Kat Young tackles the Richmond Ranges
A SWOLLEN WATERFALL poured out of a gorge across the path. I paused. A slip trying to cross it would send me into the raging Pelorus River a few metres below.
I walked up the bank to see if there was an easier crossing, but eventually returned to the path. I poked the water with my poles to gauge the depth, then tentatively waded in. My first leg went in up to my knee and I immediately felt the force and breath-taking cold of the water. My next step went up to mid-thigh. Slowly, I edged across.
Finally, I pulled myself up the bank, heart pounding. If this was what the rest of the trail was like, I would need to rethink my schedule!
THE UNBEATEN TRACK
It was my first day in the Richmond Ranges, the longest stretch on the Te Araroa (‘The Long Pathway’ in Maori) trail between resupply points and civilisation. My backpack was filled with nine days’ worth of food – the heaviest it would be during this whole three-month walk, and I knew the Richmonds contained a number of large river crossings. I looked ahead with no small amount of trepidation.
Then there was the trail itself. The ‘path’ for the Te Araroa through the Richmonds was a narrow, muddy semi-route, crisscrossed with tree roots; every foot placement required concentration. Entering these mountains felt l like a step into the wild.
The next morning we (I walked intermittently with Liv and her friend Ali) got into the mountains proper, with views emerging through areas of storm-felled trees as we climbed a peak. It made for slow progress, clambering over metre-wide tree trunks with a big backpack. My rucksack was heavy with food but at least water was in plentiful supply on Te Araroa. Some walkers didn’t bother filtering from the rivers; one Kiwi even got offended when I said I had been.
The descent on the other side of the peak was as direct as the climb, and I scooched the last part on my backside down to Browning Hut. New Zealand’s backcountry hut network is excellent but was not built for the rising popularity of the Te Araroa Trail. Almost every hut I stayed at in the Richmonds was full, with people sleeping on the floor or camping nearby.
FEELING THE HEAT
My first major river crossing came soon after, but thankfully the waters had returned to clarity and I could place my feet confidently. The water came up to my knees and I made my way steadily across. The trail weaved back and forth across the river several more times. Some days had over 20 crossings; a day of dry feet was a rare treat.
The next morning I walked above the clouds on a gorgeous ridge from Slaty Hut. I couldn’t stop grinning to myself at the simple joy of putting one foot in front of the other in the mountains while carrying everything I needed on my back.
Later that day, in searing heat and dazzling sunshine, I started feeling queasy climbing Little Rintoul. It was the first taste of the heat exhaustion that would dog me throughout the Richmonds. I trudged slowly upwards whilst the nagging doubts over my ability to walk New Zealand got louder in my head, but Ali and Liv – friends who I made on the trail and intermittently walked with – caught up with me and the company boosted my spirits.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
More Ways than one
Roger Smith calls for more clarity around the increasing proliferation of named trails
THE LONG PATHWAY
Kat Young and Liv Bolton both walked New Zealand’s South Island from north to south via the country-spanning Te Araroa Trail. Here they each describe a section of this spectacular and life-changing route
Last summer, self-confessed ‘average adventurer’ James Forrest completed all 282 of Scotland’s Munros in an intensive six-month push. Here he describes the most knee-trembling part of the journey – Skye’s famous Inaccessible Pinnacle
A HAPPY RETURN
For more than 30 years, Chris Townsend dreamed about doing a long walk through the high reaches of the Colorado Was it everything he hoped for?
Practice Makes Perfect
Preparation is key if you want to enjoy, and not simply endure, the TGO Challenge. Organisers Ali Ogden and Sue Oxley look at how to be ready for the demands of a long-distance walk
Happy When It Rains
With an unpredictable winter approaching, here are TGO’s tips for enduring – even enjoying? – our ever-changing climate...
Rising rivers, quaking bogs, ferocious winds, possible thunderstorms and annoying theme tunes – will Paul Beasley be able to take all this in his stride and successfully cross Dartmoor?
Donegal’s highest mountain is a sight to behold – unless, as Jim Perrin discovered, the weather has other ideas…
Commuting: Lochaber Style
For Many Of Us, The Daily Commute Can Be A Chore. But, For Neil Adams, Living And Working In One Of Scotland’s Finest Mountain Landscapes Gave Him The Opportunity To Turn It Into An Adventure...
The Depths Of Time
James Roddie goes under the surface of Assynt to discover a whole new dimension to an extraordinary, ancient landscape.
My special passion as a photographer is for free artistic projects, like in this featured series. I got in touch with Alina, the makeup artist, through a Facebook community.
Got Livestream If You Want It
A year into the pandemic, the improved quality of livestream concerts is helping to bridge the gap between artists and their socially distanced fans.
WORK OUT WHERE?
YOU TRAIN LEGS, YOU TRAIN BACK, YOU TRAIN ARMS — BUT HOW OFTEN DO YOU TRAIN YOUR PELVIC FLOOR? HERE’S WHY YOU SHOULD.
You'd Be an Iconic Guest
A ruthless Instagram interviewer brings her knowing wink to cable.
The Woman in the Window
FRIDAY, MAY 14
FLESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR!
Will Smith bares doughboy bod
Alison Bechdel's Spiritual Sprint
In her new memoir, the cartoonist runs, climbs, bikes, skis, spins, and Solo exes her way toward transcendence.
A Fair Slice
Can co-ops save restaurants?
ALIBABA RECORDS FIRST QUARTERLY OPERATING LOSS SINCE IPO
Alibaba had its first quarterly operating loss since it went public in 2014 after Beijing slapped a record $2.8 billion fine on the nation’s largest e-commerce company for abusing its market position.
Interview – Damon Johnson
On the hard-rocking battle lessons, the former Black Star Riders/Alice Cooper/Thin Lizzy guitarist establishes himself as a force of one