As many of you may know this week is international mental health week, so what better week to go through an epic battle to push the mind and body like the North Island Grand Slam. 5 MOUNTAINS, 4 NATIONAL PARKS, 3 GREAT WALKS, 2 FRIENDS, 1 WEEK, That’s 224 kms and 4,500 vertical metres worth of adventure. (that’s higher than Mt Cook) In only 168 hours.
When Ryan and I caught up a few days before we left to finish plans and check the weather, we knew it was touch and go whether the challenge would be possible or not. With 100km plus winds and heavy rains forecast for four of the seven days it was very possible that this battle would be heavily stacked in mother natures favour.
One of the most important things in mountaineering and adventuring is to have a rule that you follow to help make those tough decisions for you. For example if the Whanganui River was flowing over two meters then it would not be safe to paddle, and if the wind gusts were over 80km then the mountains would not be safe to try and summit.
We drove through the night on thursday to reach Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk. After a few hours sleep we hit the track and made a great pace up to Panikere hut. From there on it was a steady pace and short running bursts between the bog that saw the four day walk smashed out in ten hours. It was my sixth time doing the walk and was really awesome to try it in a different way but still get to enjoy the incredible scenery that makes it one of New Zealand’s Great Walks.
As soon as we finished we drove to Taupo at a reasonable hour, so the Grand Slam was looking to be on track. Then….came the snow and the winds. The whole of the TNP has been belted by a storm and we drove into scenery that looked like we were driving through Haast Pass in the Southern Alps. We knew our only chance was to see if we could get to the red crater to get a true gauge of the severity of the weather. I had my Suunto GPS watch which I could use to back track our route as our tracks disappeared after five minutes so it was safe enough to try. After only 2km in we made the call to turn back to the Van. With our heads down our last hope would be the Whanganui River.
The river level was rising to be 1.5m higher than what is deemed to be safe to paddle by the local guiding companies. With our rule in place we knew we were left with only one option, to postpone the mission until further notice. To blow off steam I am currently on my way down to Waihi to do the Xterra 61km Ultramarathon in Waihi, starting in less than eight hours. 🙂
Things do not always work out as planned but in theme of mental health week, we are not giving up, the Grand Slam will be back to fight another day!
Take the path less travelled.
A huge thanks to Cruz adventure roof racks for keeping my huge double Kayak on the roof during 100 km+ cross winds and a snow storm
And to Bivouac Outdoors for sharing this story and their continued support