Monday, October 1, 2007

Overlooking the Pohangina Headwaters

I recall a significant Ruahine moment, back in Jan. of 2003, on the second of what has now become an annual RTC Summer Tour. Nigel, John, and I spent 6 nights and 7 days, my longest trip, meaning to climb to Tiraha, then cross the ever elusive Sawtooth ridge, and carry on from there to Waterfall hut and beyond. All new terrain for us, over difficult country, at least in terms of our experience and skill level, yet also a welcome challenge in fine company. We ended up spending two nights at Howletts hut, high on the main range, waiting for the weather to clear. It didn't. We did climb to Tiraha, in windy and white out conditions, and though Sawtooth ridge would have been right below us, we never even saw it and thus retreated back to Howletts. The next morning was no better and we finally admitted defeat and retreated down to Daphne hut, spending the day listening to the rain fall on the tin roof, napping, and as I recall, fairly subdued at the change in plans. I know I was, and I realize now I had much to learn in terms of mountain travel, patience and acceptance, and realization the Ruahines care little for my plans. Yet my own arrogance as a man felt anger that my plans were thwarted, that somehow the weather was this way simply to piss me off. Later that day I walked alone up the Tukituki river, the blue green pools of water set against the mountain back drop, and I thought this wasn't such a bad place to be in. The next day the weather had cleared bit, though still windy, and we proceeded in a southerly direction, climbing to the main range and carrying on to Longview hut. It is a big hut with gas cookers and heaters, about 3 hours from a road end, and though no one was there I again felt this sense of anger and intrusion, as if being denied the true remoteness I sought. In the late afternoon the weather cleared and John and I took a walk along the ridge dividing Pohangina valley from the main Ruahine range, virtually the headwaters at Pohangina saddle separating the Pohangina from the Tukituki, a magnificent panorama of open tops and green bush clad hillsides far below. We stopped at a spot in the sun, and just sat in the silence for a long time as the sun began to fade in the west. As the sun faded the mountains took on a hue of unbelievable beauty. I sat in awe and was filled with an overwhelming sense of fulfillment, almost euphoric joy. I knew we had made the right decisions regarding the weather, we had managed to put together alternative plans - we were building skills and experience for future trips, and yet, for me, in that moment, it was also deeper than that, a very real spiritual connection, a fullness in my Soul that said this is the place you should be, do not fight it. I have learned since then to let myself go to that connection very quickly, to empty myself of other worries, issues, and concerns, and simply be in the mountains, in the moment, for all to quickly those burdens will be waiting - most often not so heavy. I realize this might sound a bit precious but I can truly say I have experienced the mountains in very good times in my life when it is easy to find such observations, yet also in some very emotionally heavy and challenging moments when Peaceful Bliss is much harder to connect with. Yet I have, and so it is my Truth, nothing more and nothing less.
The next day we dropped down into the headwaters of the Pohangina, on a perfect still day, warm and not a cloud to be seen. We traveled down to Top Gorge hut, a place so remote and unvisited the hut book went back to the 1980's. One of the most memorable, and simply perfect days I have spent in the Ruahines. A reward for my acceptance.

Sunset on a Ruahine Ridge

Purple and Opaque clouds drift by slowly
They mimic my own thoughts in this moment
Standing on a mountain ridge
Watching the sunset
On higher mountains still
The rich hues of green on their flanks
dark and mysterious
as smoky clouds break off and probe
the guts and gullies
and then move on
It has taken me four days to walk here
And will take much longer to Understand
What all this means
Not that the Mountains care
In this Quiet Moment
It only seems they do

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