Debriefing: Dusky Track

If there was one word for this track, it would be “tough”, t, o, u g, h. It’s not just the two alpine passes that have to be conquered, nor the mud, nor even finding the track. It must be one of the toughest walks I’ve ever done. It’s pretty slow going at best, as the table shows, and the climbs and downclimbs reach an average grade of D+, which is between 7.5° and 15° on average for the distance of the climb. On average.

Section Distance Track Time Break Mean speed Median time|distance Ascent Descent
Lake Hauroko – Halfway Hut 11.9 km 4:35 h 0:08 h 2.60 km/h 2.47|3.05 km/h 444 m (M-) 279 m (E+)
Halfway Hut – Lake Roe 7.8 km 3:58 h 0:07 h 1.95 km/h 1.77|2.42 km/h 643 m (M+) 106 m (E)
Lake Roe – Loch Maree 8.6 km 4:19 h 0:44 h 1.98 km/h 1.92|2.39 km/h 419 m (D-) 1245 m (D+)
Loch Maree – Supper Cove 15.0 km 6:39 h 1:04 h 2.25 km/h 2.06|2.78 km/h 505 m (M-) 552 m (M-)
Supper Cove – Loch Maree 14.1 km 5:59 h 0:55 h 2.36 km/h 2.21|2.90 km/h 506 m (E+) 452 m (M-)
Loch Maree – Kintail 11.3 km 5:22 h 1:02 h 2.11 km/h 2.01|2.60 km/h 563 m (M) 341 m (M-)
Kintail – Upper Spey 7.1 km 4:26 h 1:47 h 1.60 km/h 1.48|1.86 km/h 833 m (D+) 652 m (D)
Upper Spey – West Arm 13.5 km 4:39 h 0:12 h 2.90 km/h 2.71|3.81 km/h 275 m (E) 547 m (M-)
Totals 89.3 km 39:58 h 6:20 h 2.23 km/h 2.04|2.68 km/h 4145 m (M) 4134 m (M)
Summary of the Dusky Track. Climb categories are: Flat (< 1.9°/3.3%), Easy (> 1.9°/3.3%), Moderate (> 3.8°/6.6%), Demanding (> 7.5°/13%), Strenuous (> 15°/27%)

Two big hills: On the left the climb up to Furkert Pass and the descent into Loch Maree; on the right the climb over Centre Pass
Two big hills: On the left the climb up to Furkert Pass and the descent into Loch Maree; on the right the climb over Centre Pass

What was left of the boots. Repair to the boot on the left (rivet) was post-Dusky; later the eyelet below also tore; eyelets on the other boot show critical frying , as well as other damage
What was left of the boots. Repair to the boot on the left (rivet) was post-Dusky; later the eyelet below also tore; eyelets on the other boot show critical fraying, as well as other damage
So my advice for most people is not to try taking two stages at a time. Quite possibly the only section that might be done like this is from Hauroko Burn all the way up to Lake Roe, but the starting time is late, and the track, which is initially quite good, rapidly deteriorates. Read more…

Debriefing: Satellite Tours

An additional degree of freedom when travelling was the use of “satellite tours” where a stop would be used as a starting point for a longer tour, with an intermediate base. This meant carrying less luggage to the intermediate point, but it also required a good deal of planning and organisation.

A classical tour, such as the Dusky Track, required only a place to leave most of the luggage, while taking only what was absolutely necessary (for eight days!) on the tour. Since the starting point was Te Anau, and most accommodation hosts there are used to dealing with tourists going on longer or shorter tours, then it was just a question of asking whether storage facilities were available. At Steamers Beach/Lakeview Holiday Park, a vehicle can be parked safely for $10, and another $10 will get you a locker for as long as you need it. Everything else was packed into the backpack weighing in @ 18 kg for the tour.

The first real satellite tour, however, had already been undertaken on Stewart Island. Here the idea was to spend one night in the secondary base at Oban before beginning and after ending the tramp across the island. This would mean leaving a small bag with some fresh clothes at the hostel in Oban, as well as leaving the main suitcase in Invercargill. As there is a strict weight limit on luggage on the plane (15 kg) some of the tramping food would have to be bought in Oban (not much more expensive than the mainland, but anyhow). And this is how it went: Read more…

20. Upper Spey – West Arm (Dusky Track 8/8) – Manapouri – Te Anau

Thursday, March 2: Overcast to begin with, a little variable, changing to sunny in Te Anau

Tramping: 13.5 km

Steamer’s Backpackers

My decision had been a long time in the making as well, but probably not as excruciating as the waking in anticipation of leaving that had people fiddling about from 4:00 onwards. Eventually Dave made a call of, “Time to get up,” at 6:00 and up everyone was except for me. That meant that the first to leave were out just after 7:00, the last around 7:30, and me as the rear guard @ 8:00.

I had decided to join my new group on the ferry back today, and not spend the night on the track as previously planned. The weather was not great for one, and while I could get little done in what was left of the afternoon, I could at least have a shower and eat something halfway decent, in order to get some serious work done on Friday and Saturday.

The plan was to reach the first pair of walkwires at around 9:00; have an hydration break @ 10:00; reach the last set around 11:00, and by that time I would know whether I would get the 13:45 boat or not. Read more…

19. Kintail – Upper Spey (Dusky Track 7/8)

Wednesday, March 1: Cloud cover in the morning, fog in the mountains, becoming sunnier in the afternoon, a bit cooler

Tramping: 7.1 km

Upper Spey Hut (Doc)

“Seven o’clock, people,” was the waking call for the second last day of tramping, and the bottom bunk and the couple on the top one were soon up and about, and I spent a little more time in bed until I was sure that Matt & Christoph were also awake, and then I joined the others. Breakfast this morning was cheese instead of salami, and two eggs were there for the taking. When packing everything, Gort couldn’t find his rubbish, but after everyone had left, except for the last three of us, there was a rubbish bag with an empty deet container and some dental floss in it, so I picked it up on my way out to return to him. Read more…

18. Loch Maree – Kintail (Dusky Track 6/8)

Tuesday, February 28: Cold again in the early morning but otherwise a fine and sunny day

Tramping: 11.5 km

Kintail Hut (Doc)

Kea were playing on the roof for their breakfast @ 6:00, but otherwise the night was surprisingly peaceful considering the age distribution. Only one person snored, and then not too loudly.

I let the others get onto the track before me, and then was able to pack up everything, send off a spot OK, get a sat fix, sweep out the hut and get on my own way. Pretty muddy today, and a lot of ups and downs all over the place. I could see that one “gut” had been completely avoided by a new track, but still, even if the mud was fairly firm in places, in others it was soft and unavoidable. Read more…

17. Supper Cove – Loch Maree (Dusky Track 5/8)

Monday, February 27: Cold to begin with, very sunny, a couple of high clouds collecting in the evening

Tramping: 14.1 km

Loch Maree Hut (Doc)

Rather cool this morning, as I had left the door open in the middle of the night. For breakfast I started on the second packet of biscuits which I preferred over the rather bland sesame ones. Had to start rationing the muesli bars for lunch and was considering when I might have two eggs for breakfast. The sun rose in one far corner of the Dusky Sound, quite unphotographable, but anyhow.

Some of the gear was still wet, but at least clean and as I was tightening up my boots, one of the base eyelets snapped – I thought at first it was the shoelace, if it had been, then at least it would have been repairable. Relaced the boot to cover the gap, but noticed that the other eyelets are not looking healthy either. So much for Jack Wolfskin. Then off I set. Read more…

16. Loch Maree – Supper Cove (Dusky Track 4/8)

Sunday, February 26: Sunny throughout

Tramping 15.0 km

Supper Cove Hut (Doc)

Keas were heard playing on the roof & calling at night and in the dawn. There was also a bit of snoring during the night, and I don’t know how much sleep I got. In any case everyone was up and about around 7:30, which also had to mean me. My stuff was not particularly dry, and I had had no time to wash anything yesterday, so after my breakfast, and being reassured that everyone was going to make it, I pushed off on my own at 9:30. Read more…

15. Lake Roe – Loch Maree (Dusky Track 3/8)

Saturday, February 25: Rain overnight & in the morning, easing to drizzle by midday and becoming fine but cloudy in the evening

Tramping: 8.8 km

Loch Maree Hut (Doc)

In the absence of anyone else to disturb me I slept through until 8:30, packed my stuff together and waited to see how the day would progress. As it was a bit cold I decided that a fire would be in order, so I lit the pile of rubbish that had collected in the potbelly stove, emptied the ash drawer and in a short while the stove was fairly clear so I put a pan of water on it to have some warm water for washing if I was able to convince myself to stay.

Around midday an unexpected group turned up – two couples and one other guy, who were soaked to the skin and needed the rest of the day to dry off. I had collected some firewood (mainly kindling) and had put some wet firewood by the fire for drying. Had lunch of three muesli bars & half of the rest of the sultanas. The rain seemed to stop so I took this as a message to get on the track. One of the guys had found Jack’s Raybans so he gave them on to me & I moved off at 1:00. Read more…

14. Halfway – Lake Roe (Dusky Track 2/8)

Friday, February 24: Sunny the whole day

Tramping: 7.8 km

Lake Roe Hut (Doc)

We were up around 7:00. There had only been one snorer, Nico, and his snoring wasn’t particularly bad. I had gotten up once, and tried putting on the anaesthetic because I had been bitten to bits changing sox yesterday, and that set off one cramp in the calf and another in the thigh. However, with the ointment applied, the bites were much less itchy.

The Dutch couple were surprisingly quick off the mark, as was Murray, who may have been first. Then Jack and Nico were off with a promise to wait for me at the next hut. Read more…

13. Hauroko Burn – Halfway Hut (Dusky Track 1/8)

Thursday, February 23: Sunny throughout with some morning fog and high clouds in the afternoon

Tramping: 11.9 km

Halfway Hut (Doc)

The compass-alarm went off on the dot of 6:00 and I was up to finish the orange juice and two eggs which were a little too hard boiled, but the shells separated nicely. Everything fitted into the backpack, except for the (large) gas can and the burner which were packed into the sport shoe bag and strapped on the outside of the pack, and the tripod and ratsack are being carried in a separate bag sashed to me.

The computer & pjs were put into the satellite pack and deposited in locker #19.

With everything ready to go and the room key delivered back to the key drop I was waiting at the front of the motorcamp at 7:15 and could spend a spot OK while doing so. Shuttle turned up a little after half past, and in addition to Jack & Nico, two Dutch hikers were coming along as well, Sjos & Bo. We also had to pick up another person in Manapouri, Murray, a Kiwi from Taranaki. Now we were set to go to Clifden. Here we were joined by a young Canadian couple, Quinn & Matt, who had just completed the Te Araroa and were looking for another challenge. Read more…