The Wednesday before we left for our 12-day Fiordland epic, Sharron gave a slideshow on her Westland Christmas adventure. It looked hard. She said that there were times every day when she wished she wasn’t there. It was a comment my mind kept returning to as we journeyed through the Murchison Mountains, up the Doon, up the Stillwater via Lake Wapiti, and along the George Sound route.
Why do you spend valuable leisure time doing something so painful that watching television from a couch seems a vision of unobtainable nirvana? After another long day, I made the breathless comment to Richard that “tramping is full of highs and lows”. Rather than it being an experience of unalloyed joy, as you might imagine a holiday to be, it’s a continual ascent/descent between the despairing pits and sublime heights. The highs are hard to explain and sit inside the context of the lows.
On this trip, each day we consciously reflected on our personal “best” and “most challenging” moments. Over the course of the trip there were three standout moments where both of us felt total euphoria. One involved finding a trapping line that meant an easy path off-track up a difficult river. We knew it was there, so were looking… The second moment (on the same day!) was similar but much harder won. We spent nearly two hours searching for a rock bivvy. When Richard spied a pink ribbon marking the way, the relief was immense. We were planning to spend two nights there, given a rain day forecast, and camping options were nil. The third moment was the following day, when we beat Moir’s Guide’s time. If you’ve done any off track, you’ll know what that means! On the second day of the trip, we had depressingly doubled the time for one section so it seemed almost a miracle.
It was amazing trip, with weather to match – only one and a half days of rain. I’ll save the blow-by-blow account for next year’s journal, or maybe an upcoming slideshow… While epics like this are testing, they make you feel alive like nothing else.
But back in civilisation, it’s time to get started on the Winter schedule, which runs from May to August. Please send me your ideas for road ends by 17 March, so that we can put together a skeleton schedule in anticipation of the planning night on Wednesday 21 March. Please plan to be there, before club at 5.30pm, to enjoy the pizza, company and route planning. Remember Winter is a great time for inspiring trips, so that you come into Spring and Summer without losing any of that hard-won fitness!
We had a great new members’ night at club this week. I just about lost my voice answering questions about tramping, from people who seemed genuinely keen to try us out. A lot of newcomers signed up for trips and you will see them during the coming weeks. Please think back to your own first trips with the club, and make a special effort to welcome those who might be feeling a bit nervous about tramping or about us WTMC trampers! There is a lot to learn when you start out that many of us now take for granted. But I remember well how hard it could be to walk into a room of strangers on Wednesday nights and mill awkwardly around the trips board…