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Dusky Trail Adventure with Hedley & The Fear Society

dusky trail start
Lake Hauroko

A 3am alarm was the precursor to this epic adventure. The first wave of Fear Society Adventurers met at Manapouri for a 90min shuttle ride to Lake Horoko where we jumped on the water taxi for about a 1hr cruise to the start of the Dusky trail. The number of sandflies at the drop off point made for a hasty transition & we were on our way by 7am.

Going into the trip we were mindful of the southerly front due to come through around Sunday lunchtime so the plan was to push through as far as we could before stopping. We also needed to be realistic with our pace expectations when we reached Loch Maree which was the decision point for adding in the extra 30km section to Dusky Sound.

Firstly we followed the rudimentary trail alongside Hauroko Burn and were soon experiencing the muddy bog holes & 3 wire bridges that were going to be featuring in this trip.

On passing Halfway hut we were able to guage our speed of travel & it was pretty slow! We were only just under the faster estimates for DOC! The section up to Lake Roe Hut & over the Pleasant Range was the highlight of the trip for me. Absolutely stunning scenery & it was nice to be out of the bush for a decent stretch. Descending to Loch Maree included some very steep down climbing but there were plenty of tree roots to dangle off. Lots of concentration on where your feet were going was another feature of this trip!

Taking into account the speed of travel and imminent arrival of the weather bomb we decided to go straight through to West Arm rather than add on the out/back to Dusky Sound. Conditions through to Kintail hut were pretty good (or we were well acclimated by now) as this section is renowned for flooding requiring some swimming! We lost count of the number of wire bridges, I was having to concentrate very hard on these by now as the body & mind were getting pretty tired, even my triceps were sore from hauling myself out of so many bog holes. It was definitely time for a short stop to eat some freeze dried food before tackling Center Pass in the dark! This was definitely going to be snowed on so we wanted to get over it.

Refueled we set off to see what was install for the next section. Basically it turned out to be vertical climbing, lots of hauling up tree roots & willing tired legs to balance & push me up to the next hand hold. I was very slow but Hedley spurred me on. I felt like I was crawling on all fours at times! We were pleasantly surprised to reach the top & discover that it wasn’t clagged in with mist Whoop whoop, now all we had to do was descend to Upper Spey hut. We had a bit of phaffing around locating one section of the trail where there had been lots of tree fall but after a bit of flailing around like drunkards we came across the rudimentary trail. Now I was asking my legs to hold me up again as we dropped down more steep tree roots, mud & rock. Out of the blue we hit board walk, it was like a dream come true. We could walk horizontally without looking at our feet & it lead straight to the hut. I crawled into my sleeping bag around 4:30am & zonked out for 90min. Its amazing what a short rest can do, after another feed we set off with more spring in our legs to knock out the last 14km. Just for good measure this involved a high percentage of boggy holes and a bit of wading before we popped out onto this strange flat, wide gravel thing that took us to our finish point in Manapouri where we were welcomed with hot showers and a big feed. A huge thanks to Andy, Adrian & Arno for their endless enthusiasm & organisation that was required to make this adventure happen. Also to Hedley for being a super team mate & cajoling me through the witching hours when my legs were being uncooperative.

Tips for doing this trip

· Carrying a tent isn’t of much use as the tops are the only place you might be able to find a place to pitch it (a bivvy/sleeping bag for emergencies is better)

· I found poles extremely useful for the rough terrain & would have ended up doing a lot more bog face plants if I hadn’t used them

· Be prepared for bad weather/floods where you may need to sit it out in a hut – take extra food & don’t book anything important for the next couple of days!

· Its very rough so unless you are super confident travel with a buddy

· Don’t underestimate the cumulative fatigue that occurs travelling through this type of country

· It’s a full body workout so be prepared!

· You WILL get very wet and very muddy

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