Thursday, December 31, 2009

A few more.... and Happy New Year!!

I have not been able to get out on my annual summer journey this year. I have attempted to twice but both times quickly realized the pain in my hip was too much to bear and I turned back. That is pretty hard for me to do. So I thought I would share a few more photos of my time in the mountains which will have to sustain me. Hopefully I will get a taste of the mountains next week on a short camping trip with Charlie. But until I get this hip fixed the Ruahines will have to live within me. It is just the way it is. I am not even sure what relevance I have here if the mountains are not the cornerstone of my words. I thank you all for your telling of similar situations and the improvement which resulted in so many lives, for your encouragement and thoughts from so far away. Believe me, I feel it. And in a positive sense I think of what that moment will be like when I once again hoist a load upon shoulders and head into the mountains on a deep journey, it makes my heart sing. Happy New Year to all, may the gentle mountain breeze be with you.

The above scene was from this year on the way to Iron Gate hut along the Oroua, it can be seen back in my post in July as well. Suffice to say the mountains were wet, the rivers and creeks raging, the skies grey and hanging low, and the forest dripping and vibrant. To the right water can be seen dripping off the trees. It is probably the best image I have personally been able to experience of a moment in a New Zealand forest on a rainy day, and being a tiny part of the myriad of colours, aromas, and sensations in such a place. John and I had each walked in on our own and I could only smile later on at the hut over a cup of tea with the rain beating down on the roof, as John described the exact same spot and showed me on his camera almost the exact same image. Communicating without words. Such moments I shall greatly miss.

Snow covered leatherwood and beech just outside Top Maropea. I had spent 4 days on my own at Maropea Forks, and returned back up river on a beautiful sunny day. By the time I got to the side creek which then climbs back up to here, a blizzard had rolled in. I climbed up to the saddle but knew if I tried to get across I would have died. It just oozed danger and forboding. So I returned to Top Maropea wet and cold and inside the hut the temperature was minus 7 Celsius. I had to get a fire going, and had no paper and little to work with, but by venturing into the blizzard I found some leatherwood and chunks of dead beech. I shaved off slivers into my billy and dried them over my stove, then breaking up pieces of kindling and larger chunks, and using a candle stub, worked my little fire into a great roaring beast, drying my wet gear, warming my soul - if not exactly the hut, and occupying my mind with a necessary task. It was a very cold night at Top Maropea, and the hut shook and rattled in the gales. Just as I was going to try and venture to the outdoor dunny I saw the roof of it blow by! The next day it was not until late afternoon that the wind died down long enough for me to cross the saddle, and even then portions of it on hands and knees. But it was all so beautiful.

Gustav and I high in the clouds after climbing from Otukota hut to the Mokai Patea. Basically the culmination of our first multiple day crossing of the ranges. A self portrait aided by the first marker we had seen after getting a bit wayward climbing over a huge slip above the hut and losing the track. We then bush bashed through thick, steep forest up to the open tops on a compass bearing and this was soon after we found the track. The Waikamaka valley cloud hidden below and the territory we had traversed in the background. A very cool moment.

My favourite photo of what a Ruahine hut day in summer can be like. John, outside of Otukota in summer 2008. A 5 day trip with low rivers, sunny skies, hot days, cool nights. All day long to do nothing at all. I imagine this was late afternoon after a day of swimming in the pure mountain water, and not too long before a wee dram just might appear.

A hot day, a mountain river, and men letting out the inner child. John in the Waikamaka river.

When will I see you again? Perhaps contemplating such very thoughts on the main range, a cold windy early winter day.

And finally, the place I shall most miss - the back yard at Top Maropea. The portrait painted a new and unique way on each visit. This particular experience a blend of the majestic purple and blue hues with the perfect dab of the golden tops caught in the fading sunlight. I just happened to turn around after tending to Charlie's Cairn and this sight just stunned me. How long I sat there for I have no idea. Until the last light faded I hope. Isn't it beautiful? Thank you for indulging me once again. Hope you have enjoyed.
Kia kaha!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Yuletide

One of the evenings that Gustav was here we lit a fire, put some tunes on, and at some point ended up going through the photo albums I have brought with me or put together from my life and time here in New Zealand. Interesting to hang out with an old friend from that far back and see the progression to now. There are quite a few photos of the Ruahine in there as one might imagine. Gustav asked me what my favourite 5 photos of those mountains are - a much tougher question, though a delightful conundrum, to consider. So now, a few weeks after my friend has left, I have the answer, which I am going to share below, and above and in no particular order. Mind you, I reserve the right, which I will no doubt exercise, to change my mind at anytime in accordance to my mood. But right now in this moment these 5 images of the Ruahine stand out amongst literally countless images, if not in those books, then inside my soul.

I would also like to take this opportunity to wish all those whom read here a very healthy, happy, and appreciative Yuletide season. Amongst all the hoopla and crassness of the days ahead may you find you Aroha and Nature. A long time ago a blogging friend pointed out to me that most blogs last far less than a year, then disappear. I have been writing here for a little over two years now and though I have no idea what the future will bring it has been a distinct pleasure to meet and connect with such wonderful people, you have all taught me, shared with me, and let me rave on. Kia ora and Kia kaha!

Above is a sunset I was fortunate enough to experience back in summer of 2005. It was taken from the river flats outside Waterfall hut up in the headwaters of the Kawhatau valley looking west up towards the Hikurangis, some pretty remote Ruahine country. I was with John. After a day of climbing from McKinnon hut to Mangaweka, the Ruahines highest point, then enduring about 3 hours of hard work and terror as we battled down the one creek we were not supposed to choose. Sheer waterfalls, climbing out onto and clinging to leatherwood as we dropped down from one shrub to the next like a ladder to the creek, only to soon encounter another waterfall. It was exhausting stuff, and not a place or time to make any mistakes. When we finally reached the confluence with the creek we SHOULD have been on, I flopped down next to John and we didn't say anything for a long time, we didn't have to. We knew we had made a big mistake, put ourselves into a very bad spot, and yet got out of it. We learned a lot and were very humbled. Later that evening after walking down to the river and to the hut, we took a wee dram down to the flats to toast the day - my 45th birthday. We looked up and saw the sunset above. It took our breath away.

Another birthday tramp from 2008. John and I were walking up the rather tedious approach to Parks Peak ridge after abandoning an attempt to cross Armstrong saddle due to the wind and weather. As we put on our boots on after crossing the Makaroro river we were both a bit nervous with big heavy 5 day packs and not much match fitness. Then we turned a bend and saw this! The Ruahine relaxing her angry mood to greet us and coax us along. We had a great trip, a couple sunny but short winter days at Upper Makaroro. Then a huge snowstorm at Parks Peak where John and I both walked solo through a gentle snow in the forest, to a blizzard up high on the ridge. The new hut at Parks Peak, and in particular the stove, earned a few stripes that evening.

Yet another birthday, 2004, John and I once again. John is sitting out of the ever increasinging wind on the lee side just below the flanks of Te Atua Mahuru and looking down into the head waters of the Mangatera valley along the main Ruahine range. We had spent the night at Sparrowhawk bivouac when on the way over the tops from Sunrise the wind came up and weather closed in, and the little biv was a fine place of refuge and comfort. The next day was beautiful, but still very windy and extremely cold, even for July. From here we carried along to where we could drop down to Maropea Forks and the familiar loveliness of a spot we love gotten to a new way.

Nigel and I on the main range above Top Gorge hut and the Pohangina valley, and below us on the far background the Oroua valley back in 2002. A fairly ordinary photo I acknowledge but my favourite of Nige and I as it was the last time we were together in these mountains and he is the man who brought me to them. I was at my best, no hip problems, no problems at all. We spent 2 days waiting at Howlett's hut for the weather to clear so we could cross Sawtooth ridge, and finally just changed our plans and kept moving. We were young (relatively), and as fit as we could be, at least I was. And to be with Nigel and John - who took the photo, we were pretty confident and capable.

Finally, right now, I present my eldest son and I overlooking the Maropea valley just above Top Maropea. Taylor was only 12, and I was bereft of teen age angst and fear, I mean mine for him. It is when I look at photos such as this that I know he has been exposed to other impulses that might help guide him along. Like negotiating a Ruahine ridge on an inclement day.

Happy Yuletide