Participants: Enda, Alex, Simon, Joe, Mark, Clare and Richie
Date: 16th & 17th August 2014
Words and images: Richie White
Right so my first Trog, and what a tramp I’m picking to write about! As per usual, we met at the slightly earlier time of 7am, packed up our gear and were quickly under way. The plan was to meet at Culverden Bakery, grab a coffee, munch down some pies and hit the road again fairly promptly. Next stop was the drop off point for the passengers while the drivers went off to leave one car by Rough Creek (our exit point on day 2 if all goes well). While they were gone we got ready and had a peek about the place. Just round the corner of a track there was a little frozen lake, it was just the start of some of the most stunning scenery I have seen! In the meantime Enda and Alex had come back and we were ready to go.
Up the road a bit and a swift left into the Forest of Despair (as I have now called it) there was no gentle walk in to ease ones self into a hard tramp – it was brutal from the get go! It seemed to go on for ever, I had no concept of time and cant count the amount of times I stopped wiped the sweat off my forehead, looked up at what was to come and think to myself “shit”, sometimes I thought it out loud as well, getting hit in the head by falling snow and have it fall down my back were like little treats the forest had for me and at one desperate point I even considered asking one of the guys for a tent and I would happily camp in the car park and wait for them! I banished that taught from my mind, gritted my teeth and carried on upwards.
Emerging from the tree line I saw we still had a decent amount to go before were at the top, quick breather and we set off again. Once I left the Forest of Despair my struggle seemed to lessen and I started to find a nice rhythm, which was made easier because of the rest cutting footprints into the snow, which was past our knees and deeper in spots. Shortly after we were celebrating our first victory, my second (dam you forest!!), by topping our first peak but more importantly we got to sit down and had some well earned food and rest. We also got our first view of Mount Technical off in the distance, it seemed ridiculously far away to me and apparently we were going to be walking past Mt. Technical, over The Apprentice and on to Brass Monkey Biv AND if we’ve time we’ll build snow caves to sleep in (collapse in, more like it!)
After resting, refueling and taking the obligatory group photo with Mt. Technical in the backbackground, we were off again but this time glorious downhill. It wasn’t very steep or deep snow so it was relatively easy going for a bit so I got to look around for a bit and holy crap New Zealand A+… the views in every direction were stunning. At this stage I was finally feeling good (dam you forest!!) and in my stride. Over the next while we had some gentle-ish parts, again which Enda, Alex, Mark and Simon were making easier by punching in footsteps for Clare and myself to follow until it was our turn and when it finally came to my turn… well ho-ly F£€K is it tough going, I had a new found respect for the lads at the front, lads I tip my hat to you!! I might have gotten 200m, 250 at a stretch. Then it was stand aside and let the pros do it! I think I may have possibly done 400m of punching footsteps the whole trip. It is tough work!!
Further on again after following the ridgeline we were now approaching a pretty steep decline of about 150-200 vertical meters back into a fairly steep incline of probably 100m with The Apprentice on the left and the master, Mt. Technical on the right. Before we could start the descent we had to find and plan a safe route down, as the snow had a nice powdery layer on an icy layer we were a little cautious of triggering an avalanche so following the correct protocol (which I had learned the previous week at snow craft!) we set off one by one across the dodgy looking parts. Having safely navigated the dangers of the decent we were faced with a long and tough incline trough between knee and waist deep snow and sometimes deeper when mostly either Enda or Joe would find an extra soft spot and have to clamber out and trudge on.
Once we had gotten up and over the saddle we had a decision to make, whether to push on the other half of our planned route to Brass Monkey Biv or set up camp and build snow caves!! It was no contest really, find a good spot and set up camp it was! After a couple of test spots for some decent snow for our snow caves we decided on our spot, which by that time only Simon and Mark were keen to build a one so as they set about building their cave, Enda and Clare got our tent pitched while I started to boil water for our soup, dinner, tea and some water for the next day, I had monstered thru 3 liters of water on the way, which is a lot for me. For those who haven’t had the privilege to cook in the higher altitudes, it takes an age to boil even the smallest bit of water; I wont bore you to death with all the science mumbo jumbo (because I don’t fully understand it myself!) but it has to do with differences in atmospheric pressures.
With warm food in our bellies we were determined not to go to sleep to early so we stayed up chatting and had the craic till it was time for bed. At 10 o’clock the 3 of us clambered into Enda’s generous 2 man tent and settled in for the night’s sleep. A word of advice for everyone is careful on the amount you drink before bed, as you most definitely do not want to be getting up at 4.30 in the morning to take a pee!!
We unzipped the tent door to a very overcast and misty morning, which had put a spanner in the plans to climb The Apprentice so I cranked up the stove again and started on water for breakfast, Clare had brought an amount of oats and raisins with cinnamon, which was delicious topped off by some more soup and bread! After breakfast both tents were packed up and Simon had jumped thru the roof of their snow cave to test it, once we were ready we headed back out the same way we came in, the going was made much easier by the fact that we were using the same tracks that we had used the previous day. Because the weather and visibility was so bad we decided to just keep going and only take a couple of breaks in order to get back to the car and get back in Christchurch earlier, so that’s just what we did.
The journey back to the car was pretty uneventful just up and down over and over again till we got to the top of the last peak and the Forest of Despair was back in my sights, we stopped and had some snacks at the entrance to the forest. I felt more confident going in this time as we had made great time getting back and I was still feeling ok, so in I went. After ages of going down hill, this time with out snow to cushion our steps, my knees started to hurt a little and I taught to my self – “Dam you again forest!!” A little while later as I was trudging along I happened to look down and see what I thought was the strap off my gaiters, the forest was really taking the piss now, but as I bent down to pick it up I noticed that it wasn’t the strap off my gaiters but a watch with a busted strap (no doubt from a previous victim of the forest!). Finally I had gotten one up on the forest and I walked on, I came to a sign saying that the car park was 10 minutes away… half an hour later I arrived at the car park! After everyone was back, we didn’t waste time in getting back to Culverden where we stopped for a refreshing beer, chips and a burger! We bumped into Tania and Jeff who filled us in on their adventures in the quest for the Brass Monkey Biv from the opposite direction. Once fed and watered we were in the cars again and on the final stretch for home, back again at our starting point we all said our farewells and went our separate ways until we meet again on another adventure.
And that is where this Trog comes to an end, turned out to be a lot longer than I expected and I hope you enjoyed reading it.