Quite possibly the worst mountaineering adventure I'll have anytime soon since I've become a bit of a busy fella these days.
I believe it was sometime around August-September 2017, Joel and I decided it was high-time for a jaunt/slog up something intimidating. After about an hour of solid research into where the best looking 2000m+ peak was that we could knock off in a weekend we settled for Dun Fiunary (~2500m) based on a sketchy looking topo-map we'd found on a very old blog post that told us it was a great weekender. This apparently is all we needed to make an informed decision about the corresponding 'adventure'.
The blog post spoke of 3 things we like in a weekend trip:
- A track for easy access
- A hut to sleep in
- A nice journey to the mountain of choice
Let's just say the truth about the journey would be further away than Jupiter is to those three points were.
- There was a track, but you had to trespass about 30 solid meters of some gentleman's unkempt patch of dirt. He doesn't like this by the way (more to come). When you reach the track you'll notice it is nicely maintained...For about 100 meters before you're hit by a wall of all of the sharp leafy plants New Zealand has to offer, then sometimes getting illusionary patches of dirt that continue in a straight line for a few meters, emulating what could have been a track.
- The hut. There wasn't one, it was knocked down "some decades ago". Good thing Joel thought ahead and bought a 1 man tent for the 2 of us.
- A nice journey. If you count what I'll elaborate on the above and more below a 'nice journey' then sure.
We left the house at about 6pm, a true alpine start and made our way from Dunedin to Mt Cook National Park, a good few hours drive. By the time we got there it was a perfect head-torch sky. Great for tramping in.
Once we found out we had to trespass this farmers land we decided to call the number he'd left on his 'Don't trespass my land' sign. Being about 9-9:30pm he obviously was expecting phone calls from excited "mountaineers" and didn't answer. "It's all good, we'll be gone in the morning", true statement, so we parked as inconspicuously as possible and skipped over his patch towards the immaculate track and subsequent thorny wall.
After a good while and a bunch of swearing from the frequent assaults by plant life we thought we'd better check the GPS to see how far we've come since it's about midnight. Looks like we've travelled just over a kilometre, which is pretty good if you're definitely not trying to beat any snails records for tramping. This was about the last thing we wanted to hear, just before we started to notice the loving noise sandfly and mosquito wings make when they notice you've a head-torch.
After we recited a couple of lines Frodo and Sam made in The Lord of the Rings:
Sam: "This looks strangely familiar"
Frodo: "That's because we've been here before, we're going in circles"
We decided to cave in and put up the tent since this supposed Hut was nowhere to be head-torched.
We had dinner around 1am, which was a a packet of rice risotto this was around the time when I realised that I did not bring enough food for this little jig. Another packet of rice risotto, 2 muesli bars and half a stick of salami was to last Joel and I the rest of the trip, and up and down that bloody mountain which we've still got about 4 hours walking before we get to the base of. Some blame games were played then we tucked in for a rather close night so we could get some rest for the big day in the morning.
When we arose, around 5:30 - 6am, we put some food on the cooker and had a coffee while the sandflies enjoyed their humanly breakfast.
We then set off, following a riverbed that headed in the direction we wanted to go. Suddenly some men with guns appeared, I was hoping it was not that guy who's land we trespassed and his patch posse. Luckily it was some equally as lost and plant-scarred hunters. We traveled with them up the valley exchanging conversation, where we found out that the hut was destroyed "some decades ago".
Soon enough we found ourselves in and out of shin high river water thanks to the hunters keen sense of direction. But it beats the thorny paradise beyond the riverbank, we still got to enjoy some more of that too however.
We parted from the hunters and continued to our destination, which was further away than I'd made my accurate predictions on. Good thing we had enough food to suffice the length of the trip. We'd told ourselves we will just get to that point over there and reevaluate this nightmare, but each time we go to that point we continued. True Kiwi resilience.
Once we found ourselves at the base of the beast we geared up and fed on some sunshine for energy before heading up the slopes, exhausted, wet, bleeding and hungry as we were, it was obvious that the mountain in front of us gave us a good bit of grunt and tenacious stamina to keep going. There's nothing like the mountains really, once you're amongst them.
The daunting exercise of climbing up ice and through dirty, sloshy snow started to mix with our desire for anything edible and energy levels started to dwindle at a rapid pace. We'd climbed well above 2200 meters, and the last legs of the climb were coming. We decided to take a rest. I glanced over and saw Joel had found about a handful of dried oats in one of his bag pockets and was picking at them for sustenance. Before things got instinctual we dragged our feet up a few more steps, then decided that enough's enough and this mission was, once again, a colossal failure.
The problem was it was nearing 3pm and if we were to make it back the car in one piece we'd have to start thinking about leaving in the next few moments. So we headed back down.
If you've ever down-climbed a mountain and after going up it, you'll know it's worse than getting someone to hammer your shins in. So the slog back down was relentlessly painful. And those slog back to the river more so.
We followed the river the entire way back to camp, caring not for the water that now made up the majority weight in our shoes.
Once back at camp, we packed up the tent and enjoyed the sliver of salami Joel had left behind then made pace through the bush.
A couple of hours of silence, sometimes broken by the sound of Joel's infuriated voice forming deeply woven strings of swear-words we found ourselves on old' mates patch of dirt. It was about 6:30 - 7pm now.
We were at last, finally blessed with the land-owners handwriting on a piece of paper stuck to Joels cars windshield informing us that he's kindly going to inform the police of our little stunt and have us trespassed. Which is unfortunate as we really want to go back to Dun Fiunary.