Taking it easy in the Tararuas

Macpac Ambassador Nick Allen has taken a new approach to fatigue management including pacing himself, resting and packing light. He headed out tramping into the Tararua Forest Park after some heavy rain, encountering some challenging conditions along the way – and the opportunity to put some of his recent learnings to the test. 

Lots of mud!

“There’s lots of mud up there,” the tramper said as he nodded towards the ridge.

“How deep?” I asked.

“Deep,” he replied.

He wasn’t lying.

I’d just started a tramp in the Tararuas, about to head up Gable End Ridge toward Te Matawai Hut and Arete. The region had received a deluge earlier in the week and the ground was still sodden. Standing there on the old river terrace, the mud wasn’t that bad. It’ll be fine, I thought.

And then I hit the ridge.

Mud was everywhere — I hadn’t encountered so much mud in years. I slipped and slid my way up the steep ridge under the light of my headlamp. The track was steep and progress was slow, but I was having fun. I love the cool air and peace that comes as night falls in the bush.

Enhancing my enjoyment of the evening was a new approach to fatigue management. I had recently enrolled in a 6-week course on fatigue management and Multiple Sclerosis. In the course, we’d learned about the importance of pacing and resting as a means of preventing fatigue.

In the past — even after I was diagnosed with MS — I would have pushed hard up the ridge and rested only when I felt tired. I almost always crashed when I got home and felt fatigued for some time afterward. While this approach has enabled me to achieve a lot in the last few years, I realise that it is not the most sustainable method.

I’ve been wanting to pursue a more measured lifestyle that minimises fatigue and maximises my ability to get out. The course renewed my determination to focus on excellent nutrition, stress management (both mental and physical) through pacing and resting, and lightweight gear.

Home in my Macpac Sololight at Richards Knob

Home in my Macpac Sololight at Richards Knob

On this trip, I was determined practice the principles I had learned and worked hard to pace myself. I’d been going for 5.5 hours, it was 10:30pm and Te Matawai Hut was still two hours away. I was getting tired and I decided to call it a day before I became significantly fatigued.

Fortunately, I was carrying my Macpac Sololight tent. My lightweight Macpac gear has made a world of difference for me. It allows me to go further and is key to my fatigue management. That’s why I love my Sololight. It’s perfect for throwing into your pack for those occasions where you might need a backup. I found a spot on the side of the track, pitched my tent, and slept like a king.

The morning was stunning: blue-bird sky with a gentle, cool breeze. I lay in my lightweight Macpac sleeping bag for a while, warm and snug, half sleeping, half listening to the joyful morning chorus. It was bliss.

Muddy boots

Muddy boots

After a tasty and nutritionally excellent breakfast, I pulled on my muddy Salewa boots, packed my tent and headed out to Te Matawai Hut. The view along the range and into the blue-green valleys was simply beautiful.

Te Matawai Hut came and went and I began the gnarly ascent up the ridge towards Pukematawai Peak. The afternoon sun was hot and the track was steep. I listened to my body and took it slow, resting regularly. After a late lunch at the top of Pukematawai and a brief rest at the top of Arete, I descended down to Arete Hut.

Slogging up the ridge toward Pukematawai

Slogging up the ridge toward Pukematawai

Arete Hut is an awesome spot, situated in an old glacial cirque that hangs at the edge of a valley high above the Waiarapa. It’s a tiny two person hut and was fully occupied when I arrived. Once again, my Sololight came to the rescue.

I’d been to Arete Hut before and spied some rocks suitable for a spot of bouldering. The lure of rock was one of the main reasons I chose to get up there again, and why I was carrying my climbing shoes and chalk bag. I bouldered until the sun set behind the hill and headed back to my tent for an early night.

Bouldering near Arete Hut

Bouldering near Arete Hut

The sun rose into another cold and beautiful morning, light spilling over the rugged peaks into my tent. I ate breakfast in the sun and was thrilled with my decision take my lightweight Pitch Jacket and Litespeed Active Jacket in place of down. The Litespeed was awesome as I tramped, being both windproof and highly breathable. Paired with the amazingly warm Pitch Jacket, I was comfortably warm.

I packed up and cruised back down, past Te Matawai to South Ohau Hut. I wanted to get back home for dinner and kept a slightly faster pace — a pace that was sustainable because I had taken it easy during the previous two days.

Home beneath the Milky Way

Home beneath the Milky Way

I love walking out on the South Ohau River. There’s something magic about walking down a river instead of a track. It feels like you are really in the wild, like you are really exploring. The river has several small gorge-like sections filled with crystal water. It was so enjoyable splashing and wading my way down.

My 9-hour day ended in the mud leading to and from the carpark. It was still deep.

Heading down the South Ohau River. Helmet on for safety!

Heading down the South Ohau River. Helmet on for safety!