real nasty lumpy volcanic stuff is well behind you now. There is a climb of about 150m just before the hut, but it’s all in the trees which is much better than being in the sun at that time of day. I know the path of the Northern Circuit, so I hadn’t bothered with a map and it wasn’t until I reached the Waihohonu Hut that I discovered that the final section, back to Whakapapa via the Tama Saddle, was 16km. I wanted to be back by 6pm which gave me only 3 hours. That was quite a slog, and into the sun the whole time. I didn’t even pause for water, drinking while on the go and marching on. Coming down hill from the saddle I ran for short bursts, trying not to shake the pack too much or slide on the sometimes-gravelly path. With two hiking poles going in time I was getting up quite a speed, I’d like to have tried it without 16kgs on my back. I came to the end of the track and closed the loop with a minute to spare, but I wasn’t at the visitors center yet, and by the time I got there it was closed. I left them a note, confirming that I was finished and not in need of a rescue (you leave an intentions form with them when you start a trip in the park and sign out when you leave).

Argh, I’ve written too much again. I also carried my GPS datalogger and got the whole thing down in 1s and 0s. I have Google Earth files with and without altitude data (without because the GE terrain is totally wrong and obscures most of my track, leaving the rest waaaaay up in the air)

Google Maps

And the mountain roared!

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

The Mount Ruapehu lahar went off today and apparently everything went to plan, road closures, track closures all that guff. I wasn’t there to see it but the Herald has some photos. I crossed that river a month ago while doing the Round The Mountain, I might try to get back there and see when the landscape is like now.

Google Maps