Sunday, December 5, 2010

Days Gone By : Farewell 2010 and Peaceful Yuletide

As I grow older I seem to measure the passing of time differently. The lessons of life, the mental and physical battles we endure, the daily grind of paying bills and raising a family, and suddenly that young buck who used to be looking back at me in the mirror has become my father. In the mountains it is easy for me to become absorbed by the natural rhythms of my environment - such as my poem Mountain Time a few posts ago. Not so easy out here, but I am growing and still learning. As this year comes to end, I look back on my favourite mountain moments, some no doubt quite ordinary. But when a year ago I wondered if I would ever return to the Ruahine, ordinary is actually pretty exceptional.

The smile on my face above, and just the quiet countenance I felt within me, says it all. It was June, a little over 3 months since my hip had been replaced, and Charlie accompanied me on my first journey back into the mountains. I was nervous and tentative, like a first date when I was a teenager. So to get up to Sunrise with a heavy pack and pain free and have the whole Ruahine to ourselves on a picture perfect couple of days was almost too much. Charlie came out and found me watching the sun begin to set and I was sitting there with tears rolling down my face. He just sat down next to me and didn't say a word. A little while later he took the photo above.

Charlie out on Armstrong saddle. Originally I wished he had been looking at me but as this photo has come through the year I have grown to appreciate he is not. To have Charlie there with me as I was reunited with the Ruahine was an honour and a pleasure.

Charlie on a section of the track to Sunrise when suddenly the tawhairauriki appear in this gorgeous little brimming spot, and you know the open tops are near.

In July my mate Gustav came over from Tasmania. We spent 4 days in the Ruahine, retracing backwards a few steps made years ago. Being kicked back above, tin cup in hand and wood gathered, being at a cool mountain spot celebrating my 50th birthday, being in the mountains again with a brother of spirit and soul. I love the wet upside down boots on the end of the porch, their work done. I will never take any moment in the mountains for granted.

It is places like this in the forest where I am just staggered by the presence of the forest and just stop to absorb the energy. There is a lot going on here.

I have been across this particular place many times, and always have loved it, the colours and symmetry. Before this July with Gustav I have never managed a photo, most often as the weather has been either raining, snowing, windy, or all the above, and this is not a place to stop and fall. You would not stop until hitting the river, and then most likely swept down near by rapids very quickly. So on this day I left my pack on the far side of the slip and carefully walked back out to where I could observe this view. A personal favourite photo.

A week before Gustav arrived in late July I ventured solo onto the southern end of the Hikurangi, the highest range of the five which make the Ruahine. I spent another 4 days on my own, again walking up on a perfect day. Through the forest the far off active volcanoes on the The Rim of Fire, Ruapehu, Ngarahoe, and Tongariro shimmered in the distance, the sunlight making the snow look like shiny glass. Aotearoa is a beautiful, but volatile land.

Just before sunrise in the high Ruahine, as the open tops meet the bushline, and in in this part a stunning Kaikawaka forest. The trees with this new blanket of frost and snow to me were speaking to each other, some mouths agape, others quietly listening or rolling their eyes, personalities and character revealed in the quiet early morning. The mountain lives! Mid July 2010.

The winter climb is almost done. I love the mountains best in winter. Wild, raw, enter at your own peril.

Charlie and the Ruahine. He is a well equipped mountain traveller. Oh, to be 8 and have those mountains out there to discover! I didn't find my mountains till I was almost 35. So these will do for me. I hope Charlie finds his own mountains as well, whatever, and wherever they may be. He will always be connected here. October 2010.

Charlie and I. October 2010. Overlooking the Oroua valley. We had an excellent day and evening.

The elusive high mountain forest Ruahine elf. Seldom seen but I spotted this one a few times for some reason on this day. He was just scampering ahead of me and I was lucky to have my camera at the ready.

The late spring north eastern Ruahine. Another view I will tire never of seeing. And to view it again a mere month ago makes that very moment unfold as I close my eyes. I spent another 4 days alone in the mountains, the weather turned cold and nasty, but I was Home. November 2010.

My favourite high mountain meadow. I have spent many days here wandering about, and look forward to the next.

Looking out the door of the hut by the river. The music of the river endless, joined by a water fall which can be seen falling down the slip face near the top left hand side. I have seen Whio fly down or up the river as I sat here or just outside. How can I not appreciate I am here, and that I want to return? I was smiling.

The mountain river. Soothing, restorative, yet temperamental. November 2010.

The enveloping high mountain corridor of tawhairauriki. A path I am blessed to have discovered and will always try to remain upon its winding path.

Charlie about to be introduced to the high mountain pool last month. I still smile and chuckle at this moment. November 2010 - a nice spring day but a very very cold pool!

In a few weeks time my oldest son Taylor and I will head into the mountains for another 4 -5 day mountain journey. He suggested it so how can I refuse? It is the best Christmas present he could possibly give me.

I started this place a bit over three years ago not really imagining I would have something to write about these mountains and wild places for as long as I have. What I have found within me is that each and every encounter I undertake with these mountains is new and fresh and fills me with inspiration. As does the presence of those who read here and the sharing of your thoughts which has also led me to your own places in this world. It is a very cool process, an enjoyable community from around the world.

So to those whom tune in here, Kia ora! Please have a peaceful, and nature filled Yuletide Season. Ti hei mauri ora!

Robb and the entire Kloss family

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Song of the Tawhairauriki - Mountain Beech (submitted for the Festival of Trees 54)

There is a ridge in the Ruahine mountain range of Aotearoa (New Zealand) which for me is a magical and spiritual place. Up high at around 1300 metres the tawhairauriki (mountain beech) become gnarled and twisted as they fight the elements of the thin mountain soil, the prevailing and often gale force northwest winds, the rain, sleet, and snow as they seem to cling precariously to the mountain.
Especially around sunrise or sunset they take on an ethereal presence. As if they are the maunga tipua, or mountain guardian spirit. The gnarled branches become limbs reaching to the sky both beseeching and defiant. The mosses and lichens clinging to them become like the furs of warriors at momentary rest from an endless battle. And their defiance also speaks to the intrusion of man in such places as if to cry out,"Leave us be. You do not Listen. We accept our lot
as keepers of the tipua, but cannot abide your roads into our souls, the pollution and damming of our pure waters, and the ripping apart of our very bowels as you plunder our essence - we offer you so much with our mere presence and yet you steal what should sustain you the most - WHY!"
This is a place I always walk softly and quietly, and I listen to these voices. The song of the Tawhairauriki.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Whakamoemiti (Thanksgiving)

The above photo is a little blurry, a little out of focus. It was taken a few years ago when my friend Jeff was visiting from the states, and along with John, we headed into the Ruahine for a few days of mountain wandering. On this day we left our gear at the hut and climbed up to the tops. Always a pleasure to walk through the layers of the forest, leaving the river muttering below and climbing into the tussock and then the clouds. Only for me, on this day, it was not a pleasure. My hip hurt dreadfully, I could literally feel and hear bone grinding upon bone, and during the climb up all I wanted was to be done with it. On the way down I told Jeff and John to walk ahead as I was holding them back, that I would make my own way down. It was the first time I realized the true extent of my problem, and the anger I felt at my body disintegrating at this moment here with a treasured friend, friends, was palpable. The truth of what the real meaning of this all meant to my even being in these places filled me with dread and fear. It was not my best moment in the mountains.

Then, slowly struggling down the steep spur, I heard a sound I could not place. I thought at first it was a bird call I had not heard before, but as I got further down I realized it was the music of a harmonica. Only two people I know carry harmonicas in the mountains, my friend Jeff, and me, and Jeff gave me mine. I stopped above him and just listened, to the forest, to the music, and I just watched him amongst these mountains, so comfortable and so at home on this mossy knoll high in the forest. My friend had waited for me to make sure I was okay. In possibly the lonliest moment in my life, a good friend sat below me patiently waiting for ME. First hearing, and then seeing, his presence sent a rush of warmth through my entire being. So the photo is a bit out of focus as my vision was a bit out of focus, washed by tears of realization that I have such people, such places in my life. That somehow I would rise up and meet the challenges ahead. That these mountains will never leave me. I am part of them. I am thankful for that.

Mountain tipua (Guardian Spirit)

The silhouettes of the tawhairauriki against the setting sky I have always felt connected to and deeply moved by. As if they are the true soul or tipua of the mountains themselves, wise teachers whom we can choose to learn from or not. Both defiant and beseeching to the heavens above. As if they are saying " We will deal with the northwest gales, the damp and cold, the snow and sleet, the thin mountain soil into which we spread our roots, that is our lot. But you self important human abusers of the Papatuanuku, you we cannot bear because you do not come in Peace, and so I thrust my fingers and limbs to the sky in defiance and warning you to stop. You are only here for a brief moment, and refuse to learn what the mountains Teach and you do not Listen. Our friendship has been refused. No mines, no dams, no roads, no poisoning of our pure waters. Leave us alone".
I am Thankful for the Mountain Lessons as well.

I am Thankful for the many beautiful pieces to my life. My family and friends far and near, my beautiful wife whom I watch unfold into a more amazing woman each day, my sons, Taylor and Charlie offering each moment the ups and downs of parenthoood as they both also unfold into themselves.
I am thankful for the people whom visit here, your presence and encouragement are a constant source of inspiration.
In this moment though right here right now, I am most Thankful to the mountains. For finding me, for saving me, for teaching me how to Listen. For giving the strength and fortitude to find my way back to something I nearly lost. It has been a very good year.
Happy Whakamoemiti!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Brief Tale of Sons and Fathers

Two experienced Ruahine travelers.

This beautiful mountain waterfall and pool lies in the Ruahine around 1150 metres or so. As one approaches the golden tussock and open tops it is a lovely sight to come upon with a heavy pack and know some hard graft is done, take off the pack and rest and reward myself with the taste of pure mountain water. I have visited it many times now, coming and going, and have always loved this little spot. The water is most often ice cold, the tupare in front and glistening in the sun will tell you this place is relatively high up. Tupare only starts appearing when you have reached 900 metres plus. So this crystal clear, cold, pure water is born from the high slopes indeed. It has always called strongly to be dove into, but my burdens going up or down have never allowed me.

On a recent walk Charlie did just that. He stopped here and gazed upon this pool for the first time. He drank from it, felt the tingling coldness. Up higher on the tops, where we were for the afternoon and a nice lunch, he decided he wanted to swim in that pool. He has seen many photos of me "swimming" in ice cold Ruahine pools and this was his time to be introduced to exactly what that means. We were in no hurry, so we walked back down to that pool, 10 minutes or so, him barefoot wearing only a pair of shorts, which as obviously above he soon shed. His clenched little fists tells the whole story of the pucker one feels upon entering the bracing chill of the mountain water. He was weighing it all up. His mind working furiously no doubt, all quickly ending up at the inevitable realization that this water is far farking colder than he thought!

Yes, Charlie, the relative shelter of escape is near, just right behind you.

But in he goes! I am not sure who yelled louder. Charlie, screaming and frantically extracting himself, or me, out of being proud that Charlie understood this moment perfectly without me uttering a word, just being there. And also laughing my head off watching him actually dive in that freezing pool. We stood in the sun as he shivered and dried. I took off my own shirt to wipe him down a bit, but it is always best to let the mountain breeze dry off the moisture. You tingle, you are Alive!

I love the similarity between me, above, and Charlie in the third photo above. A different place to be sure, deeper in the Ruahine, but I am still singing the "Can I extract myself from this Ruahine Blues".

You never REALLY thought I would back away did you?


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Waiata o te tawhairauriki ( Song of the Beech)

17 October 2010

Robb - solo
Parks Peak hut
The wind howls over the hut like a thousand freight trains that never slow down, shaking and rattling the hut at its moorings. So much so I cannot even hear the rain bouncing on the tin roof. No matter, inside the hut I have the fire going just quietly, I have a cup of tea in hand, I am dry, warm, and well. Originally I was headed for another part of the mountains, but then saw the weather forecast calling for gale force winds and rain, and that is not even in the mountains! So I instead, on the basis of my now eleven trips up and along that long steep arduous, but oh so beautiful ridge, knew I would be relatively protected from the elements by the tough and gnarly tawhairauriki (mountain beech) whom would ward off the most intense of the wind, as they do all their lives. It was a decision based upon experience and knowledge of these mountains. I feel good about that. It meant a longer, tougher walk with a very heavy 4-5 day pack, and one I felt a bit wary of with my new hip to be honest. It is a long ridge, a long day in the saddle. In the more exposed places today I could feel the ground rolling underneath me as the beech battled with the wind, I heard trees falling over in the forest. And I did huff and puff up that ridge, stop at times and gather myself for the next steep climb. Almost 6 hours. I am here.

Looking down into Makaroro valley from the ridge

Winding through the tawhairauriki. A wonderful place I am always glad to see. A long climb is past.

A section of Parks Peak ridge, the constant up amongst the up and down nature of the ridge can be seen.

"Sitting here now at Park's Peak hut

I might consider a form of Heaven
I've walked up that steep ridge a few times now
By latest count eleven
I've done it alone
I've done it with mates
I've done it with my son and his friend
The one common factor in all the above
that bloody ridge never seems to end
Though now I am here full of good cheer
Planning my next mountain trip
I may have walked slow
I may huff and puff
but it ain't from no pain in my hip"

The mountain meadow outside Parks Peak hut. A plethora of alpine plants, lichens, moss, tupare, and tawhairauriki.

The wind still howls over, but the rain stopped and the sun came out, allowing me to get outside and roam this lovely high mountain meadow a wee bit. At the other end of the meadow lies the site of the old Parks Peak hut, an old 4 bunk affair, small, cold, with a cranky wood stove and dubious wood supply. But how I loved that hut, was always glad to see it's orange roof appear, knowing the walk was done and the billy would soon be boiling. I gaze across to where it was through the rain streaked window of this new comparatively luxurious hut at the other end of the meadow. I loved that old hut, yet I have now created memories here in this one as well. I am falling in love again at the other end of the high mountain meadow.
Looking down into the Makaroro valley and the main Ruahine range up above. My destination lies down at the bottom of the valley on the Makaroro river.

Upper Makaroro hut

I was up long before sunrise and headed out just as it got light enough to see. I wanted to be in the forest early as it came to life for the day. I could barely stand upright in the gale outside the hut and was glad to retreat into the forest and starting heading down to the valley. The light of the new dawn cast an ethereal pallor upon the forest, and as I headed further down into the big trees I began to hear the tawhairanui moaning as they swayed and sighed in the wind. The forest had a raw wild ancient feel to it. Storms always heighten the character of the mountains. I walked very slowly, and just let myself go into the energy swirling about. Even walking very deliberately it seemed like I arrived here in mere moments. I guess I did.

It is still windy down here by the river and it is very cold, the sun comes out, then goes away, and the rain chases me back to the hut. I am content to just roam the river flats, and hope a whio will grace me with it's presence and say Kia ora! I can just watch the sunlight play upon the clear cold water, and slake my thirst from her sweet nectar. And at the hut I have my book awaiting, Naked in Eden, written by my friend Robin. A story of her move to the Australian rain forest and becoming Connected to the Earth, Becoming Wild. It is a brave and moving story as she unfolds into her real being. I feel connected to her as I roam amongst this wild place quietly and reflect upon her words. An amazing place to interact with the written word.

Climbing down the final spur to Upper Makaroro hut. I love the horoeka (lancewood) in front of the photo. It has been there since I first made it down here years ago, and continues to grow and cling to life on the eroding cliff face from which it has grown. Always good to see and hear the muttering river after the climb down, see the hut, and greet an old friend. Almost there.

The other direction, a bit lower. How cool to see the colours of the river emerge. Though this is no place to take ones eye of the ball. Ruahine drops to rivers are invariably steep, often becoming near vertical as the final 100 metres or so approach.

The forest sidling along side the tawhairauriki grove after a severe climb out of the valley. A sublime part of the forest.

Evening - Upper Makaroro

The rain still splatters on the tin roof, the wood fire quietly taking the edge off the damp cold. The sun, even in summer, does not take long to leave this narrow part of the valley behind. It adds to the remoteness.

I sat down by the river today when ever I could get out amongst the sun. I sat in front of the emerald pool where the river has bunched up beneath the cliffs, before releasing into a calm flat run where I can gaze through the clear water as if it is not even there and see the colour of each stone, each pebble, then she steadies herself for the long drop ahead where it gathers strength and is doing Her work gouging out the valley even deeper. Then she winds around a corner with the graceful presence of a ballerina, leaving me stunned and wondering what is around that wonderful bend. Mountain rivers will do that to you. I can content myself today knowing that I have been around that lovely bend many times now.

It is pretty cool to return to these wild rugged mountains and know I have history here, that I have climbed up and down both sides of this valley, up and down the river, seen the whio fly by this very spot. My heart bursts! Every moment here is new.

19/10/10 Parks Peak

I crossed the river, her song loud, clear and soothing, and then I put my boots on and just there Listening. Then I began the long, arduous, steep climb back up to here. About an hour in, the track meets a large long grove of old growth tawhairauriki, ambles along side for awhile before steeply heading back up the spur to the ridge. Moments to enjoy. I just waited for the living breathing forest to tap me upon my shoulder and tell me to stop and just be here. The symmetry and energy of the big trees, the glens of fern, and the mosses and lichens lighting the path ahead, connects me with my own Wildness, and though I am far and high above the mountain river, I still hear her in my heart.

My gear is dry on the line above the fire. My boots, upside down and drying out, have earned their keep over these four days in the mountains. I am warm. I have seen no one for days since I left my car and crossed the flooded river. I have roamed these stormy wonderful mountains. I am here!



Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mountain Time

Come take my hand
Sit with me
We shall take refuge
from the din
Just for a few moments
we shall live
by the sound
of the river
and let the colours of her moods
be the only measure
of mountain time

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Festival of Trees

To the Festival of Trees:
The photo below is a few years old now. I took it after a few days in the mountains alone and standing a bit above a clear large mountain river this tree across it clinging to life came into my view. And in that moment became a brother from where I was at in my own life at that same time..
"Observation on the River"
Your flawed elegance astounds me
Ramrod straight
As if proudly displaying your wounds
Scarred by time
battered by countless storms
Your soul precariously exposed
Eroded by what also sustain and nourishes
Yet possessing a Strength
I cannot fathom
Holding onto each moment
Until you are finally claimed to join
The Dance of the Endless Flow
It is Me
-Robb Kloss, written outside Ngamoko hut in the Ruahine range, Aotearoa ( New Zealand)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mountain Whispers

11 Sept. 2010
Heritage lodge - Ruahine
Robb and Charlie Kloss

I have spent a fair bit of time here over the last year. A trip with John late in 2009 when we had to retreat from the storm ridden Whanahuias and find another way up the valley, then again in December with Gustav when I could no longer move well prior to having my hip replaced, and again with him last month after having it done and we proceeded up valley again. So to be here this evening with Charlie I feel very much at home, the clouds drifting over the distant Whanahuias, the sound of the river muttering far below us, and the dark green spurs running up to the ridges all familiar, all welcoming. Charlie collects wood and runs about, his energy levels still high and this is a fine place for a young boy to be full of energy.

It was a different sort of journey we did today. Sitting here now writing this I realize I was applying my experience accrued over the last 19 years, and more so somewhat wistfully at the expense of my elder son Taylor. Back in his day of being 7 he was pushed hard on young legs to places in here not so many young legs would have ventured, and because I was focused on getting him to some distant place with a heavy pack upon my shoulders I was not as aware of his needs, as patient with him, nor as observant of my own place here as I should have been. And though I know Taylor has many aspects of those trips still swirling inside of him, standing here now I feel a lump in my throat. The mountains were still growing within me back then.

Charlie in the sun in the lower forest

Climbing up towards the tops

Still climbing!

Charlie thought this would be a cool place to camp. It would be!

Climbing dead fall over track

11 Sept. Continued:

My plan with Charlie is to go a bit more tenderly, let him grow into the mountains a bit more slowly than Taylor and I did. Instead of just putting a pack on his back and pointing up a huge hill, or a mountain river and tell him to just start walking, why not let him experience these places on his own terms right now. We both carried packs into Heritage, 45 minutes or so from the car, then dropped off my big pack and putting some extra gear, food and water into his smaller one, off we went. I was just as excited as Charlie, as in all my years and visits to this area, I had never climbed up the track from Heritage to Tunipo, so it was all new for me as well.

So when Charlie wanted to stop and look at some big tree, or climb up storm fallen trees lying on the spur, stomp around in the mud puddles, or just gaze off into the distance, he did. We were in no hurry, I did not have to really worry about the weather, or what is was like up top trying to get across, or how long it was taking us to climb up, or even worrying about a route I had never been on before. When I sensed he had had enough we would stop and have some lunch and a long rest. Then turn around and go back to the hut.

An unforeseen bonus for me was how quickly I found myself in my mountain frame of mind. Carrying a very light pack I felt light of foot and spirit, the forest washing through me and I could just let myself be free. It was a perfect plan!

Up on the ridge

A seldom seen Ruahine Elf!

Same Swan dry, different boy. Taylor (7) and Nigel on the tops during a stormy day back in 2000.

I never fail to be invigorated by a walk in the forest, the energy seems to shimmer and glow, radiating from the tall trees and the moss and lichens. The feel of the ferns brushing on bare skin like satin as we pass through a grove. I saw Charlie stop ahead and literally pet the first moss covered stump pictured above as if it were a living creature, as it is. To see him get that, and respond to it warmed me through. You could stop at such a spot, and spend hours trying to count the different shades of green, the various types of moss and lichen and simply just appreciate the soft loving blanket they provide the forest.

I felt wonderful as Charlie and I walked back down through the forest, light on my feet, without the numbing pain and limp of the past. That never fails to amaze me, and a reminder to never take any moment here for granted. My thoughts drifted to the friend I lost this past week. Tanuvasa Shane Sitivi you always appreciated my love of the mountains, and we often talked of doing a trip together. We never did. Another lump gathers in my throat. I am sorry I never did that for you brother, I should have. So I walk for you now. May the gentle mountain breeze always be upon you.

Charlie did well. And the other great thing we learned is how far he can go and enjoy himself in one day. It opens up a lot of potential mountain exploration this coming summer. Stay Tuned!