Thursday, November 7, 2013

Kepler trail run

I ran the Kepler track today: 60kms and 1850 metres of + elevation worth of stunning mountain trail. It was fantastic.

The Kepler is one of NZ’z 8 famous “Great Walks” which feature well maintained tracks and huts at regular intervals, they see many thousands of trampers/ hikers each year. From what I’ve gathered over the past few months they also make for great trail runs. In fact the Kepler plays host to New Zealands most famous and prestigious “mountain running race”, the Kepler Challenge held each year at the start of December.
I started out at 8am in the traditional anti-clockwise direction which meant that I would be done with the major climb after only 17km. The skies were overcast, a welcome relief after the past few days of high temps. However my legs were still feeling a little tight this morning after having run 37km (with 1350 metres of +) up Mt. Luxmore two days ago, so I was careful to stick to a modest pace and walk any of the steep sections of ascents. The track started with 6km of flat running through a beautiful forest beside lake Te Anau before climbing steadily for 1000 metres up to the alpine.

 After around and hour and a half I broke through the cloud cover and had some brilliant views over a sea of clouds with a few peaks poking through on the horizon. The section of the run between Luxmore Hut and Iris Burn hut was easily the highlight of the day. The trail is very runnable, broad singletrack with only moderate inclines and expansive views. It follows ridgelines for quite a few kilometres which made for a very dramatic atmosphere, especially with the sea of clouds in the valleys below.

 I made a brief stop at each of the huts to refill water bottles and met a few dozen folks (mostly Germans it seemed) who were hiking the trail in the usual 3-4 days. Everyone was stoked on the awesome views and super encouraging to me, which was nice and much appreciated.

As was pre-arranged, I met my brother Thor on the trail about 10km from the end and we ran the last bit together. By this stage I was starting to flag a bit so it was good to have someone there to hold a steady pace for me to follow even if he did confuse me by giving random estimations of how long we had left (“only 3k left” when we were within 1km of the finish).

The run went really well, my pace was steady, the views were immense and I only fell over once so I’m calling it a win.

Time-    6:53
Menu- 9x Clif Shots gels
           4 litres of some generic electrolyte drink powder I get from supermarkets here in NZ

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mt Cook Region Reconnaissance

A tight schedule meant that we only spent one and a half days in the Mt. Cook region. While this was way too short to get on any real missions in the area it was plenty enough time for me to be sufficiently blown away by the alpine grandeur and formulate some more concrete plans for a return next year.

With my brother I took two fantastic trail runs, first up the Hooker Valley to the small glacier lake below Mt. Cook's Caroline Face and then up the Tasman valley along the lateral moraine to the Ball Shelter, together about 30- 35 km.

Hooker lake filled with small ice floes

The lateral moraine of the Tasman on the way to Ball shelter
The Malte Brun group from across the lower Tasman

 I also got up early on our last day to ski from the summit of Mt. Ollivier, down a wide couloir on it's east face. This quick outing gave some incredible views over Sefton and up the Mueller Glacier towards Seally, as well as 700metres of nice spring corn. So much in this area to come back for...

Mueller Glacier

Mt. Sefton

View to the NE from Mt. Olivier

Runnels in the snow on the descent from Ollivier