Tuesday, 30 April 2013
I am on the Amtrak train right now travelling from el paso, Texas to lordsberg, new Mexico with 3 other CDT hikers. Annie Mac and i flew from san diego this morning and we met up with aquaman and sweet as in el paso at the train station. We are all planning on staying with trail angel sam hughes tonight and hitting the CDT tomorrow.

I have a great two weeks In California warming up, reacclimatizing and hanging with all the great hiker trash i met last year on the pct. On the weekend over 1000 past, present and future pct hikers gathered at Lake Morena for the ADZPCTKO party and it was great to see so many familiar faces that i thought i would never see again. My fellow whiskey gang members and friends hiked up a small water and beer cache 2.5 miles up the hill for the 2013 hikers. In 2 days almost all of the 60 beers were drank but only 3 of the 8 gallons of water were gone. Good work 2013ers.

I was glad haves able to get back on the pct over the last 2 weeks and it brought back many fond memories. I am looking forward to making more friends and memories hiking this year and I am beginning to get very excited about the whole thing. 1 day to go.

Last day off trail

Posted by Dave Murphy
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Wednesday, 24 April 2013
I flew into California last week and got out hiking on the PCT the day after arriving at Dip's - a trail angel i met last year on the PCT. We hiked a small section in the high desert to Cajon Pass, the place famous for having the only McDonalds on the trail. Along for the hike were other 2012 PCT thru hikers Washout, Nugio, G, Bloodbank, and Threshold. It was good to get back out on the trail and get acclimatised to the dry desert air again.

We hung out at Dip's place after for a couple of days, relaxing in the hot tub and playing ping pong. We all got back out on the PCT again to hike the section past Deep Creek Hot Springs and got to meet 7 or so current thru-hikers along the way. It was great revisiting points along the trail and brought back many fond memories of last year.

I head down to Lake Morena for the Annual Day Zero PCT Kickoff Party (ADZPCTKO) tomorrow and fly out to start the CDT next Tuesday. Everything is now packed up and resupplies organised - all I have to do is walk.

Warm-up on the PCT

Posted by Dave Murphy
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Sunday, 7 April 2013

I had the chance last week to get out on the Te Araroa Trail for a training tramp. I walked the Waiau Pass section which runs ~110km between Boyle Village and St Arnaud (5 days).  I got to knock out the cobwebs, test some gear and most importantly burn off 2 days of eating Volcano Cake at my nephew’s 5th birthday party.

Lake Constance from Waiau Pass
Ben with the best birtday cake ever


I started from Boyle village on Monday afternoon with most of the rain blocked out by the beech forest canopy. The track was fairly easy going but I was still happy to reach Rockerby Hut at the end of the day to save setting up my tent. Over the next 2 days the trail is predominantly river flats and passes through the Boyle, Anne, Harper and Waiaiu River Valleys. The flats have large flocks of Canadian Geese and there is a herd of wild horses on the Anne River Flat. The series of river flats are broken by patches of beech forest, the most significant of which lie on old terminal moraines up the Waiau Valley. I camped at the end of Ada Flat on Tuesday and then at the Waiau Forks at the base of the climb to Waiau Pass on Wednesday evening. Once at the Waiau forks there is only ~2.3km to the pass, but at 650m of elevation to climb, it is straight up for a good half of it with steep sections of rock scrambling. At the end of the climb there are commanding views up in to the Waiau catchment and back down the Waiau valley. 

On the north side of the pass the 1200m descent starts off steep and passes down two major scree slopes, both of which are not too difficult to negotiate but would be considerably harder to climb if going southbound.  The track levels off around Lake Constance and eventually descends to Blue Lake Hut after a short climb above a large terminal moraine. The decent to West Sabine Hut is fairly straight forward but is worth taking your time on to soak in the serenity of what is one of the best sections of forest walking in the Nelson Lakes area. The next day was the longest, with a 1100m climb over ~6.2km up to Travers Saddle in the morning, followed by a 1150m descent over the remaining 22km. It is a steep climb to get up to the saddle but allows a great view of both sides of Mt Travers. The descent from the pass into the Travers Valley is fairly steep with some complicated sections of boulder hopping, but the grade eventually eases below the sub-alpine zone and stays in the forest most of the way down. The trail is in great condition down to Lake Rotoiti, and a stay at Lakehead Hut left me a short 2 hour walk into St Arnaud on Friday morning.

Gear Tests

Going out for 5 days allowed me to test most of my planned CDT gear and helped me change my mind about a few things. The most important test for me was my new inner soles. I developed a heavy pronation on the PCT last year which created a few problems for me: increased wear in the instep heel of my train runners; heavy discomfort in my ankles; and may have led to the severe foot pain I tackled throughout the entire length of the PCT. Leslie Marsh sorted me out with formthotics and heel wedges which has reduced my pronation significantly. My ankles felt a lot stronger throughout the tramp and my shoe wear has also reduced (see photo).

I tried out a new Cactus Ski Patrol 45L Pack similar to the canvas Tika Castle Hill pack I used in Washington last year. The pack is comfortable, with padding and mesh on the back and hipbelt as well as being durable and well-made like all cactus gear. Unfortunately it lacks side pockets as well the functionality to attach hip or shoulder pockets – which are key features for me as I need to be able to eat and drink on the trail without taking my pack off. I am still undecided about my pack for this year and may just repair my Granite Gear Blaze to start off with in New Mexico.

After now having used my Tarptent Contrail in a variety of conditions on the PCT, West Coast Trail, Hawaii and New Zealand, I have finally got around to switching my shelter system. I met up with a local gear designer Andy Milne, and he has given me an old prototype modular tarp system to use on the CDT. It saves weight by not having a floor and foot poles, and I will only carry the bug net when the Mosquitos get bad. As I sleep under the stars most nights, I having a shelter half the weight of the Contrail makes sense to me.

I am constantly trying to find the best lightweight system and I will take spare gear to the USA with me that I can switch to along the way. I am not too stressed about it at the moment as what I am starting with, although not perfect, will still work. For most of the trail I will only be a week or two away from my spare gear and I am planning on making my first major gear change as I head into the San Jan Mountains in Colorado. I only have two more weeks before I fly to the USA so right now I am busy in my final stages of planning and packing up my life once again. 24 days until I start walking.

Section Breakdown

Day 1. Boyle Village to Rockerby Hut - 16km
Day 2. Rockerby Hut to Ada Flat - 24km
Day 3. Ada Flat to Waiau Forks - 23km
Day 4. Waiau Forks over Waiau Pass to West Sabine Hut - 15km
Day 5. West Sabine Hut over Travers Saddle to Lakehead Hut - 28km
Day 6. Lakehead Hut to St Arnaud - 10km


Te Araroa Section Hike - Waiau Pass

Posted by Dave Murphy
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