Summit Day

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, March 6, 2005

Today was the most fulfilling and personally rewarding day. For the purpose of this entry I guess it's fitting to call it 'Summit Day'. In short, Chicken and I trekked to the summit of Mt Somers, and we shouldn't have really. Well we should have but we really weren't ready for it. Physically I mean.

Though we hadn't planned it, we finally started the ascent at around 10am. The original plan was to start at 8am but following the usual fannying about, we got to start a little later. On paper, the trek to the summit of Mt Somers takes around 7 hours. The summit trek is part of the subalpine walkway which traverses the northern face of Mt Somers and covers 17 kilometres of terrain. Incidentally, Mt Somers stands at 1,687 metres. According to the Department of Conservation it's a 5 hour trek one way so we were expecting a good nine or ten hours out there - a good days hike. What we didn't know was how natural, rugged and how steep it actually was.

I'm delighted to say however, that we did it. We were totally and utterly knackered, but we did it. Traoine accompanied us from the outset but left us after a couple of hours. Half an hour before that we had separated steadily in to our own paces; Traoine followed behind Chicken who followed behind me, perhaps by half an hour or so. Things started to get serious about two hours from the summit, where the feint outline of the track we had been loosely following pretty much disappeared and the whole trekking adventure turned in to a rock climbing one. An hour into that and I'd already polished off the three litres of water I'd filled my platypus pack with. Every single step was HARD and so, so steep. It was like walking up three steps at a time continuously for two whole hours, but with the added danger of loose rocks and slippery surfaces that needed special attention. If I'd have looked up ahead of me one more time, I think I'd have given up there and then. It was never ending, just up, up and up non-stop in the sweltering heat and after running out of water it started to get really tough. About forty minutes from the summit I had to sit for a moment on a rock to get my breath as I'd got a dull headache right at the back of my head. It stayed with me right to the summit too just to remind me of how hard it was and how much easier it would be all round to just give up and go back. Like that was an option!

We were told that the scenery would be breathtaking and I have to say it really was. Every few steps gave a different panoramic angle over the Canterbury plains below and the mountains over to the other side. Every ten minutes or so I would turn round and check for Chicken who would eventually signal that everything was ok. At times she appeared only as the merest speck in the distance it was so fiercely steep. I sat on the summit for a while and waited for Chicken. The view was incredible. Over the top of Mt Somers you can see the Southern Alps and Mt Cook in the distance - its peak partially covered by its ever popular low level cloud. There was a large blue lake down there also which I would like to think is Lake Pukaki but I'm unsure. Looking out East you could actually see the Pacific, right along its coastline heading South. What really struck me was the fact that I could actually see the hills of Akaroa and the Banks Peninsula in the distance. An absolutely awesome view! When Chicken made it we relaxed and tucked in to our lunch, revelling in the magnificent 360 degree views that surrounded us. There's a wooden structure at the summit that is carved all the way around, displaying the words 'Revere yesterday. Build on today. Absorb energy and inspiration from this place for the future'. In the centre we found a book sealed from the elements in a waterproof bag, tucked away securely in a hinged metal box for people who had reached the summit. We signed it proudly, then spent a couple of minutes looking through some of the other comments. Chicken even found one which said 'good place to ask a girl to marry!!! It works...'

The chilled winds that very quickly passed through us had clearly come from the Southern Alps and were bitter cold. We'd been sweating heavily all day and couldn't believe that we found ourselves so suddenly fumbling for our fleeces. It wasn't long before we decided to leave.

In many ways, the journey down was more painful than the ascent. Half an hour into it, Chicken stressed how she couldn't feel her legs and that they were giving on her. It was also very steep and dangerous as a lot of the rocks were loose. There were a couple of slippy moments that ended up with bums on rocks but thankfully we made it down without a scrape. The last half hour saw Chicken on her last legs as they'd started to develop a mind of their own. My feet were killing too as I'd exerted a lot of pressure on the inside of my left ankle during the descent which was starting to show its grateful appreciation as we neared the bottom. We made it back to the van in one piece where Mannion promptly provided us with a bottle of water between us which was soon emptied. She then drove us back as we shared the experience.

There really is nothing on earth like the feeling you get after doing something like that. It's so real and natural, so fulfilling and rewarding. We were totally, totally knackered - but we were glowing!

We couldn't eat much back at the ranch and after a long, hot shower we were ready to turn in. My feet were throbbing and my legs were just threatening me with cramp. We'd exerted ourselves extensively and we knew it. I just hope we're able to move or walk after this. As always it's not tomorrow that we should be worried about, it's the day after. Still, it won't take any shine off such a remarkable day. It's been well worth it. I just hope I don't regret saying it!
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