Franklin. My Dear, I don’t give a damn!

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I was too young to die. Between myself and the summit lay Newton’s Folly. Beyond that, the De Rose Step. I was way too young to die. 

You know how the Royal Family never travel all together, in case the plane goes down. Well, it would be the noble thing to pass on the summit attempt. Who would write the trip report if an avalanche hit? And besides, I was young. Way too young to die.

There was also the question of which peak was the true Franklin? The mountaineers we had spoken to the previous evening seemed to think the summit to the right was Franklin. Wouldn’t it be sensible to hedge our bets?

And, hell, I was young, my whole life before me. Why risk it all for the sake of a poxy mountain? That Newton’s Folly, with the snow all melting. It didn’t look good.

OK, so I had the Willies. The beautiful setting of Blue Lake where we camped for the<br />
first nightTo hell with Franklin. Up at 4 a.m. and I wasn’t even going to get to the top. But I didn’t give a damn’. Better to live to fight another day. Simon seemed to agree with me. Mind you, he had just used up several lives on his Garden of Eden trip (if you missed the slide show then you shouldn’t have).

So we turned our backs on Franklin, and instead climbed Franklin II, otherwise known rather catchily as 2291, a peak so easy that a bloody great spider had beaten us to the summit. Putting crampons on must be a right pain if you’re a spider…

And we watched the little dots, otherwise known as Grant, Garry, Matt and a pair of Andrews make their way steadily up to the summit. Nicola was the only one in the party displaying any sort of sense, sleeping in.

Everest has its Hillary Step. Apparently that’s mere child’s play compared to the De Rose Step on Franklin’s southern ridge. Difficult from where I was sitting to verify these claims, but they talked a good tale down at Base Camp, aka Blue Lake, at lunchtime. You should have seen the one that got away…

Nelson Lakes. Grant Newton and a member of the Alpine club about to tackle<br />
the summit ridge of Mt FranklinLabour Weekend. That’ll be right. 14 hours of labour on the Sunday. Was I barking mad? First trip to the South Island. But the effort was worth it. Just stunning scenery, and fine weather to match it. Got some great sunburn if you don’t believe me. Views from the top of the real Franklin just breathtaking. Not bad from the other peak too I gather…

My first ‘Fit’ trip too. ‘Fit’ as in short for ‘Forget it’, under the leadership of Gran Newton (that’s Grant, but no tea). A shocking disregard for cross-cultural sensibilities.

Saturday was grand – a water taxi up Lake Rotoroa, then an eight-hour stroll up the Sabine River valley. Avalanche debris blocking the path at regular intervals. Camped at Blue Lake, an extraordinarily beautiful spot. At least until Garry went skinny-dipping.

And then Sunday. A quick jaunt up Franklin (I or II), then back down, struck camp, then up and over Moss Pass and down down down down down down down etc. into the D’Urville Valley. Otherwise known as hell.

At six o’clock I had decided I was never ever going on a Fit trip again. Tramping was my favourite hobby. Why therefore was I crying? By seven tramping was no longer my favourite hobby. In fact it wasn’t a hobby at all. It was an ex-hobby. I was hallucinating about taking up evening classes in basket weaving or aboriginal crochet.

Knit one, pearl one.

When are they going to start selling replacement knees? Mine were screaming at me, ‘Stop! We want to get off!’ Fine by me! After well over 2000m descending on the day I wanted to curl up in the bushes and die. (Even though I was way too young…)

Unfortunately Simon kept waiting for me and made sure I didn’t do that. Something about he’d have felt guilty. It would have been on Grant’s conscience anyway – not enough tea, I tell you.

Staggered (or limped – can’t remember) in to Ella Hut at some ridiculous hour. A climber makes his way up the final section of the summit<br />
ridge of Mt FranklinPlonked myself at a table and waited in silence to be fed. Food was magnificent. And heaps of it. Mmmm. Top-class stodge. And a fine 2 kg pudding, if I say so myself. Useful ballast. Slept like a log with a headache.

Monday was a great day. Of course it was. Anything beats sitting in front of a computer screen for eight hours, doesn’t it? But the stroll down the D’Urville Valley to Lake Rotoroa was even more more fantastic than normal. At the lake we found the Easies hanging out with a bunch of sandflies, urging us, Siren-like, to take a dip. ‘It’s beautiful… it’s refreshing… it’s wonderful… it’s…’

Bloody cold, is what it was. Bloody cold. But sandfly-free. And it had to be done.

My basket weaving course is going very well. I’m thinking about moving up to the medium-fit weavers group in the New Year. It’s a lot easier on the knees. Views aren’t so good, but I’m told that weavers live to a ripe old age.

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