New Zealand Lassitude
It has been 18 years since I last faced the possibility of more than 12 straight months in Zealand but it is slowly becoming very likely and there has been a certain amount of lassitude associated with having no immediate objectives. Perhaps it is a time to rest , regenerate and reflect and also to start planning ahead for the coming seasons. Maybe also, a time to maybe do some long planned trips in New Zealand that have always been left to a time of consolidation like this one.
It is also a time to train some weakness's and gain some strengths. One thing I have noticed coming from a lengthy cycling background is my walking/running gait is rather short and choppy - a low gear stride in fact, the result of pedaling millions of relatively short strokes at high revolutions. It's a very powerful fast up hill climbing stride but just like a small gear , very inefficient and slow for long walk-ins and even painful for long descents. So one thing I've been trying to concentrate on is striding out and getting that easy loping style that makes for good hiking. Then, of course,a whole range of technical stuff I need to work on , something that I tend to ignore as often as possible. Perhaps once again that's my background from cycling, but this more to do with mentality than physical attributes. That is the mentality to just get out and go for it and as I'm also so often alone and trying to cover ground at speed so all the "right stuff" and all the "right techniques" don't tend to be primary concerns"!
El Nino or La Nina
The winter is trying to make up its mind here. Frosty mornings interspersed with a series of Nor Westers and the odd Southerly rolling through has left all sorts of varying conditions to head out in. Wet warm rain , ice , and snow and even warm sunny days to go out cycling.
After staying the night at Bushline hut I set out on the first winter mission which was with Segio and Mei Tian to head up to Mount Angelus and back but a very late start and walking directly into a developing southerly storm pretty much ended that before it began. Tian Mei put up a gallant effort considering it was her first time in such conditions but it still took almost 5 hours to reach the Lake Angelus hut and by then the storm was in full force and snowing much heavier than expected. A retreat was beat late in the day with no attempt on Angelus in the white out . Mei Tian was really enjoying it although Segio was on a bad day not helped by trying new boots which proved too small. We were all cold and thoroughly soaked through by the end but it was a good 10 hours out
Un Jours Sans - the empty day
Un Jour Sans - In cycling circles, it is the day in a tour or multi day race that you are totally empty in every way for reasons quite unknown. Mount Arthur was under a beautiful carpet of white a few days after the Angelus trip but just a few steps past the car park my almost empty pack weighed like a ton of bricks on my back. Normally breaking into the alpine zone I start feeling better no matter how bad the start and with enough snow to show cornices on the top and even a small avalanche up high the excitement should've been building. Instead, I struggled through a mental and physical whiteout despite the almost perfect day. Finally higher up I hit deep snow covered by an ice layer and moved very unsteadily along the east side of the ridge but after much tottering about found I was very uncomfortable and even unbalanced and worst of all fearful. Ambitions dipped alongside the lack of form and having shown a complete inability to make any real progress it was time to rush back and pick up the kids from school.
Thats when doubts begin and questions? Why so weak , why so slow , why so fearful , is it old age ?/ am I getting sick but nothing added up.
A few days later , June 6th , a public holiday dedicated to the Queen of England I set out to remedy the doubts and left early morning to the Nelson lakes - the roads glittering with ice in the car headlights. The trip to Mount Angelus that day was more "Un Jour Avec" that is a day with and the tough walk up the pinchgut track was barely noticed and I was literally running on the snow ridge as dawn broke. That turned very icy later on as one went higher on to a series of traverse's but good time was still being made although quite some caution was necessary . A long line of trampers were heading out of Angelus hut, most down the Speargrass route but 4 were nervously attempting ridge. As I meet them I mentioned the tell tale snow tracks I had seen of someone who had obviously fallen some 60meters down a gully . Apparently, a woman had indeed fallen the day before - she was battered and bruised but Ok otherwise. They also mentioned someone was climbing Angelus that morning and just before the hut one tall lone figure with a long lopping gait looking very proficient strode up and casually informed me on the very icy conditions on Angelus. He reminded me in every way of my Bulgarian friend Dimitar from the Broad Peak trip last year and obviously was from somewheres about that way in the world. He had gone up via Sunset saddle the way I planned so the information was useful , and we bid farewell. The way up to the Saddle was very easy and fast all under deep snow but from there to the top was literally like a sheet of glass. Ice chips breaking off and flying 2 or 300 meters down the South face left no doubt where a mistake would lead because, although the slope is not overly steep such things as self arrest on such hard ice were probably in the realms of fantasy. Having said that with a hard kick the boots held well and by driving the shaft of the ice axe almost to the hilt in above my head each time, though throughly exhausting,also gave great security. Luckliy at least three previous climbers had been up since the last snow fall 10 days before including this morning's proficient man and they had left foot holds and above all shaft holes for me all the way up. Even than it was difficult getting the shaft in sometimes. At the top I continued with my plan to descend the north ridge which proved to be not as icy but just as slow and demanding with ice covered snow and losse windblowen snow balling up my crampons all the way down. The walk out was fast and to keep the speed up I removed my crampons - the whole trip took 12 1/2 hours although I was on a very good 10 1/2 hour pace without the ice.
Yes, plenty of photos of the day with - strangely enough, there were no photos of the day without!!! Despite being in good shape ever since I've been out only once since the 6th June with normal life eating up all my time and made a quick dash up Arthur last week. An uninteresting trip as most of the snow has washed away in constant warm rain's and indeed I got throughly soaked in more of the same but just great to be out anyway.