Monday, 25 April 2016

Rolling bumper plate storage

Just need to set up for the change plates

Now that I’m getting the gear together to practice Olympic lifting, such as my lifting platform, and bumper plates, I need some storage. The vertical plate storage was built for 20 and 25kg steel plates and I wanted a larger rolling storage system for bumper plates and change plates. Pinterest was really handy for this; I found a really good guild by Greg Everett, and a similar one on wheels. I originally wanted all my plates on one large rolling rack, but it was going to end up being 250kg or so of plates and it was going to be too big to move around and require expensive wheels. So I decided to put only my bumper plates and change plates on this one. UPDATE: For the finished product click here.

This project used less than a sheet of plywood ($80), a few screws and a little bit of no more nails, so it cost less than $100, but it did take 3-4 hours.

First I calculated the total width of all the plates I was going to buy and found it would be around the 500mm mark. So with room to add a few more plates and tidying up change plates I decide to make the rack 900mm internally. Now for the tricky part, I wanted the plates to sit on the bottom and only just touch the sides but not have too much weight on the edges. So I had to calculate the size of the arc. I chose to make the sides 150mm high. Now the width of the plate is 444mm making the diameter 222mm so the calculated width of the arc is 420mm (You can check my maths here). I made the base board 460mm wide so the 20mm ply sides would sit on top. I then cut the ends so that they would over lap the sides and base, but that’s not necessary. 

The strengthening bars along the bottom
 I glued and screwed this all together, and then I added two strips of ply to the base for added strength. I then screwed on 6 wheels each rated to 40kg giving me a total of capacity of 240kg, more than I need. I then stacked my plates into the rack in pairs and screwed in the dividers with 1-2mm or room either side of the pairs. I also screwed these from the bottom. When that was done I sanded the edges down, particularly the edges in contact with the plates to protect them from damage.

The plate dividers
Then with the space at the end I chose to add some racks for barbells or in my case 50mm dumbbells (my fat dumbbells with live there when I get them back from a friend). The internals of these are spaced at 50mm; however the barbells require more spacing than the 20mm of ply to allow them to fit, so I added spacers of 8mm ply so that I can fit barbells sided by side. I have room from 5 of these racks, so that’s two pairs of dumbbells and one bar.

For dumbbells and barbells
I’m really happy with the end result; I’m not particularly good at woodworking so it’s not pretty but it’s strong and does its job well. I can roll it away when I’m doing my gymnastics and bring it back to centre stage when I’m squatting and deadlifting. 

One other option for those with more space would be to build it as a bench, I believe Greg Everett has done this but I don’t have a link to it.

Also I am yet to tidy up the change plates, I’m waiting on two 5kg bumper plates and another set of smaller plates before I finish that up.

UPDATE: For the finished product click here.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Round the Mountain Track – Ruapehu (Part 3 Gear)

Part one is here, and part two is here

The gear I used and some thoughts on gear. 

You can see my white compression socks
I had some questions about doing a gear post and what my pack weighed so here goes. My pack weighed 21kg all in at the start of the hike. This is 3 litres of water, food, phone everything. As for my gear I think I’ll start with my shoes and make my way up.

I wrote previously about how I do all of my hiking in vibram5 fingers and I really wanted to do this hike in my five fingers too. However my pack was the heaviest I’ve ever hiked with and having walked the Tongiriro Crossing before (in five fingers) I knew the terrain would be rocky and loose. I was also cognisant of my broken toe and the injury I suffered walking on thebeach and up Mt Pirongia. In the end I decided the terrain in combination with the heavy pack would be too much for my feet to handle. I knew that extremely sore feet would take the fun out of the hike and could even force me to drop out. So I decided to wear my zero drop trail running shoes I have written about as my daily wear shoes. Once I had started on the track I know I had made the right choice. I’ve mentioned before how I don’t need ankle support etc so I want go over than again. I will say I was very happy with my shoes and will likely stick with the brand for the foreseeable future. I’ll still be doing most of my hikes in five fingers, but for the more mountainous stuff I think shoes are the safer option.

Moving up to my socks. I bought some long injinji compression socks for the hike, which I also wanted to test out for running. Long story short, I ended up with a white pair and a purple pair instead of black. I found these socks to be great, I’m sure they helped shift fluid in my feet and ankles. I might do a full review of them once I’ve worn them running (Review here). The only issue I found, which was not at all the fault of the socks was that during the river crossings I got a lot of silt in my shoes, which worked its way into my socks. So one big suggestion of mine is to bring a fresh pair of socks for every day, it makes a huge difference.

Now for my pack. It is a 50 litre Kathmandu pack which I bought on sale for $200, they eventually went for $180 on clearance. It has been the right size for me, fitting everything I need, without any space left to pack unnecessary items. If needed I could strap some stuff to the outside, so in winter conditions a 60 litre pack might be necessary, but for what I do its been prefect. 

Now I’ll try to go through the contents of my pack, as I would pack it. A 3 litre water bladder goes in first. I find on most hikes this is enough to hike a 5-8 hour day, longer and I’ll fill an extra litre bottle. Next in is my one man tent weighing 1.5kg or so. I bring along a ground sheet I made from a cheap tarpaulin which weighs next to nothing. I also bought a larger trap to go over both tents (for me and my hiking companion) encase of heavy rain. My sleeping bag I think is a -8 °C so it’s a little over kill but I just unzip it a bit. I also use a silk sleeping back liner which I can wash more easily than my sleeping bag. My sleeping mat is a ¾ length self inflating mat which is fairly thin. I find it quite uncomfortable so I might upgrade to something thicker but light weight.

Next I have my clothes in a dry sack. I bought 2 pairs of thermal tops, 1 pair thermal long johns I didn’t use the extra thermal and long johns but they were good to have just encase. I thought it had packed an extra pair of shorts but I hadn’t so I only had one pair the whole way, no big deal though. I had two t-shirts, one for while hiking and one for at camp, my hiking one stunk but that's life. I’ve already mentioned my gloves. I also packed a hoodie which came in handy, but was difficult to get dry once it was wet.

The only shot I have of my tent set up

Food and cooking. I have a light weight cooker, gas bottle and two pots, the small one I barely use so I could just leave it behind. One thing I am really glad I bought was a kettle, it makes boiling water so easy and adds very little weight. For breakfast I have coffee sachets which I use condensed milk with (so tasty even if milk powder is lighter). To eat I have oats with a serve of protein powder. Lunch and snacks are jerky, dried fruit, and a can of tuna. Dinner is a dehydrated backcountry meal, these were always really good. On shorter hikes I’ll carry a can of beans, sausages and cheese. This is followed up with a hot chocolate and condensed milk. I also carried an extra days food just encase. Now this food isn’t super paleo, but oats don’t give me any issues and I choose either gluten free meals, or meals which don’t have a lot of wheat (no pastas), which I seem to handle pretty well.

An example of my cooking set up

Extras. I carry a small first aid kit, water purifying tablets, small repair kit, duct tape, tic tac container with some salt (to try to prevent cramps), headlamp. I carry all sorts of little extras, some worth bringing, others I should probably leave behind, but that’s an ever evolving process. One thing that was handy this time was two clothes pegs I added to my pack, I was able to dry some clothes while I walked. If I wasn’t so tired at the Rangipo hut I probably could have strung up a line to dry clothes. Also a little cloth is really handy for drying pots and hands etc. I always bring two rolls of toilet paper, its more than I need but is helpful if someone forgets, and I always leave one roll at the last toilet; it lightens my load, and might just make someone’s day. I carry a whistle on my pack for emergencies (three sharp whistles is the signal), but it’s a farm dog whistle and not everyone knows how to use one so I should probably get something anyone can use.

Wet weather gear. I carry a gortex jacket with me which comes in handy as well as a pack cover. One thing that broke on me this time was a small dry sack which I keep my phone and map in. It got a small hole in it so I’ll have to get a thicker one for my next hike. One thing to note, I kept one of my maps in my pack pocket at the front and it got quite wet, so best to laminate your maps, or keep them in a dry sack.

Camera. Simple point and shot which I carry on my hip for easy access. 

There are a lot of things I have forgotten or left off, but this gives you a bit of an idea of the gear I’m carrying.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Round the Mountain Track – Ruapehu (Part 2, Random thoughts)

Some thoughts for next time and other random points

Click here to read my first post

Click here for part three - Gear

Also scroll down to see my track times 

·         The track is listed at 4-6 days and I feel like 5 days would be really easy, 6 incredibly easy. The real issue is that most of the huts are spaced 5 and a half hours apart, so to do it in 4 days requires one double day, (a day a doing 10-11 hours of hiking). The hike can be done in 3 days by doing two of these. With more hiking and training with a heavier pack, I’m sure I could condition myself to do it in 3 days, but I quite enjoyed doing it in 4 days. 

·         I think going the opposite direction next time might be a better option. This would give the easiest section first, then on the same day walking up to Rangipo. This section would have quite a bit of elevation gain but it’s very gradual. This would make the longest day 11 hours or so, but not a bad climb. The rest of the hike is then a little tricky to break up but that’s more personal preference. 

The other reasons for going this direction is it would skip the hut which sits on the northern circuit, saving the hassle of trying to book that hut, or having the extra weight of a tent which was a real killer. 

·         I don’t particularly like sleeping in a tent, its uncomfortable on a thin mattress and its really claustrophobic. I’m now looking at getting a bivi bag, and small fly or trap to sleep under. I feel much freer when I can stick my head out past the trap and see the sky. I also might invest in a better sleeping mat, but one thing at a time. A bivi bag would also be much lighter than a tent.

·         Along the same lines, Rangipo hut was so full, 5 people slept outside in tents. So I think it’s important to bring even a thin mattress (possibly a bivi bag too) so that you can sleep either on the floor in the hut, or out on the porch if need be.

·         There were quite a few solo hikers out walking the round the mountain which at first I thought was possibly a bit ill advised, but when I thought about it more it really isn’t that dangerous. While the terrain is rough and the river crossings a little worrying there were a lot of people out walking so if anything happened someone would walk by in a few hours or so, if not sooner. So it was probably safer to walk solo than Mt Pirongia or the west coast beach, which I did on my own.

·         I’m thinking for a future walk it might be fun to hike the Northern circuit in winter if I can walk it with someone a bit more experienced in snow and icy conditions. Or possibly next summer walk the circuit while also summiting Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom). And possibly summiting Ruapehu as well.

·         I don’t know why I chose to bring cheap woollen gloves over my snow gloves but I did and it was a terrible mistake. The woollen gloves got wet in the rain and then weren’t much use so my hands froze, made worse by my Raynaud's syndrome. Next time I’ll bring either my snow gloves (water proof) or possibly some cheap water proof work gloves, they would be less warm, but more hardy on the rocks.

·       Water – I generally carry 3 litres of water with me, which is often enough although on longer, harder hikes I will either bring, or fill up another litre along the way. On the first day I finished my 3 litres, and drank another litre from a stream, but had a bit of a head ache at the hut. I drank another litre throughout the night. I used purifying tablets most of the time just to be safe, and I suggest using them or boiling water; however I would quite like to get a UV light steriliser. My main point here is to make sure you are always taken enough water in, and have a good idea of where you will be able to get water. The round the mountain track had frequent stream crossings so finding water wasn’t an issue, but this won’t always be the case.

My Track Times (Approximate)

I thought I would include these as I always find it useful to see other peoples track times to help plan my own walks.

Bruce Road to track start – 1 hour
To the Whakapapaiti turn off – Just under 1 hour.
To Mangaturuturu hut – 5 hours (with a 15 minute lunch not included in the time)
Took a 15 minute break
To Ohakune Mountain Road – 2 hours (we were getting slower now)
Down Ohakune Mountain Road to the next track – 1 hour (A bit slow)
Ohakune Mountain Road to Blyth Hut – 1 hour 30 minutes

Blyth Hut to Mangehuehu – 2 hours
Took a 30 minute break
Manehuehu to Rangipo – 6 hours (A hard day for us)

Rangipo to Waihohonu – 5 hours (with a 30 minute break not included in the time)

Waihohonu to Bruce road – 5 hours (With side trips)

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Round the Mountain Track – Ruapehu


While looking for tracks and huts in the upper North Island to walk I found this epic track and was surprised I hadn’t heard or thought of it before. It is listed as a 4-6 day walk (though there were several people doing it in 3 days) with 7 possible huts around. After checking out the track times I found that to do it in four days takes one day of 11 hours, one day of about 8 hours and two 5 and a half hour days. So with Easter coming up I decided to start booking (for New Zealand Easter is a 4 day weekend with two public holidays).

I could only find one person brave enough to walk with me. We would drive down after work on Thursday, arriving at a backpackers next to the Mountain around 10pm where we would be up and early to start walking at 7:30ish. I had decided we would walk anti clockwise (the opposite to what is described on the website since I was only able to book a campsite near the last hut for that night. All other nights were fully book since that hut is also on the northern circuit, one of the 9 great walks of New Zealand so it was very busy.

From the backpackers in the Morning

We parked up by the DoC office but couldn’t sign in until 8am so we finally started walking around 8:20. We made the decision to walk up the Bruce road, as opposed to the Whakapapaiti track as it saved us a river crossing and shaved off nearly an hour on what was to be our biggest day of walking. I’m so glad we made that choice.

From the Bruce Road

An hour up Bruce road we started the track, which was really just a field of rocks, with poles marking the way. This was to be the majority of the track. At this point I was again glad I had chosen to wear shoes instead of vibram 5 fingers. I felt far less ‘Paleo’ but I just wasn’t going to be able to walk that kind of terrain with a heavy pack. I did however have some injinji compression socks which were amazing. In under an hour we reached the turn off to the Whakapapaiti hut which told us we had shaved off nearly an hour taking this route. I plan on going pack and walking this track at some stage.

The true start of the track
An example of the majority of the track

The next length of track was listed as 5 and a half hours to the next track. We kept up a good pace over the ups and downs (the whole half first two days was up and down) and would finally finish the track at 3:45pm which put us pretty much on track time. On the way it had started to rain but not too badly and we heard some impressive thunder in the distance. At around 2:30 we came to the large stair case down to Lake Surprise which was quite a sight even in the rain. The river crossing to the hut was a little unnerving for me, even though it was only knee deep its amazing how much pressure that much water can put on you, and how freezing cold it is. The Mangaturuturu hut looked good, and there was only 2 people in it at the time, but we made the decision to push on to the next hut so that tomorrow didn’t have to be a 10-11 hour day. I was told later that the hut filled up fast that night.

Down to Lake Surprise
Mangatauruturu Hut

The next track times were a little unclear but it was listed as an hour and a half to the road and I had hoped it would be an easy hike, it really was not. It started with another unnerving river crossing to a massive climb before more ups and downs, it was a hard hike after already going for 7 and a half hours. We must have reached the road at about 6pm. The walk down the road from there was hard enough on sore tired legs, I had hoped we would make it down in 30 minutes but it took twice that long.

So at 7pm we were off down the track to the next hut, we made good time and started using our head lamps at about 7:45. The walk in the dark was slow but not too difficult; the poles have reflectors on top making them easy to spot in the dark. We got to the turn off at about 8pm and the last half an hour felt like and age. Even the 300m after a sign which said 5 minutes felt like 15 minutes. We finally got to the hut at 8:30 after 12 hours of hiking. The hut was warm, and not full, but there were about 10 others there, most already asleep. We made dinner as quickly and quietly as we could. It was a struggle to eat much as we were both so tired but I got great nights sleep.


Walking away from Blyth

At around 6am two people from the hut took off to make for the summit of Mt Ruapehu, but we didn’t get up until around 7:30 and didn’t leave the hut until 9. We reached the next hut after an easy two hours hiking and had an early lunch. We also meet others walking the same section of walk as us. We then headed off on what would be the hardest, but most beautiful section of the walk. It’s a really shame that I didn’t get any photos of this section due to rain. The first hour or so is in Beech forest before it changes to rock fields, then more sections of decent and climb. Over this section of the walk you gain around 200m of elevation. It was raining heavy and I was freezing cold before we got to the last big decent and climb. I was able to get a hoodie on and that held the cold at bay. After the gruelling climb out of the last major valley, we still had another hour somewhat difficult hike ahead before the hut.

This is the only picture I took on the way to Rangipo

We arrived at the packed Rangipo hut at 5:30PM. There were people set up under leaking sections of roof and there was only one mattress left, which we would have to share. The others on the section of bunks kindly shuffled along to give us some extra room but we were defiantly in cramped conditions. But the hut was warm, which was a relief after the last few hours of cold and rain. Everyone was trying to dry clothes and the hut was packed with sleeping, talking, cooking, people (I hope that grammar is correct) but it was a great place to be. Everyone was down to earth and had stories of all kinds of different hikes. This was probably my favourite hut, because of the people and as weird as it is, because of the conditions as well.

Surprisingly everyone was in bed by 9 or 9:30.


From the hut in the morning

Rangipo in the morning
Walking away from my favorite hut

A few groups were up at 6am but they ate and left quickly with the plan to finish the hike that day. I was able to fall back asleep and woke at 7:30 to a woman waking her sons up. We were able to get ready and leave by 9am and started walking to the lahar danger zone. We made it safely through this spectacular section of the hike, this is many peoples favourite area of the walk. The next section of hike is some very easy desert plains before the trail leads into a dry water course where it steadily drops altitude for an hour or more. We made it to the Waihohonu hut by 2:30pm having had a very easy walk. We set up our tents and relaxed that the hut. The hut which they called the palace of the park, which was probably too flash for my liking, I much preferred the worn out Rangipo hut. 

Beautiful hiking near the lahar area

Lahar danger area

The last hour or more was a easy walk like this
Waihohonu hut, the palace of the park

At this hut there were groups from the round the mountain walk and the ‘Northern Circuit’ which is one of the 9 great walks and is much easier and more popular than the round the mountain track.

Now I don’t want to spend too much energy on this, but I didn’t much like those walking the Northern Circuit. They were kind of stuck up really, where as the round the mountain walkers were really down to earth. It was things they said and the way they spoke, made me happier to talk to those walking round the mountain. They seemed much more real, and were much more outdoorsy.

I always have trouble sleeping in a tent, but I have a bit more to say about that later.

A quick picture or our camp that night


Mt Ngauruhoe from the Waihohonu hut
We set our alarms for 6am so we could break our tents down in the dark, have breakfast and head of that morning with the light at 7:30. This was by far the easiest day of hiking; we made a short side trip to see the historic hut which was interesting, though it wasn’t so primitive when compared to many huts currently in use. We also took a side trip to view the lower Tama lake which was a sight to see, next time I will have to go further up to the upper lake as well. I could barely keep my feet moving over the last hour of more of this hike, despite it being the easiest day by far. I was just worn down from the hours of hiking under such a heavy pack. We still made good time and were back to the car just after 12 to start the long drive home.

Old Waihohonu hut
Ruapehu from the track on the last day

Lower Lama Lake

Please see the next post for track times.