Raglan: Head for the hills

By Vicki Virtue

The Sleeping Lady rouses herself for a challenge that just about rivals that of the Himalayas, as Vicki Virtue discover.
Mt Karioi, the sleeping mountain behind Raglan offers an annual climbing challenge that is not for the faint-hearted. Photo / Vicki Virtue
Mt Karioi, the sleeping mountain behind Raglan offers an annual climbing challenge that is not for the faint-hearted. Photo / Vicki Virtue

Mt Karioi is the magnificent towering backdrop to Raglan, often referred to as The Sleeping Lady (Wahine Moe) due to its slumbering profile. Given my own fondness for a lie-in, I have always rather liked the mountain and often admired it while out surfing. So when I read about the Karioi Trail Run I decided it was time to get out of the water and head for the hills.

I'm not a runner but I am a keen hiker and having just returned from Everest Base Camp in Nepal, 24km Mt Karioi within the eight-hour time limit seemed like a cinch - the altitude was only 756m, not 5545m.

So, after checking with the organisers, I entered as a walker and arrived at the start line with a picnic in my backpack ready to enjoy the day and the stunning views from the top.

I should perhaps have realised the significance of the undertaking as I chatted to a former Olympic rower at the start line. But I was fit, the sun was shining and with encouragement from organiser Francois Mazet to "enjoy the day", I set off in high spirits.

Contestants in the Raglan Karioi Trail. Photo / Vicki Virtue
Contestants in the Raglan Karioi Trail. Photo / Vicki Virtue


Overhearing talk of ladders and chains as we crossed the farmland at the beginning, I kept up a brisk pace until I could be sure of what lay ahead.

As it turned out it was a fellow competitor. I emerged from the bush line and found her, frozen with fear and suffering from vertigo midway up a ladder en route to the summit.

Like many of us, she had underestimated the steepness of the trail.

As Chris Morrissy wrote after winning the inaugural race in 2013: "Another five degrees steeper and it would have been worthy of abseiling equipment".

But, vertigo or not, there was no hanging about to enjoy the views on the first summit (yes there are two!). It was straight down the vertiginous slopes on the other side; one minute hanging from a tree like a chimpanzee, the next teetering on the edge of a rocky face like a mountain goat and finally sliding down a muddy chute on a length of chain like a seasoned mountaineer.

At about this point, I realised making the eight-hour time limit wasn't going to be quite as easy a task as I had thought. As I staggered past two runners, prostrate on the ground, I was grateful for the extra haemoglobin in my blood after the high altitude of the Himalayas.

Nonetheless, it was a huge relief to reach the flat gravel on Whaanga Rd, from where I began the push towards the summit for the second time. As I negotiated the steep ascent over loose rocks, slippery tree roots and low-hanging branches, I started to think carrying on past Base Camp to the summit of Everest might have been easier.

But finally, I reached the top for the second time and this time I did stop to enjoy the fabulous views of the West Coast right out to Mt Taranaki and down to Gannet Rock, so named by Captain Cook, although Maori legend has it that this is where Karioi cast her husband into the sea when he flirted with her sister, Pirongia.

I also took the time to enjoy my picnic - much to the astonishment of the formerly prostrate runners who limped past, eyeing my marmite and cheese sandwiches.

Contestants in the Raglan Karioi Trail. Photo / Vicki Virtue
Contestants in the Raglan Karioi Trail. Photo / Vicki Virtue


From there, it was all downhill to the finish line, on an easy, well-maintained Department of Conservation track. As I caught up with the last few straggling runners they made a dash for it, determined not to be overtaken by a picnicking hiker.

Happily we all crossed the line within a hair's breadth of the eight hours. And what an achievement - 1850m of elevation on steep and technically difficult terrain.

As one of the frontrunners so succinctly put it: "That was super-hard, but man it was fun!"

School holiday escapes

Discover something new this April with these family-friendly activities.

Hobbiton Movie Set

The Hobbiton movie set. Photo / Supplied
The Hobbiton movie set. Photo / Supplied

Explore the wonder of Middle Earth with a guided tour of Hobbiton Movie Set. Hear behind the scenes stories and see how this beautiful farmland was transformed into the permanent movie set that it is today.

Waikato Museum

Fun at the Waikato Museum. Photo / Supplied
Fun at the Waikato Museum. Photo / Supplied

From hands-on kids' exhibitions like Excsite and Planet Warriors to blockbuster international touring exhibitions like Da Vinci Mechanics and interactive school holiday workshops, Waikato Museum offers a range of exhibitions the whole family will love.

The Bowlevard at SkyCity

The Bowlevard at SkyCity. Photo / Supplied
The Bowlevard at SkyCity. Photo / Supplied

The Bowlevard is an experience jam-packed with fun for all ages. With Glow Bowling at night, fully automated lanebumpers and a cafe, it's the perfect indoor activity for the school holidays.

Hamilton Zoo

Getting up-close-and-personal at Hamilton Zoo. Photo / Supplied
Getting up-close-and-personal at Hamilton Zoo. Photo / Supplied

Boasting New Zealand's largest free-flight aviary, Hamilton Zoo is home to more than 600 native and exotic animals.

Checklist

GETTING THERE
Raglan is a two-hour drive from Auckland, and 45 minutes from Hamilton.

RACE INFORMATION
raglankarioitrail.com

THE TRACK
Hike Mt Karioi any time. Visit doc.govt.nz

WHERE TO STAY
thesilos.co.nz. solscape.co.nz theroundtent.co.nz

WHERE TO EAT
feastbox.co.nz

ONLINE
raglan.net.nz.

- NZ Herald

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