Making Lemonade with my Knees.


I’m so annoyed at myself.  I sustained my first sporting major injury while doing Round the Mountain – Ruapehu in January 2015.  The worst part is was partly brought on by my own stupidity.

It was day 4 of the trip, travelling clockwise from Mangaehuehu hut through to Mangaturuturu hut.  We’d decided rather than slogging up the Ohakune Mountain Road we’d walk up to Blythe Hut, start heading up the poled route to the lower Turoa carpark, and then cut off-track to come out near the track entrance on the other side of the road.

This seemed like a great idea at the time as we’d get to do some off-track navigation and avoid the hot, boring walk up the road.  All’s well as we lunched at Blythe and then began making our way along the poled route.  The trouble began when we tried deciding where to head off-track.  Everyone had a different opinion and my frustration started building.  By the time we’d been standing around for 5 minutes I was at the end of my tether.  I took a quick bearing from the map and I was off like a shot.

Photo’s by Nigel Boyce

Being the youngest, one of the fittest in the party, and being frustrated meant I didn’t really pick a sensible line for traversing and just pounded up and down the gullies on my bearing – Lemon #1.  We made it to the road and all is well again as we started our descent to the hut.

The track started off with some nasty, sharp volcanic rock sections followed by walking along the smooth, well eroded rock near the magnificent Cascades Falls.  In essence the track was a prolonged descent, over uneven terrain, where you have to hold yourself constantly to keep from slipping.

My next mistake was not taking care while descending, taking large steps, hopping from rock to rock, placing too much impact stress on my knees – Lemon #2.  I got to the bottom, was striding along the wooden boardwalk when I stepped down and suddenly my left knee gave out.  Lucky it was only another 10 minute walk to the hut where I proceeded to RICE the knee.

Morning came and I felt ok so on goes a pressure sleeve one of the party had brought and off I went – Lemon #3.  6 kilometres and another prolonged downhill later and I’m sitting on my arse after my knee gave out again.  After another days walking along treating it gingerly I made it to the carpark and back home.

After a visit to the physio later the following week he tells me I’ve overstressed my popliteus muscle which is behind your knee.

He informs me the reason for the stress is because I have weak hamstrings, particularly in my left leg – Lemon #4.  Which he says is unusual as I play hockey and he would expect them to be stronger.  So, what has happened is the popliteus muscle has had to compensate for the weak hamstring and it has now seized up.


  • Heat the muscle
  • Massage to loosen it
  • Strengthening exercises for my hamstrings to prevent future overcompensation
  • No exercise or heavy lifting for 4 weeks minimum

So what have I learnt?  I now know I need to look after my body while tramping / hunting and being sensible so as not to overdo it.