We often talk about how important good base layers are, but it’s not until you find yourself in a true life threatening situation that you truly appreciate just how vital they really are. It’s something ioCrew member and adventurer Sputnik got to find out recently.By Sputnik.
My latest adventure is a trip to New Zealand, making my way from the South Island to the North Island to run the Tarawera Ultra Marathon. I’m here with my ‘Running & Adventure Buddy’ Sarah Murphy. We’ve been training for the race together and decided to spend a few weeks exploring before the race. Right at the top of our bucket list was a trip to the world famous Milford Sound. This is true Lord of the Rings territory and rather than take a scenic boat cruise along the Sound, we opted for an 18km kayak from the boat ramp out to the ocean.There were eight in our group, including our two guides. Before we took off we were issued with all the usual gear – a wetsuit and a PFD. And everyone was offered synthetic layers to wear underneath. They recommended light bottoms and top, plus a fleece over the top. Both Sarah and I opted to skip the synthetics and wear two thin layers of ioMerino. I went with an Altitude T and Long Sleeve and crossed my fingers that it would be warm enough out there. I don’t mind admitting being a bit nervous as everyone else added extra, thicker layers while we went lightweight. Little did I know my choice of layers was going to be really put to the test! The weather wasn’t great when we started – it was super misty, visibility was low and it was raining lightly. But we didn’t have the luxury of putting the tour off to another day, it was now or never. Naturally, we decided it was ‘now’ and we were going anyway. The water itself was relatively still, and thanks to four days of solid rain, many of the cliff faces had turned into a series of cascading falls making it truly spectacular.
About half way in we stopped our kayaks in a slightly sheltered cover for a quick rest and something to eat, but when we emerged into the main waterway again, we got hit by a massive storm with winds so strong we were taking waves over our kayaks. None of us were particularly experienced in these sorts of conditions, and despite the wet weather gear, with that much water hitting us hard, we all got pretty wet pretty quickly. Thankfully, my ioMerino did exactly what it was supposed to do, and kept me warm regardless of the fact it was wet right through. To say I was relieved is a massive understatement. I’ve worn my ioMerino in all sorts of conditions, so I knew it was reliable, but when you find yourself out on the open water, taking waves over your kayak with the temperature dropping fast and being hit by ice cold winds gusting over 100kms/hour, that’s not the time you want to find it has its limitations.
Our guides very quickly realised it was unsafe to continue, and we turned back. Unfortunately between us and the base was the most open water, with the highest winds and it was deemed unsafe for us to cross. All we could do was ‘raft up’, a safety manoeuvre where you join your kayaks together to prevent anyone capsizing, and wait for the rescue boat. This was another test for the ioMerino as the minute we stopped paddling we lost a lot of body warmth and I was worried the cold would really kick in, but again, it kept me relatively warm and comfortable until we were safe and sound on the rescue boat.
It wasn’t quite the adventure we’d planned on having, but rescue aside, it was still an amazing experience in one of the world’s most spectacular places. Of course, I’ll have to go back one day to see the tops of the mountains that were obscured by cloud on the day we were there, and of course I’ll be taking my ioMerino with me then as well.
Photos by Sputnik and Sarah Murphy.