Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas, compassion and camping

The last few weeks for myself, leading up to this festive season, has been pretty interesting: an infection in a tooth spread into my jaw, and the thought stopping pain became a challenge. But all the way through I just thought of two things: that it'd improve and that some people live with severe pain for years in their lives! It all gets quite humbling in fact especially when I ponder that not long ago folk died of this sort of thing.

I found an effective way to deal with the pain was to keep busy so I've again been mindlessly scanning my old library of colour slides. This was essentially revisiting the past so it became a game to think of some of the nice places I've been privileged to camp at around the Christmas period.

A Christmas mountainerring bivy - Cook River in South Westland...

Getting to this amazing camping spot was not easy and I was so exhausted at one stage I discovered this was a nice way to relax...

While the rocks provided shelter for our puny 4 person tent, the rain was so bad it pooled almost into the tent [that's an early version of yours truly btw]...

So we did some excavations...

We were camping high for an attempt on the long, but technically easy west ridge of La Perouse - the route made famous by the incredible rescue and carry of Ruth Adams in 1948. [see Bob McKerrow's blog for history of La Perouse]. But opposite our campsite this was the astounding view of the Balfour Face of Mt Tasman...

When the weather cleared we then had just enough food left for one attempt on La Perouse, but for various reasons we ran out of puff. I don't recall exactly why apart from myself having a sore back - something that had developed in similar circumstances once before and debilitated me on a much easier climb. I think the others who left me picnicking, for a hour or three on a nice airy rock were also worried at the degree of our remoteness and how our resources were wearing thin.

So knowing the mountains will still be there we retreated mindful of hungry tums. That's La Perouse hidden in romantic clouds...
I mentioned it was a four person tent, but from memory we were five young souls, and so Michael closest in friendship to myself, elected to sleep alone up the hill further in a dry spot under a rock.

When "departure" morning dawned and it was obvious it was "now or never" to leave, someone went up to his dry little spot and advised him we thought it wise to head home. But he did not want to come! It fell on myself to convince him otherwise - on climbing up the hill I found him in a severe state of depression, and lacking finesse, eventually and lovingly literally emptied him out of his sleeping bag. Of course going out in the most demanding terrain on offer in New Zealand, we had many thoughts as to how easy it'd be for him to fall into the river, or down the side of the gorge. However we now know exercise is antidote for depression [up to a point]!

On our return to our homes we made sure he sought help, but very sadly within an autumn and a winter he'd passed on after a days' powder skiing. This was maybe my first encounter with, 1] depression, 2] compassion; for the ensuing experiences, which of course included his family, tested all of us with many a journey of our feelings and emotions. For myself though this was just the first insight into compassion and I found it not easy to grasp on the first encounter

That journey for me has never ended though, and it's been an "inner" one for a long time and included many teachers, and I'd not have it any other way! Especially over the last several years I've seen perspective altering examples of it. So the understanding of the importance to all of us grows on me!

I ponder often that there maybe a progression for some like myself: we [hopefully] grow up with love, then realise that it's got a flavour of "unconditional", especially from our parents [hopefully again!]. And that maybe the understanding of what is needed to help us all on our journeys is an understanding of compassion built on these solid foundations.

So while I've been tied down a bit resisting feeling sorry for myself [having to chew chocolate on one side only!], Christmas once more found me in a dry safe place with good company and food...
But I cannot escape an experience of my youth that revisits every Christmas day: Occasionally my father used to take me to midnight Mass, and on one such occasion I recall sitting behind a family I knew to be recent refugees from Hungray. Quietly and with dignity they sobbed and cried their way through the ceremony, and today the experience still haunts me every Christmas Day! The memory makes me tearful, still what is the point of this - crying will not help us develop compassion!

My son had his birthday a few days before Christmas, and that was one thing, but his present to me on Christmas day was one I found to be rather profound - one I'll treasure and never forget [it's message too], especially from a 17 yr. old...

The Dalai Lama grew up in big and wild mountains also, and maybe we need to value in different ways the fact that our country New Zealand is chock-a-block comprised of big mountains, very remote wilderness, and wonderful people, and that using these resources we can make the next year looming better in all regards...

Wishing you, by this shot symbolising warmth, a happy end to 2009 too!

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Good and inspiring place to enjoy a sunset from

Bit under-the-weather this week with a tooth issue so until my second visit to my wonderful dentist down the road tomorrow I'm fuzzy enough to not feel much like writing, so as is my style it's easier to share some favorite landscape photography of our New Zealand mountains again.

The three shots below were all made some years back on the mountains in the vicinity of Canyon Creek in the Ahuriri valley just a bit north of Wanaka.

An out-rider peak to the north of Mt Barth. Many souls prowling around being tourists on a Search and Rescue alpine cliff rescue exercise...

Contrasted here by just two of us on another occasion, and what a privilege to witness and partake in the experience typified by this evening shot on the south side of Mt Barth...

To the right of my friend Alan is the unmistakable blip of Mt Aspiring...

More soon inc. replies to your welcome comments as soon as I have the feeling pre Xmas is under control!

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

A celebration of our wild New Zealand landscape and National Parks - and a "heads up"

Quentin Smith of Wanaka has recently formed a FaceBook group: Hands off Mt Aspiring NP and a few days ago membership stood at 5000, and it's now well over 6000!

... which relates to the noises our new, seemingly unenlightened and uninspired, New Zealand Government are making to initiate mining investigations in our National Parks. Not only my local Mt Aspiring National Park I might add!

While they say it's only a stock-take even that is a transgression and impossible to do without major disturbances and destruction of our heritage put aside for all coming generations.

Having got this off my chest [link below] I'm here sharing some of my favourite landscape photos I've made of our wild New Zealand landscape.

This is Mt Brewster - somewhat in the middle of the area of Mt Aspiring National Park our National Government has it's beady eyes on [and in bed with which multi national corporation that historically is always in the background taking profits when it comes to mining resources in any country?]...

Marks Flat under Mt Hooker - a huge tract of land designated at Conservation Estate in South Westland. Should it be part of the World Heritage Site in this area [Te Wahipounamu - South West New Zealand]?

You can "mine" great powder on the slopes of Mt Cook in Mount Cook National Park...

Alma hut in Westland National Park, with Franz Josef neve behind...

Mt Aspiring from Cascade Saddle

Lake Hankinson in Fiordland National Park [not far from the Milford Track]...

Looking down one of the significant glaciers in Westland National Park

There is a FaceBook generated link here, to view, or I suggest join the group: Hands off Mt Aspiring NP.

Or failing above then click on Groups in your FaceBook account and type in "Hands off Mt Aspiring NP"

And on a related matter this week I found out that New Zealand has 56,000 Kms of public roads that are not public, and our current New Zealand Government, and the preceding one it seems, have apparently been doing their best to sweep these "paper roads" under the carpet by use of cunning legal moves to give the land to those [many of whom have already fenced them off], in exchange for easements. The former offer us, the recreational users and owners unfettered access, the latter, easements, do absolutely nothing for us - only for self serving interests of those who've squatted on our rights.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

The theme of past follies continues

For my last two posts I've visited the past - first a family internment and then about the local celebration of the first ascent of Mt Aspiring last weekend. Well the trend continues: this week gone by I attended our annual Wanaka Search and Rescue helicopter training. While it's tempted me to write about adventures around helicopters and rescues that went well or not-so-well, a friend has recently lent me his new colour slide scanner so I've gone intensely for scanning hundreds of my landscape photography collection which goes back 40 years or more. It can do about 40 an hour, which is a lot better than my one at 8/hr. So dear readers, I've been so delighted with the results I've decided to share some of my favourite images from what seems like a past life:

Bluffs and rainbow on Mt Hooker taken from Marks Flat in South Westland. In fact I spent a week looking at this hillside while living under a nice rock riding out a nor wester once. Rocks are very peaceful things to live under as soon as I get over thinking about earthquakes, but none-the-less it was really nice to see this little reminder of sunshine...

Market gardens in North Otago...

Mt Hooker - waterfall...

Bush with light-shafts in seaward Kaikouras...

Sunset on an Otago beach...

And to finish on something not 30 years old, the new Squirrel coming in carefully for our recent Search and Rescue practice...

Not a good situation in which to contemplate walking uphill away from the helicopter!

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The big fellow - Mt Aspiring

One hundred years ago Mt Aspiring was climbed for the first time by Jack Clarke, Alec Graham and Major Bernard Head, and so over the weekend in Wanaka there was a celebration of this in the Lake Wanaka Center on Sat. evening.

I made this photo exactly a year ago while helping on a bird survey of the Matukituki river little realising that a local friend John whom I admired very much had just fallen off the south west ridge [top left]. On the celebration night as above his surviving companion Martin gave a very good presentation on Aspiring in the context of environmental art/photography, and to honour John. Hopefully it was a healing experience...

Most of the public see the big fellow from Glendhu Bay. That's him in the distance on the right...

Tele shot from Glendhu...

In winter from the Snow Farm...

Another good spot is from Rocky Top - a popular walk near Wanaka...

The evening started with extracts read out from Head's diary, then local farmer John gave a fascinating presentation on farming in the area - his family back 3 generations. Next there was a presentation on the history of the huts on the mountain, including historical footage of the transportation and building of Aspiring Hut. This interested me greatly as there were shots of people who mentored myself in
the mountains when I was a youngster. After an interval an old friend Geoff gave the keynote from the perspective of having climbed it well over 70 times guiding. Then having run out of puff I came home a bit early [but late] opting to miss the modern day interpretation of climbing [but there was an earlier brief narration from a guy who has skied [gulp] the route of the first ascent - the West Face]

All-in-all though local folk singer Martin stole the show, for me at least, with his poem he performed on the antics of keas on a hut roof.

Doing this post has shown me I've not really made many photos of this iconic mountain on my door step. Maybe that can be a goal!

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