In December 2021 Jed and Johanna made it over the Paparoa track in a day but not without some hitches and challenging conditions. Read about it here. Less than a year later, August 2022 Jed and Johanna returned to Blackball to run the full track again. Here’s their story of the day.
Our first running attempt of the Paparoa was somewhat of an epic. Little more than 6 months into training some might say this was a bold run we had planned, however we had been working hard, felt ready, and almost made it over smoothly.
A good comparison of the conditions
There’s something very special about the Paparoa track and after our eventful first experience we were still hungry for another go on the trail. After some solid recovery time followed by more training we set our date for 8 months later, 27 August 2022.
The day we planned to run, repair work was going on and the road from Blackball to the track start was closed to vehicles. Hence we took on board the prospect of running an extra 6kms and some extra hill right from the get go. Our total to cover in the day would be 62km, starting at Blackball Hilton and finishing at Punakaiki Beach Camp. A running friend joined us for the first big stretch up to Ces Clark Hut.
6am on Saturday morning in the dark, The Paparoa Track Services van dropped us off at ‘Formerly the Blackball Hilton’ and we got a quick pre-run selfie and downed some electrolyte fluids, jittery with nerves/excitement. Johanna was particularly nervous as the two days leading up to the run she had been feeling crook with nausea and stomach upset.
The date of the run was pretty much non-negotiable though, the metvuw forecast was for an absolute pearler of a day with no guarantee of another like this on the Sunday, or the following weekend. Johanna woke up on the Saturday feeling okay and decided to take the gamble.
The run got off to a good start, heading up the road climb we were careful to pace ourselves. We had a long way to go. It was novel running this extra stretch before the track. The concrete was easy on foot and we were surrounded by orange rock walls and ferns as we watched the sun come up, colouring the sky rosé. Soon we were onto the track itself.
Our legs were warmed up, the yarns were flowing, Jed was in great spirits… Such good spirts that 5km in he lost control of his footing on a rock, his ankle rolling out from under him. The mood suddenly shifted as we stopped and assessed the situation, wondering if the game was already over, just a short distance from Blackball. Thankfully as Jed got going again the pain began to subside and we became assured he wasn’t injured; nethertheless Jed made sure to concentrate more on his feet and the rocky terrain.
The track leading to Ces Clark Hut was a steady climb. We kept up the momentum by jogging slowly up the hills and taking breaks every so often. Jed who’d run, biked and walked the track seemed to know the Paparoa in fine detail and kept pointing out spots of interest.
When we made it up to Ces Clark Hut the sun was out in full force with a view of blue sky and snowy peaks behind us as we stood on the balcony of the hut. We stopped for a snack break and photos and chatted to trampers. After getting carried away a bit in conversation we looked at our watches; not knowing how the day would go, it was best we didn’t linger too long.
Our friend wished us well for the rest of the run and we said our goodbyes; she would be heading back down the hill to Blackball with some tunes and getting closer to a well-earned glass of wine.
A bit more climbing and a bit more shuffling through undulating terrain while admiring the pristine native bush and the well-made track. When we got onto the tops we laughed and marveled at just how different our view was compared to the first time we ran this. The first time we had to keep the speed on to keep warm, fighting against a bitter wind and hard pellets of rain. This time we could take in the stunning 360 degree views, in awe of the huge drop offs and expansive tussocky views with hills, tarns and the distant sea.
Absolute stunner on the tops!
Quick obligatory stop at the impressive Moonlight Hut to fill our water bottles before we pushed on to Emergency shelter for lunch. We remembered how crucial the shelter had been last time we came through, protecting us from the elements while we stopped for a break. This time it had been replaced with an upgraded shelter which was much bigger. Johanna had struggled to eat any solid food, with the muesli bar at stop one not going down well. Even by lunch she was not able to touch any of the sandwiches or snacks she’d brought. Gels were a life-safer, going down smoothly and keeping the energy levels up.
It’s always a good feeling getting to Pororari Hut. We’ve been up there several times from the Punakaiki side and love the feeling of being back in the temperate forest. We were beginning to feel the muscle fatigue and it was about here the headphones and tunes came on to help push us forward. From here it was pretty smooth sailing down hill. We were sore but we felt the toughest part was over. We passed some fellow members of the West Coast Alpine Club who were doing pest control, exchanging some quick stories of the day.
The final 5km of the trail felt more like 30. Every time we stopped we felt so stiff, but the call to sit down on just about any half-decent log or rock was oh so strong. Sitting in the middle of the track on one of the last stops, Johanna finally felt some appetite for a carb-on-carb hashbrown & hummus sandwich. She offered one to a weary Jed and he first said no but soon changed his mind and downed two. After a couple more stops in the last section we finally said enough’s enough, we need to get moving. Tiredness turned to elation as we passed a key point where Jed said ‘I know this corner – we’re almost there!’ We fully appreciated the sparkly green pororari river beside us as we cruised on to the finish, beers, hot tub and congratulations waiting, grins ear to ear. We did it. Relaxing next to a big Kowhai tree we were amused to watch a plump Kererū attempt to fight off several Tui from eating the yellow flowers; the Tui largely unperturbed. It was good to be in Punakaiki.