Mountaineering and the summit
This year's New Zealand Alpine Journal arrived on Christmas Eve and contained a wide variety of interesting articles. One that I found particularly relevant revolved around the importance of summiting. The authoress had recently failed to summit on two relatively easy mountains but found that she had a fulfilling time and enjoyed the journey none the less and not summiting was no detraction from the overall experience. At the end of the article, she declared that perhaps she was only a "tramping mountaineer"
At the beginning of December, I headed to Scott's Knob, a prominent peak in the Raglan ranges south of here and by all accounts - of which there were many, a very straightforward climb. A longer than expected bike ride in, snow showers and southerly gales with poor visibility left me perched high on an exposed ridge only 50 odd meters vertically from the top but a long way horizontally. The little of the potential route over to the summit that I could see seemed very difficult especially with the wind howling over the ridge and retreat was in order. Once back down on lower slopes the cloud had cleared enough to reveal the probable normal way up but by then the all-important "will" had gone and after doing a little exploring I headed home. All in all, it had been a really good and long (15 hour) day and it had been very satisfying to be in new territory but there was this irksome feeling of not having reached the top. It's hard to explain, its just this feeling of unfinished business!!. And of course, there is the ego factor. Mountaineering was born in Victorian England - an era of understatement (rather the opposite of present times!!) and mountaineers have become the masters of understating any particular route. Scott's Knob goes under the category of "Grandmother demanded milk and cream for the tea and scones once we had set up a picnic table on the top " type climb and the ego is piqued as well when it seems that every man and his dog waltzed up at one stage or another. So, when Bill came around, fitter than before looking for a weekend climb and time and weather windows eliminated our preferred objectives, the "Knob" stuck right back into prime view. I must admit, against all my better philosophical ideals that I will elucidate at some other opportunity this was for me a peak bagging trip pure and simple. The weather was perfect, an early start after riding into Grieg's hut the night before saw us amble to the Top without much difficulty and although not all Grandmothers would have made it certainly some have. With another storm brewing, we even had a howling tail wind out on the bike a perfect peak bagging day in fact.
Herman Buhl, at the cutting edge of extreme mountaineering in the 1950's shared an alpine hut for a week with another mountaineer in the 1950's while he soloed the Matterhorn and host of other peaks in the region. The other mountaineer never left the hut but spent all day just staring at the Matterhorn in wonder. Bulh concluded that this other mountaineer who would never set foot on a mountain in all probability was just as much a mountaineer as himself as spiritually they were in the same place. The Alpine Journal has a wide variety of stories including ski touring in Iceland, ice skating across Lake Baikal, extreme ascents in the Alps and also the higher ranges of the World. To this no doubt could be added (as the Himalayan journal and other journals do add in fact ) Mountain bike trips - which now contribute to a considerable part of the exploration of the last remaining unexplored mountains of the World, motorcycle trips and even bus trips - If the right spirit is there!!
below a few jumbled pictures of the trips to Scott's Knob.