Nick Allen: Arete Hut
By Radix Team 10/06/2017 5:41 pm

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) sufferer, Nick Allen, hopes to inspire others to get outdoors with his first-hand accounts. Hailing from Palmerston North, Allen is a PhD student with a passion for photography and mountains. Diagnosed when he was just 25, Allen is determined to continue to fulfil his goals to travel and climb around New Zealand and the world. He wants others with disabilities to see that it is still possible to enjoy a rich and fulfilling life, despite their limitations.

MS is an auto-immune disorder that attacks the central nervous system - the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. In severe cases, the patient becomes paralysed or blind and in milder cases, limbs can become numb. Currently, MS affects around 4000 New Zealanders.

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“There’s lots of mud up there,” the tramper said as he nodded towards the ridge.

“How deep?” I asked.

“Deep,” he replied.

He wasn’t lying.

I’d just started a tramp in the Tararuas, about to head up Gable End Ridge toward Te Matawai Hut and go to Arete the following day. The region received a deluge earlier in the week and the ground was still sodden. But it wasn’t too bad, I thought.

And then I hit the ridge.

Mud was everywhere — I hadn’t encountered so much mud in years! I slipped and slid my way up the steep ridge under the light of my headlamp. The track was steep and progress was slow, but I was having fun. I love the cool air and peace that comes as night falls in the bush.

Enhancing my enjoyment of the evening was a new approach to fatigue management. I had recently enrolled in a 6-week course on fatigue management and MS. In the course, we’d learned about the importance of pacing and resting as a means of preventing fatigue.

In the past, I would have pushed hard up the ridge and rested only when I felt tired. I got away with this approach before I was diagnosed with MS. But now, this approaching leaves me feeling smashed for days. Admittedly, pushing it hard has enabled me to achieve a lot in the last few years— despite the MS — but I realise that it is not the most sustainable approach.

I’ve been wanting to pursue a more measured lifestyle that minimises fatigue and maximises my ability to get out. The course renewed my determination to focus on excellent nutrition, mitochondrial support with MitoQ, and stress management (both mental and physical) through pacing and resting.

On this trip, I was determined practise the principles I had learned. I took a slow-but-steady pace, paused for a short break every 15 minutes and rested every 30 minutes by taking off my pack and eating some scroggin, even if I was not hungry or tired. This seemed to work exceptionally well and I felt good.

I’d been going for 5.5 hours, it was late and Te Matawai Hut was still two hours away. I was getting tired and I decided to rest before I became significantly fatigued. I pitched my awesome Macpac Sololite tent, called it a day, and slept like a king.

The morning was stunning: blue-bird sky with a gentle, cool breeze. I lay in my sleeping bag for a while, half sleeping, half listening to the joyful morning chorus. It was bliss, but my stomach was calling.

There was a slight chill in the air as I climbed out of my bag and reached for my gluten and dairy-free Radix breakfast. Radix breakfasts are best warm on days like this. Satisfied by my nutritionally excellent meal, I pulled on my muddy boots, packed my tent and headed out to Te Matawai Hut. The view along the range and into the blue-green valleys was simply beautiful.

Te Matawai Hut came and went and I began the gnarly ascent up the ridge towards Pukematawai Peak. The afternoon sun was hot and the track was steep. I listened to my body and took it slow, resting regularly, as I had the night before. At no point did I feel like I was maxing out and it felt good. After a lunch at the top of Pukematawai and a brief rest at the top of Arete, I descended down to Arete Hut.

Arete Hut is an awesome spot, situated in an old glacial cirque that hangs at the edge of a valley high above the Waiarapa. It’s a tiny two person hut and was fully occupied when I arrived. I pitched my tent once again.

I’d been to Arete Hut before and spied some rocks suitable for a spot of bouldering. That’s why I’d gone up there again, and why I was carrying my climbing shoes and chalk bag. I bouldered until the sun set behind the hill and headed back to my tent for another delicious Radix meal and an early night.

The sun rose into another beautiful morning, spilling over the rugged peaks into my tent. I ate, packed and cruised back down, past Te Matawai to South Ohau Hut. I wanted to get back home for dinner and kept a slightly faster pace — a pace that I was sustainable because I had taken it easy during the previous two days.

I love walking out on the South Ohau River. There’s something magic about walking down a river instead of a track. It feels like you are really in the wild, like you are really exploring. The river has several small gorge-like sections filled with crystal water. It was so enjoyable splashing and wading my way down.

My 9-hour day ended in the mud leading to and from the carpark. It was still deep.

About Nick Allen
Nick Allen is a passionate tramper and climber. Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 25, Nick thought his climbing dreams were over. Six years on and with the help of rehabilitation specialists, Nick has been able to get back outdoors, climbing and tramping. Nick is passionate about helping others and has set up a scholarship fund, administered by Multiple Sclerosis NZ, to help others with MS overcome the obstacles that prevent them from getting outdoors. Find out more at - @nick_allen