I was on my way yesterday on the road and looking forward to a four or five day solo trip into the wintry Ruahine. A very cold southerly has blown in, and the snow was down very low in the hills, and covering the far off peaks in a shimmery glowing white satin against the foreboding grey skies. I pulled the car over and sat looking at the view out there and dealt with the thoughts tumbling through my brain. Then I turned the car around and returned home. I had decided to take Charlie with me. He wants to be in the snow. He was down in Wellington for the day with Tara, so this meant I lost a day, and also a bit of logistical reorganizing, but the feelings that ran through me looking at those peaks told me to get my son. So I did.
So here we are after walking into Heritage in the early afternoon and settling in for a big day walk in the morning up to Tunupo Peak and the snow. The southerly has blown through and the warmer northerly bringing wind and rain and easy low lying snow is gone, so some tough work lies ahead for the Chomper to see snow. I had planned to be far deeper in at either Iron Gate or Triangle on my own, instead I am here with Charlie, and that has it's own wonderful charms. We spent a while gathering, chopping, sawing, and stacking wood, and now the lovely confines of the hut are warm and cozy. We are joined by Mike, a retired gentleman who has put out a small line of possum traps a short way up the valley towards Tunupo creek, doing 'feasibility study" as he puts it. There is good money in possum fur at the moment, but it is very very hard work. Interesting how a cup of tea and sharing a warm hut in the wilderness brings out the good things about human company. I love my solitude and will always relish seeking it, but here now in this moment with Charlie and Mike it all seems right.
Charlie has taken in interest in why I spend time out here huddled up with my little notebook, and picked up and my pen and book, and has graciously given me permission to share a few of his thoughts... " Charlie here. Sitting by the lamp here writing stuff on a nice night, though it is shitting itself outside with rain. I was thinking about my dumb brother and how we discovered he has broken the zipper on my new sleeping bag, he is the only one he used it. Now you can't zipper it up, which is sort of the whole point of a sleeping bag. Mike is pretty cool, his stuff was here but he didn't get here till late, so I thought he might be hurt or dead. Dad didn't seem too worried. It is heaps warmer in here now than when we arrived and the fire looks cool. Me and dad are about to have some big juicy steaks. I bet the way it is raining mum would love it so much as it is raining even harder than last time we were here, and she loves the rain on the tin roof. It is a bit quiet except all the rain, but still lets me focus more. THE END.
The mountain tawhairaunui reaching for the sky against the droplets of rain. The beseeching limbs always remind me of the mountain spirit Herself. Trying to tell us what we refuse to hear. Listen!
Robb: It was a bit more difficult getting my head around returning to the mountains than I thought after my last experience with Taylor. So I am surprised a bit by the notion which overtook me to change my plans and collect Charlie. Maybe the thought of being on my own was more daunting than I thought. But I don't think so, as the thought of being further up the valley on a stormy night in a smaller less posh hut still makes me sigh with a small tinge of regret that it is NOT where I am. Or maybe it was the mountain spirits themselves knowing me better than I know own myself. I like the thought of that for some reason.
Up onto the ridge. A couple days ago this all would have been covered in snow. 600 metres or so. We had a long way to go and did not get into snow until well over 900 metres. Still, the winter forest above heaves and sighs with energy, colour, and steepness!
Finally! Nearly two hours after starting our climb did we get into any real snow still around. As a kid who grew up with Wisconsin winters, it takes a fair bit of snow to impress me. But through the eyes of a child who has NEVER been in amongst the stuff, it is a real amazing experience to observe. Especially when the kid has to work so hard, and climb so high to see it.
The hump below is the ridge to Tunupo peak we were climbing. A long steadily climbing ridge, which then steepens considerably when finally emerging out of the forest into the tupare and tussock. Gazing up at the route ahead.
Charlie got a fire in the belly once we saw a bit of snow. Climbing up with a big smile on his face.
A phone call to mum. The final push to Tunupo lies in the background. The weather up was getting considerably cold, misty and cloudy. Not too much longer from here and I pulled the pin to Charlie's chagrin.
The scents of the winter forest greet me
the musty earthy loveliness
assures me of my place here
the flapping wings of the chubby Kereru
like the forlorn song of the whio further below
and the gentle towering presence of the tawhairaunui
all familiar and real
like the aroma of fresh brewed coffee
or the Thanksgiving delights in my grandmother's oven
muddy steep tracks that never end
pulling us upward guided by the glow and shine
of the mosses and lichens
we climb to the tupare
to the snow
my child has never seen till now.
Charlie back below, a short few minutes to Heritage, warm fresh gear and hot drinks. It was a 6 hour effort round trip to get up there and back to see a bit of snow. I think he will remember this.