13 Jan. 2011
Top Maropea - evening
In the "backyard" at Top Maropea once again, and so soon back in the Ruahine after my last interaction. I like that. I am absorbing the last of the sun's warmth, crossing the saddle this afternoon the wind died, the clag lifted, and suddenly it was a glorious day.
And with me now lying stretched out in the sun yawning and napping is Charlie Kloss. To celebrate my 30th evening here at my favourite Ruahine spot with him makes my eyes brim as I write this. I can think of no other finer company to share this moment with me, aside from my other son Taylor. Introducing Charlie to this walk, this spot, Charlie's Cairn, to see him today and watch him endure a long walk and interact with these mountains, was, is, a Gift from the Ruahine. Such days are rare up there.
Taylor has been here many times, Tara has been here once, this is my 30th night here, and Charlie's first. This place has meaning for us. It is part of our story, part of our history. It is beautiful. This is a powerful place.
Charlie heading up "The Gut", climbing from the saddle to the top of Camel Back ridge the crux of the climb. Especially for young legs.
Charlie at the top of the ridge, tired and getting sore feet. Not too far to go now. Most of the problem with his feet we realized comes from the fact he rarely wears any shoes at all, much less for 5-6 hours climbing and dropping on such terrain. He may have been better off barefoot!
Camel Back ridge.
About to descend into Maropea valley.
Charlie sleeping in the afternoon sun like a little bear.
It is still light outside, but Charlie has now crawled into his sleeping bag and is fast asleep. I am going to have to rouse him for tea. It is a long day for 8 year old legs. I recall Taylor's 8 year old legs having been just as tired.
I watch my 30th sunset here. All are special, but some a little more so in the number they represent marking the passing of time, the people we are with, the moments I have shared here with these mountains, and still dreaming of heading down valley or up to those far off peaks in the morning. A spectacular crystal clear evening, the sky above a deep majestic blue, and the hues of light playing on the valley and peaks. After starting our day climbing into wind, cloud and mist the perfect stillness and colours seem all the more relevant. Nature's canvass about to be painted here for me once more. I can only smile and applaud.
Charlie got up for a feed of steak and broccoli, sat in front of the fire for a few minutes, then was soon back in his bag and fast asleep. He slept 11 hours.
The cairn Charlie is kneeling by marks the spot where I buried Charlie's placenta in the custom of whenua - connecting deeply to the land. At the time 8 years ago John Nash marked the moment by a moment of silence and putting a few small rocks to mark the spot after I had dug into the Ruahine earth with my bare hands and placed the connection between Charlie and his mother into the mountain earth. The pile of rocks has grown considerably since then, as has Charlie. It was a very emotional moment for me to connect the boy to the place.
This was late the next afternoon. I was observing with my camera the light begin to play on the valley and peaks while sitting on the ground, and I did not see Charlie slide next to me until I turned and saw him there. At the same instant the sunlight was just streaming down upon his cairn. As if the Ruahine had been observing him, and watching him over the past few days. There would be further tests ahead, but in this moment the mountains opened themselves to and welcomed Charlie. He is indeed connected here.
The steam rolls off my breath and it was a chilly evening. Top Maropea is a cold place at the best of times, in winter only very cold tolerant souls would stay here, and usually one never spends much time here idly on a winter morning. The coldest I ever experienced was -8 Celsius INSIDE the hut one July morning. And another time when a beautiful day turned into an all out blizzard by the time I got up from the creek 30 minutes below, and I spent an extra day and a half here. The water froze in the tank and I had to whittle wood chips into my billy, dry them over the stove, and slowly build a great fire, more to keep busy than to actually warm the hut. Ahh memories.... Still, as I sip my mug of strong coffee I smile at what this place represents to me - the real back country wilderness and the scope of what lies beyond here.
Charlie is still fast asleep, coming up on 11 hours now. His face poking out of his bag looks cherubic and beautiful.
There is not a cloud in the sky, nor a breath of wind. A great day to roam down to the creek and river and perhaps find a few pools to be embraced by.
Charlie and I spent some time in the morning gathering up tawharauriki for our evening fire, and more for the hut as well. It is good for him to learn how to give back to the ambiance of these places. Arriving at a hut after a long walk to find it clean, tidy, and well stocked with wood is such a nice feeling.
We then headed down through the lovely sunlit forest to the creek.
The waterfall just above the point where the "track" drops nearly vertical to the creek.
A simply gorgeous little waterfall.
Even at very low flow the pool is ice cold, crystal clear, and over my head in its depth near the fall.
One Kloss embraced by the mountain water.
Charlie has had a real taste of a Ruahine hut day today. Not doing really anything in particular at all, but suddenly the day has past. We did a few hut duties, had a wander in the forest to the creek, had a swim, threw rocks in a few pools, and just lie around in the sun talking. A different world than out there. Just these moments. No television, computers, video games or play stations. Just us and the mountains.
I hope he absorbs some of this, as I hope Taylor has as well, and somewhere along the path of his life remembers the simple pleasures on offer here, a gift for him to open when he is ready.
Now the fire crackles and hisses, dinner is done, and Charlie tries out MY sleeping bag for size.
It is good to see his body clock respond to the rhythms of the mountains, and even though it is still light out he is tired and yawning. Me, I am just going to sit here for awhile and stare into the fire, and smile at the bountiful memories these past few days have brought to me. That warms me more than this crackling little fire.
To have spent 10 plus days in the Ruahine over the past 2 plus weeks has put a shine upon my soul. I feel wild and connected, yet also somewhat melancholic as this time draws to a close.
The wind has come up over night and I am about to wake up Charlie and get over the saddle early before it gets up too much. I am just trying to linger in this quiet and relish each taste of these last moments. I miss this place already.
This photo was made by Charlie just after we had emerged from the forest onto the open Camel Back ridge before climbing it and dropping to the saddle. It made the hair on my arms stand up as in my experience that ethereal hue to the light and sky, and the wind blowing above meant danger. The wind picked up stronger, though in gusts and bursts, and I hurried Charlie along to The Gut, where I knew we would be sheltered and could see the whole route from the saddle to the protection of Buttercup Hollow and Sunrise hut. From the saddle to the hut is only 15 minutes or so, but also the most narrow, open, and exposed section. When the wind blows from the northwest, which it most often does here, it funnels through the valley above the mountains literally pulling down the high winds which have been rolling over the open sea and narrow island gathering strength. Often it makes the saddle uncrossable, and most often makes it windy. My concern observing the route from The Gut was just how much wind was on that final stretch. I have been knocked down there in the past, and while not so worried about me, I was about Charlie and I could see the anxiousness upon his face. This was wind already such as he had never before seen. The mountains had a final test indeed.
When we got below the saddle the wind really began to howl relentlessly. I had Charlie hang on to my pack straps which I had looped together, and I was getting shoved around pretty good, and then I felt him go off his feet. I quickly pushed him into a bit of tupare and scrub on the lee side of the wind, just enough so that our heads were out of it as we lay on the ground. Charlie was scared and crying. I knew instinctively I had to let him rest and gather himself. I thought very clearly and calmly as I stroked his head, and after a few minutes he looked up at me. I told him what we had to do. I strapped my poles and his to my pack, and the second the wind howled a fraction less, we were on our feet and off. I had Charlie in a death grip by the arm and literally dragged and pulled him as I fought through the wind. A couple times I looked back and literally saw his feet off the ground. There is a little tunnel in the tupare and tawhairauriki which lean decidedly against the nor'west wind a few hundred metres before the actual track drops to the hut. Once I saw that approach my heart lifted, I knew we had made it. I pulled Charlie ahead of me and down into the tunnel. The wind stopped and we were in sudden calm, which is somewhat disorienting after being in a blowing gale. I yelled and whooped and screamed. We were alive and we were living! Charlie started staggering down the rough track the wrong way and I called him back. His eyes were wild and unfocused. I pulled him to me and hugged him and told him I loved him, how proud I was of him, how hard I know that was for him, and the courage it took. It may have been my proudest moment as a father. Since that moment Charlie and I know something more, about each other, about these mountains. He is indeed connected to the Ruahine. He met Tawhirimatea, he met the Ruahine.