Thursday, November 09, 2006

On rain, snow, Antarctic fronts, and more....

Wow, I've got alot to write. This is gonna be a long one. Check out the pictures in the last post as well.
Ok. I left Christchurch about 7 days ago, and headed up on a shuttle to Arthurs Pass. The pass is a tiny village at about 3000ft. which probably has a population of 10 or so. On the way up, we drove by Castle Hill, and looking out the window, it became very clear to me that I needed to find a way to get down there.
I stayed in Arthurs pass for 2 days, and only did one day hike. It climbed to the top of Avalanche Peak, which looms 6000ft over the village. It was a very cool hike. I made it to the main ridge halfway up by 9:30, and waited to see if the clouds in front of me would develop into some bad weather or what. As I sat, a Kea, the curious and beautiful alpine parrots of NZ, came and kept me company for half an hour, sitting about a foot or two away. At 10, the clouds abruptly lifted, revealing clear blue skies and the beuatiful peaks surrounding me. I climbed the final snow slope to the summit, wrapping my head in a shirt so I was able to see. The views from the top were amazing. I spent about an hour watching avalanches on nearby Mt. Rolleston (~8000ft.).
Anways, the next morning I hitched down to Castle Hill. I wandered around Castle Hill Village, a very wierd place with lots of vacation homes, for an hour until I found a small hidden patch of forest to pitch my tent in. I walked back to the boulders, a 6 mile walk that I repeated twice every day for the next 5 days. I spent the afternoon climbing with a local girl who showed me lots of cool problems, and these two english fellows, Jeff and Tom.
That evening, a french guy, Tivo, and the girl he was traveling with, Toyo from Belgium, brought their campervan back to the village and us and the english blokes spent a nice evening around a fire, swapping climbing stories. Turns out Jeff and Tom are taking a year after they graduated HS to travel around the world climbing. Toyo left the next morning, but Tivo threw up his tent next to mine and is still there now. The next day was cold and overcast, but I got about 3 hours of climbing in.
Castle Hill is just amazing. It is like no other place I have been, the rocks are sculptures. The third day some bad weather closed in. Since Castle Hill has no public shelter whatsoever, me and Tivo spent about 20 hours trapped in the tents, with brief, wet forays to the bathroom. That evening, the rain cleared up a bit, and, seeking fresh air and open spaces, wandered around until we found an empty house and cooked up our dinner on the porch, which we repeated for the next two nights.
The next day was perfect; bright sunshine and a crisp wind combined for sublime temperatures for climbing. Tivo and I had a great morning, sending awesome climbs left and right. At around 2pm, a cloud bank blew in suddenly out of nowhere. This was a southerly, one the storms that crosses the ocean between Antarctica and NZ, picking up water and growing colder before blasting the south island. Temperatures dropped about 20 degrees in 1o minutes, and we spent a very very cold hour in the rain before someone gave us a ride to the village. The next day was the opposite- cold and miserable in the morning, but clearing to perfect temperatures in the afternoon. Tivo, Jeff, Tom, and mostly climbed in our tennis shoes the whole day, finding ridiculous problems and making up our own, having a really fun time.
The weather report called for really bad weather this weekend, so we got out of there that evening. I don't wan't to know what really bad is like after those few days. Those seven days where just incredible. I think I'm gonna have to come back to Castle Hill with crash pads, a camper van, and good friends.
I'm catching the bus down to Te Anau tommorow, which is in the midst of Fjordlands NP, reputed to be utterly gorgeous. Should be fun. I come home in 11 days! Looking foreward to seeing everyone! Maybe I'll have a slideshow or something...
p.s. check out the new book review on the right.


Anonymous said...

wow, what an adventure. I admire you for the vision that moves you and the committment that drives you. Thanks for all the news. I love you forever, your aunt Margaret

nacm said...

Mr. Max,
Norm here from Nelson Lakes Nat. Pk. Hope all is well & you are having good weather in the South (less than one inch of rain or a foot of snow per hour).
Christy & I just got back from Kahurangi Nat Park. Wow - amazing place! We will be taking future TEAms there. Christy & I planned an 11 day 238km route we are going to do next Feb. while we were stuck in a hut for a few fours waiting for the snow to fall vertical instead of horizontal. Put it on your list if you come back to NZ someday.
Peace, Norm

Anonymous said...

Dog Max,
how are you even making these updates?
are you hauling around a laptop?
regardless, I'm loving reading about your adventures.

Anonymous said...

Hey Max,
Sounds incredible. We are now counting the days until we see you. Mexican food awaits you!

Anonymous said...

Max, Had a terrible dream about you last night and am clearing out the bad memories by reading your beautiful descriptions and poetry. I want to go to NZ more than ever, not that these old bones will start rock climbing. Love you, admire you, can't wait to see you.