When approaching the tops it became apparent that Scaw Fell looked pretty steep and potentially dangerous to negotiate. Here we sat and discussed the options before moving on. In the end I think it was time well invested, although the discussion probably dragged on a little longer than it should have…. none the less I think we made the right decision.
I was pretty nervous heading up to the approach of Scaw Fell as it was steep, loose and exposed with little other options could we not continue in this direction. So I was very glad to be able to stand on top of it and look across at the next section knowing that we had committed and it had paid off. Movement along this ridge took quite some time, probably slightly more than I anticipated and only once we were down and I got some food into me I started to feel somewhat better again.
We choose to continue along the ridgeline to the right which involved climbing up again, something that I was not really all that excited about, Amy and Dave both seemed fairly happy and Nathan was busy powering off up ahead so I resumed my position at the back and worked on getting myself, feed and alert. Eventually we picked what seemed like a track into the bush and a steep descent into the valley below. Amy nailed the bearing we took to ensure we got the right spur and after quite a long bush bash we hit the river at the bottom. Great!
It was around 5pm when we got to the bottom, only a few more hours of daylight, we found an awesome sunny spot in the river bed and had a good hour long stop with the knowledge that rest was needed and we were not going to make it 15km down the river and make the dark zone on the Hurinui. We were in a race and we were aware that it would be nice to be on that track by the time darkness hit so we made a move. Progress was slow, real slow. There was a lot of windfall in the river bed, and even though there was a rough track it was not much use to us. We spent a long long time climbing round, through and over trees and eventually kept going down and down the riverbed in search of this track marked on the map above the river bed. Time dragged on and on and it wasnt until 11:30pm at night that we actually got to a formed track…. maybe that spot up that valley was not such a cool spot to go back and visit some other time…
At the beginning of the formed track we made the biggest error in the race. There was a hut, Nathan was cold and had fallen in the river 4-5times and needed to change, so into the hut we went. Dave and I were starting to feel a bit tired too, but Amy seemed wide awake and keen to keep going. Dave and I pushed to take a few hours sleep in the hut, Nathan wasnt in a fit state to make a decision and Amy somehow held the trump card and we pushed on… not without a slight back track when we lost the track right at the start.
I assumed the track marker finding role and this kept me focused and awake as we stumbled our way down the Jollie Brook valley. Once at the valley junction and with about another 7km to go I needed some more clothes as it was freezing cold and I still wasn’t heating up. It was a good time for Amy to take over the lead again, while Dave and I both saw some the legendary North Canterbury Panther on separate occasions. It was a strange experience stumbling our way down the riverbed full of eels, I was starting to fall asleep and Nathan was fading fast too. Dave was making some noises about being tired as well, so it was left to Amy to get us out to the Hurinui river bed. Finally we reached the transition and we were able to get a bit of sleep.
I think it was another teams alarm that finally woke me and the rest of the guys up. I found this morning by far the most difficult of them all. Throughout the race the Doctor was checking up me and she came to find me as we were packing to get ready for the canoe section. After tending to my bike crash wounds she set about removing some of the Matagouri splinters which were festering away in my hand. It was excruciatingly painful and normally i think I would have been fine but due to the overwhelming stress of it I started to feel really sick, broke out in a cold sweat and started breathing really heavily and felt like I was about to pass out. Before I knew it the doctor had me siting on the ground recovering from what she called a vaso-vagal attack. Just as quickly as it had set in, it seemed to go away again, although I was left in a reasonably sorry state for the first few hours on the river.
Due to general disorganised-ness and my doctors visit we ended up getting on the river about 20mins after the dark zone had opened up. Dave and Nathan initially struggled to steer their boat straight but once in the rapids further down Maori Gully they managed to get through while staying dry. Amy had a hard time controlling our boat with the extra gear and as a result we managed to swim two or three times, which was quite refreshing but I was getting borderline cold. After the main gorge we changed around the boats and then readied ourselves for the next one. Dave took on the first major rapid full of confidence and power and nailed it, but sadly Amy and Nathan managed to find themselves both in the water without their boat… back in the boats after a scary few moments they decided to “line” their boat through the next big rapid, while Dave and I gave it a crack…and ended up pinned on a rock. we managed to wiggle off it but on the other-side of the rapid Dave managed to slip out of the boat, grabbing the throw rope in the process while I somehow stayed put! I was a bit of a relief to get out of that gorge, but there was a long hard slog awaiting us ahead.