Monday, December 03, 2007

Our Jumbo First Tramp of Summer

Summer has arrived, and somehow during the spring we didn't once manage to go tramping. Between me being out of the country for several weeks, and bad weather earlier in the spring, and let's face it, a bit of laziness on our part, it simply never happened.

So last weekend we were determined to get the season started right, and we did the classic "Jumbo-Holdsworth Circuit" in the Tararuas. Just a two-day tramp, but something that would have us doing a lot of climbing and getting those legs back in shape!

The weather was very nearly perfect on Saturday as we started out. Sunny, warm and calm. We started up the Gentle Annie track and immediately felt the results of not carrying a backpack for the past six months. But up and up we went, huffing and puffing our way to the Mountain House Shelter for a bite of lunch.
Then we continued on to Powell Hut (in the above picture, it's directly above my head but you can't see it), a large, newish hut just at the bushline. It was tempting to call it a day at this point and stay at Powell, since I was already tired and feeling my heels rubbing against the backs of my new boots. But it was only 2pm, and if ever there was a good day to cross the tops this was it. Clear skies and practically no wind.

No wind, that is, until you actually reach the exposed ridge! On our way up to the Mt. Holdsworth summit (pictured below), the "breeze" kicked in. I knew better than to complain. I've heard enough stories about battered trampers crossing the tops on their hands and knees because the wind was blowing too hard for them to keep their feet. But nontheless, the stillness was long gone and I was anxious to get through this part of the tramp as quickly as possible.

My legs had other ideas. (They so rarely consult with my brain on these critical matters.) It was a slow climb up Mt. Holdsworth, followed by a slightly wobbly descent to the main ridge (pictured below). Then the ups and downs along the ridge to Jumbo peak. Towards Jumbo, my left thigh decided to cramp spectacularly. It was the first time this has happened to me on a tramp, and I think may have been the result of not eating enough salt along the way. But we took a break while my leg recovered a bit, and moved on. After all, it's not like I was going to stop there. And it was a longer walk back to Powell Hut at that point than continuing to Jumbo Hut.
Once we reached Jumbo peak, we turned off and headed down a spur towards the hut. From above, the hut was a welcome sight! We arrived at the hut after 7 hours on the trails. We knew there were about 8 other trampers who had gone to Jumbo by the same route as us. (We were the last to get there, gotta get into better shape!) But you can also reach the hut from the valley below, so when we arrived there were actually about 18 people there! The hut sleeps 20 comfortably, and there were a father and son who had already decided to pitch their tent outside instead. So space was not a problem, and we settled in for the night, making dinner and relaxing.
The next day's route was theoretically much easier. A steep descent from the hut to the river valley below, and then following the track next to the river all of the way back to the carpark. Estimated time - about 4 1/2 hours. But that estimate doesn't take into account having overworked our out-of-practice legs the day before. So it actually took us 5 hours to get back to the car. Just getting down the hill turned my quads to jelly, which slowed me down for the rest of the "easy" part. The next morning, my quads were terribly stiff. Actually, they're not much better now!

On the way back to Wellington we stopped at a slightly toursity little town called Greytown. Strawberry season is in full swing here, and we picked up four plunnets of berries for $6! I've dehydrated half of them to use when we go to the South Island in February. I also bought some peppers (capsicums) to dehydrate at the same shop.

We had an overpriced lunch at a local cafe, then drove back to Wellington. All in all, a painful but successful tramp! And the weather didn't let us down, with just a few sprinkles as we finished up.

While I must say I haven't kept my conditioning up over the winter to the extent I would have liked, at least I'm in decent enough shape that when I do have an incident on the trail (a cramp, a twisted knee, etc.) my body bounces back right away. There was a time when a hike like this would have been followed by days of knee pain, and I'm sure glad I've managed to get past that!

Next week I'm off to Christchurch and Dunedin for a research trip (I'm writing a guide for migrants) but hopefully there will be more tramping soon.


Frank and Sue said...

Good yarn Michelle,
Sounds like a bit a fitness program is called for! Hope the new boots ended up Ok and your legs are better. Would be interested in your opinion of the cost (ie time and effort) benefit of drying strawberries. You don't end up with much but they sure taste great!

Anonymous said...

Very jealous of the strawberries. It's snowing like CRAZY here!!! ;) G