0f the more than 25 crossings I have done of Armstrong saddle, perhaps less than 10 would have been done in perfect conditions, where the walk and view can simply be absorbed and enjoyed. Most often it will be raining, snowing or sleeting, cloud obscured, or windy, and often a combination of some or all of those factors. I have been knocked over a few times by gale force gusts of wind, and have had to shelter at both Sunrise or Top Maropea when I judged conditions to be too bad to venture further. It is only an hour of exposure, but that it is more than long enough to get into trouble in these mountains. I have come to know this crossing well, and fairly good at judging the wind and conditions. So even on this trip with Adam when it was raining and the prevailing nor'wester very strong we crossed. The photos above were taken the next day when back at Sunrise, an even windier experience for Adam. This day was cloud obscured and the wind particularly strong on the western side so no time for photos, or to even relax until we reached the shelter of the forest above Top Maropea.
I came to you
Sought your presence
Not to be rebuffed
Nor daunted by Your shades of Grey
Your shedding of tears will not deny
Not today my love
Your moodiness enchants as well
Proceed with Caution!
Handle with Care!
The Journey is only the Beginning
Here I am Again
In your Bosom
Part of this moment
It is our celebration
22 April 2008, written at, and for, Top Maropea
We toasted this occasion with a very fine 16 year old Bushmill's Irish whiskey, a mellow sweetness with a nutty finish, and perfect for a cold mountain late afternoon and evening period of celebration. Dinner was Ruahine venison, quick fried after a plum sauce marinade, and served with Maori potatoes boiled first, then fried in onion, garlic, and fresh tarragon and rosemary. Yum!
Getting a fire going at Top Maropea has never been easy. Given its historical structure status, the recent renovations replaced the old smokey hole ridden chimney and rotted out fireplace with a new one. Yet finding wood at 1242 meters presents certain problems. I roamed the forest below the hut with Adam to locate some dead beech branches, and we came across a beautiful chunk of dead leatherwood as well. Tough stuff but if you get it burning it is great stuff. I think my fire building skills have gotten quite good over the years if I may write so. I have learned well from John. The hardest, and most necessary fire, I have built here was in August of 2007. I had come up from Maropea Forks on my own to encounter a sudden blizzard at Top Maropea. I walked up through the forest with trees crashing down and upon arriving at the open tops quickly came to the obvious conclusion there was no way possible to venture any further and retreated to the hut. The wind was howling I was wet and cold from the snow, it was minus 7 Celsius in the hut, I had no paper and only very little wood. I went back out and found wood, glad I always carry a little hand saw, then shaved off the wet bits with my knife to make kindling, and slowly worked it into a great fire, warming me, drying my wet gear, and occupying my mind from concern. The best fire I ever built.
Adam's thoughts written in note book 22 April:
The Ruahine Ranges:
I looked up at the rounded tree covered giants above me. To see the plants and hear the birds, life looks so easy and ordered. The mountains resemble a mother cradling her children and sustaining tenderly life and nature.
It is only when you brave their bitter cold and windswept ridges, the treacherous tracks, the dark vast bush in which one wrong turn could lead to disaster, that you realize this is not a place you should be.
The fragility of life here. The absolute reliance on certain objects: a coat, a hut, some soup or a tin of beans, the absence of which could lead to trouble or death.
These are not the conquered lowlands that I know. Domesticated and broken. A beast of burden sold into slavery for our own economic benefit. This is the last stronghold of the wild, the untamed. A place where we are intruders, where Nature could at any moment unleash it's wrath and smite us......but it has not.
This gives us a new perspective about our relationship with these mountains. Maybe we are not the rulers of this land. Maybe the mountains allow us to be here as a benevolent King allows his subjects to roam his lands. A fleeting intrusion in a timeless place......
Ghostly voices I welcome
This Canvass Painted
more often the grey mist
and sunset bringing
Indescribable shades of blue and black
Rain on the tin roof
Waves of Wind passing over
Quiet but never Silence
Sounds I know well here
Crackling fire dying slowly
I must sleep
22 April 2008 Top Maropea
Below are all photos of interaction with Top Maropea, coming, going, at the hut, the canvass being painted........
The huts in Aotearoa all contain hut books, a book into which parties write their names, dates, destinations, activity, and any comments they might have. The book allows the Department of Conservation to monitor use, aids in possible search and rescue missions, and they also make interesting reading, particularly ones which are in more inaccessible areas and the hut books go back many years. The current book at Top Maropea goes back to 2004, and is a long way from full. I was looking back at the entries I had made in this book, reminiscing on those trips and I noticed where in the activity section of the page, where most write in tramping, hunting, ect., I had instead written adjectives that, looking back now, pretty well describe the reason for my trip and where I was at in my own life reflected in those words. It is a poem of its own in a way.
"Reasons for being Here"
Staying warm and dry
Well Being, Patience, Silence