As we left the TA we begun the 1st of 2 big treks over Tappi. The route had already changed because of a recent storm dumping a lot of snow on the summit and apparently some tricky ice sections. None of which any teams had gear for. The RD’s made this change the day of the race and admitted at the pre race meeting being quite nervous about the storm and how much snow we would see.
We set off looking for a dirt road that would lead to a stream that would take us over one pass and down to the Clarence River. One of the big rivers on the east coast of the South Island. As we moved through the night we saw various teams either passing or being passed by them. Our energy levels were good even though we were climbing all the time up a river that was getting narrower & narrower. We left the river to go over a non-de script pass, stopping at the pass to hear the announcement by me to turn off headlamps and observe the phenomenal stars overhead. This was something I was excited for my American team mates to see and the clarity that night did not disappoint. After some sketchy down climbing we hit another creek that became a river.
This river was moving quite fast and dirty as the snow melt from the few day old storm was coming off the peaks. We had to cross it several times and this was the 1st legit NZ river crossing for my team mates. Michelle and i linked up for what was to become numerous crossing over the next few days.
We hit the checkpoint at the Jam Creek hut and quickly made our way to the confluence with the Clarence River. In the pre-race meeting they told us depending on the river flow we would be either walking, swimming, pulling ourselves on a raft or getting transported by jet boat.
We arrived to be told we would be taking the raft option, which was a relief to Pete, Michelle & Scott. The Clarence only a few days ago was ankle deep but now was wide and swift.
From here we began to climb again making our way up the Inland Kaikoura Range and its highest peak Tapi. The 1st mountain that Sir Ed Hillary climbed. We made our way up with relatively easy navigation now above the bush line and entering the snow and rocks. We made our way to the col/saddle between Mt Tapi & Mt Alarm but not before passing through some heavy laden snow fields, waste deep in places (Normally in March Tapi would be all but free of snow & ice)
We were very happy to reach the Col with several other teams after a long slog. From here we were in VERY familiar territory. I had trained on this side of Tapi over the summer and knew where we were VERY well. I navigated from here, and that meant not using the map or compass, because i knew exactly and i mean exactly where the turn off to the stream that contained the next CP was. I had just been here about 5 weeks earlier training for the race doing an all-nighter.
We cross Tapi in the late afternoon and so were excited by amazing views. As we made our way down the Hodder River night was beginning to descend. We had now been racing for about 30 hours. It was Sunday night and hadn’t slept since Friday night.
As we made our way down the Hodder River i couldn’t help but notice how high and fast the river was running. I knew we had to cross and once we got into the gorge the “trail” was the river. Again all the snow melt from the sunny day was making the normally sedate Hodder a formidable river.
I had heard stories in the past year about people getting stuck & swept away in the gorge and looking at the river now my anxiety level was up. Especially since not all my team mates were confident river crossers. I also knew that over night as the temps dropped the snow would stop melting and the river level would drop.
What to do…