Sunday, 27 July 2014

Tramping Equipment: La Sportiva Valojet boots

New boots for new adventures...La Sportiva Valojets

I've recently brought myself a new pair of leather boots for the coming Summer tramping season. I have been wearing a pair of Kathmandu boots but as is the case with their gear they have started to fall to bits.  

My Kathmandu Barrigan boots in 2017

La Sportiva Valojet Boots

These boots are La Sportiva Valojets, a medium weight leather boot with a Goretex liner, the sole is a good quality Vibram one. The last fit is for wide feet...many of these European boot makers seem to have very narrow boots so finding some quality boots that are wide is a real bonus.

La Sportiva Valojet boot

La Sportiva is a well known Italian boot manufacturer better known for their plastic mountaineering boots but the reviews for their trail boots are very positive.

I know a lot of trampers are going away from boots and wearing trail shoes, mountain trainers or their ilk, but I actually like a pair of hard wearing leather boots on my feet. I find them more supportive and hardier on the rocky trails and river beds which characterise the Canterbury region.

My Valojet boots on my feet at the beginning of the walk to John Heyward Hut

 Specifications for these boots are:
  • Upper: Greased Full grain leather upper 2,4 mm
  • Lining: Gore-Tex®
  • Insole: Graded 5 mm Nylon + shock absorbing upper layer
  • Sole: Vibram® with Impact Brake System+ PU midsole
  • Sizes: 38 - 48 including half sizes
  • Weight: 1.550 kg per pair

Vibram soles for long life

Vibram soles are the bench mark for quality on tramping boots, they are hard wearing and technically advanced. I also like the high rand on these, good for protecting your boots from rock scuffs etc.

La Sportiva Valojet boot, Vibram sole

Choose your boots wisely...

Tramping boots are really expensive, good ones go for $400-$700 a pair. I had originally placed these boots on my wish list but removed them because they normally retail for $600.
There was a sale at one of the local outdoor stores which saw me walk away with these for the bargain price of $350.

My Valojets on the Lewis Pass Tops, December 2015

Here's  hoping they are a successful purchase.

POST SCRIPT: I've worn these on many trips now and they have performed very well. They are really grippy in wet conditions, nice firm sole, and fit well in the ankle area. 

I've switched to slightly thinner Smart Wool socks as my thicker Munds/Bridgedales are too much sock for these boots. My toes were getting constricted in the front of my boots because of the thickness of my socks.

Wearing the Valojets on the QCT in 2016

Wearing the Valojets on the track to Hope Halfway Hut in 2017

I love these boots and would buy more but unfortunately they are now out of production...a pity as they are excellent boots for New Zealand conditions.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Christchurch 360: Sign of the Kiwi to Bridle Path: 29th June 2014

Walking on the Port Hills: a case of changing plans...

Ive been quiet on the tramping scene for a while so I planned a trip up to Lewis Pass, I was going to hike into Boyle Flats Hut for a couple of nights and then walk out. 

I actually got as far as Hanmer Springs! About 2 km's past the Hanmer Springs turn off the road was closed:a logging truck had overturned this side of Lewis Pass blocking the road from 0730 till 1400.
Bugger! So no trip to the mountains this weekend:0

Jon walking in Hanmer Forest Park on the Friday
I spent the day in Hanmer instead, went for a forest walk, spent about 3 hours in the thermal pools & then drove home. Altogether, not a waste of a day.

Setting out for the Bridle Path

The next day was clear and sunny so I decided to go for a walk on the Port Hills. I got my wife to drop me off at the top of Dyers Pass Road and then walked along the Crater Rim Walkway to the Bridle Path, about 10 kms in total. This was the first weekend since the 2010/11 earthquakes that the section of track from Rapaki to the Bridle Path was open. 

It was previously closed due to rock fall danger.

The Port Hills from Dyers Pass to Mt Pleasent

Sign of the Kiwi car park
You start out walking up the road for about a kilometre then start walking on the track.

Heading up the Summit Road

...more of the the Summit Road

This is Sugar Loaf (496 metres), it houses the TV transmission tower for the Christchurch area. That's its real name btw, supposedly it looks like a loaf of bread...I dont see it but....????
There are fantastic views from the top of the hill, you can walk up the access road to the third highest point on Banks Peninsula.
Sugar Loaf TV antenna in the distance
The entrance to the track is opposite the first lookout on the Summit Road, there are a number of tracks from this location which lead up to the car-park at the Sugar Loaf.

Road side car park about 1 km up the Summit Road
This is not a very auspicious start to the Crater Rim Walkway, scrubby sheep pasture, but the start it most certainly is!
Crater Rim Walkway: Climbing the track to Sugar Loaf

Pegasus Bay and North Canterbury from the Port Hills
The Crater Rim walkway goes around the left side of the hills from the Sugarloaf car-park. From this point on you have excellent views of the Canterbury Plains, Pegasus Bay and Southern Alps.
Sugar Loaf car-park, track goes to the left
A classic view north towards Kaikoura, Pegasus Bay and the distant Southern Alps.

Glorious Canterbury Plains/ Pegasus Bay
Here is view down onto the South end of Lyttleton Harbour with Gebbies Pass, Mt Bradley and Mt Herbert in the distance. Quail Island is to the middle right of the photo.
View of Lyttleton from near Sugar Loaf
This is the style of sign used by the Christchurch City Council who administer the tracks and roads on the Port Hills. Note the message about rock fall: this was NOT on the sign before September 2011!
Crater Rim Walkway: a rock fall warning

Crater Rim Walkway on flank of Sugar Loaf
As you can see the established parts of the walkway are very easy to follow, this is the standard of the "track" for most of its length.
View to the East along the Port Hills
There are two excellent tracks through some native forest on the Lyttleton side of Sugarloaf. Unfortunately since the earthquakes there is a very real risk of rock fall on the tracks. These tracks are now open again after some removal of loose rocks.
Looking West towards Sugar Loaf- just see native bush to left

CCC Reserve see a few of these!

View towards the mouth of Lyttleton Harbour, that is Quail Island in the centre of the shot. There is a very nice track around the Island, a great spot to take the kids for a walk and lunch during the Summer. You have to catch the ferry out to the island, unless you own a boat of course.

2017 Update: DOC are developing a new 10-12 bunk hut on Quail Island utilising the existing day shelter and outbuildings near the dock. It should be available for use early 2018.
Diamond Harbour in the distance

Crater Rim Walkway near Mt Vernon
There are a few areas of regenerating bush along the track, in pre-colonial days the whole of the peninsula was covered in dense native bush. There are planting groups working their way along the Port Hills but I would imagine it will be some time before the results are obvious.

Crater Rim Walkway- easy single track

Crater Rim Walkway: exotic tree planting
The track undulates up and down over small ridge-lines and through small areas of bush.

Crater Rim Walkway: sidling around Mt Vernon
There are the foothills of the Southern Alps in the distance, they are about 50 km's distant in this photo. During that week they had a good fall of snow higher in the Alps, 6-10 cms which closed a lot of the passes.
Southern Alps in the distance from Port Hills

Port Hills: Top end of Rapaki Track
If you are walking the Crater Rim Walkway this is a possible spot to "bail out". The Rapaki Track will take you down to the Huntsbury area and "civilisation". Buses are available at the bottom to take you back into the central Bus Exchange.
Rapaki Track from Summit road

Rapaki Track is a great downhill MTB ride, you have to look out for the tourist's though!

Rapaki Track heading down to Christchurch
The section of Crater Rim Walkway between Rapaki and the Bridle Path has been re routed. Previously it ran along the Lyttleton side of the hills but because of rock fall danger it is now on the Plains side facing Christchurch.

End of the Summit Road for cars, Rapaki Track
Parts of the track are dual use, I had to move aside for about 10-12 MTB riders through this section.

Crater Rim Walkway on Huntsbury Spur
Crater Rim Walkway: View to ocean from Huntsbury Spur

Lyttleton from near The Tors
I stopped around 1230 by the side of the (deserted) road near the Tors and ate my lunch.  It was very pleasant as it was surprisingly warm (its winter here). There was a nice views of the Plains and Lyttleton as I chomped my tuna + crackers!

Oh, mighty tuna, ambrosia of the God's, how I love thee!
View of the Tors near Castle Rock

New section of the Crater Rim Walkway bedding in...
Below is a view of the old walkway on the Lyttleton side of the hills, it has a series of unstable bluffs right next to the track so its a "no go" area now.
Old section of Crater Rim Walkway
Track? What track are you talking about!
New section Crater Rim Walkway near the Tors
Because the track has been re routed due to earthquake damage, you had to make your own way for about a kilometre. There are a series of paint marks on the grass so the CCC Parks and Recreation people obviously haven't got around to cutting the new track yet. It will sidle across the side of the hill following an existing sheep track.
View towards Castle Hill area

Bridle Path apex from near Castle Hill

Crater Rim Walkway heading down to Bridle Path on Pt. 422
The track heads around the back of this hill (Pt. 422) eventually to emerge at the apex of the Bridle Path. I decided to go off track and walk down the road. Dont do this! It was a pig of a thing to find a way down to the roadway as the road is built with an uphill cutting about 4 metres high. It would have been easier to just follow the path.

New section of Crater Rim Walkway on Pt. 422

At the apex of the Bridle Path

Here are a series of three photos from the Bridle Path apex, showing Lyttleton Harbour from the heads right through to Gebbies Pass.
Bridle Path view: Lyttleton Harbour Heads and the harbour
Bridle Path view: Mt Herbert from Summit Road at Bridle Path

Bridle Path view: View towards Quail Island, Gebbies Pass

Heading down to Heathcote Valley

I stopped for a drink and snack at the top of the Bridle Path. There was a lot of foot traffic up and down the track because it was such a lovely day: Clear winter days seem to bring out Cantabrians for some fresh air and sunshine.

Hey folks, me at the top of the Bridle Path

View down the Bridle Path towards Heathcote Valley

Almost there, I come into sight of the track end!

Nearly there, Bridle Path car-park

There are plenty of parking spaces at the track end, you can also park in the Gondola car-park which is right next to the Bridle Path.

Bridle Path car park
Here are some para-ponters enjoying the day. They launch their gliders from a hill next to the top terminal of the Gondola.
Para-ponters near the Gondola

Close up of Bridle Path sign in Heathcote Valley

An excellent day out walking, the weather was beautiful, and although disappointed about missing my original tramp I was more than happy. I love the Port Hills we are so lucky to have them right there in our back yard.