Updated: Sep 28, 2018
After many planned attempts only to be outdone by the weather, things were looking good for my first run through Goat Pass. A group had been rallied together, some of whom I go kayaking and biking with and a few extras to make the numbers reach 11. Quite a big crew!
We arrived in Arthur’s Pass on Friday night to a beautiful clear sky and found our beds in the backpackers – cheap and cheerful and very easy to organise with a bigger group. Arriving on Friday night meant we could get going early and still make it back to Christchurch with some time to spare in the afternoon. We were up and off before 7am the next morning and headed through Otiri (what a lovely place; Aucklander’s grab yourself a bargain as the whole town is currently for sale) and to the start of the run at Aickens corner. After a quick photo of the team, we were off over the bridge (not to be used on race day though) and headed up through Goat Pass.
Running through the Pass is no easy stroll. Firstly there is no real track to follow, especially on the way up, so figuring out what side of the river to be on and when to cross it becomes a big part of the race. It’s very tactical and precious time can be lost by not knowing where these tracks are. At times you could be running along the river bed with a track only five metres away without even knowing. Luckily for me and a couple of others who were running it for the first time we had some great knowledge with us, especially Matt who became the unofficial tour leader.
The rivers are quite high at this time of the year, and this run was with those conditions. That meant where you could typically run around the side, the river either had to be crossed, or an alternative route taken through the bush (insert knowledge of sidetracks here). There are quite a few landmarks on the way up that can help keep your bearings, such as lunch rock and some large dead tree trunks stuck in the river. I’ve mentioned before I am somewhat vertically challenged, so it was no surprise that I was the only one who managed to become fully submerged in the river! Luckily Matt was right beside me, grabbed my pack and pulled me to the side. I definitely would have been retracing steps if this wasn’t the case. To be honest, I think Matt was more worried than I was, with the following crew turning around and choosing another section of the river to attempt the crossing! I am told the river level will drop up to half a metre come February; otherwise I should be investing in swimming lessons as well!
We climbed our way up the valley with the cloud clearing by the time we got to the hut just below the top. Because the rivers were higher, it was a slower trip than usual, and I was surprised at how much ‘climbing’ I did in comparison to running, but I loved it. We came across a rare Blue Duck near the top which I learnt part of our race money goes towards protecting; a bit of ‘feel good’ along the way.
At the hut, we stopped for a refuel and a quick break. The clouds had gone, and we could see a long way up the valley to our left, as well as looking back down to where we had come from. It wasn’t long before we were off and running again; a small rise to the first boardwalk then it was down the other side. While the Deception side of the valley is rock-hopping and river crossing, the Mingha side is more defined with boardwalks and a definite track out through a Beech forest and along a river bed to the end. Parts of this were beautiful, especially on the boardwalks through the forest. I had to stop a couple of times for photos – none of that on race day! While we finished up at Greyney’s Shelter, the actual course carries on along the river bed for another couple of km’s to Klondyke corner and the end of day one for the two-day coast to coasters. By default, a couple of our crew tested this out!
It was great to have finally gone through and dare I say not as bad as I thought it would be, but this may change after a 55km bike from Kumara added on to the start! A big thanks to Matt and everyone who came with us sharing their knowledge and time for us newbies. A very typical trait of the multi-sporters I have met so far.