Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Crawling Up Kili

In September next year, we'll be doing our best to slog our way up the highest peak in Africa - Mt Kilimanjaro. Having never hiked at that kind of altitude before, I have no way of knowing how my body will react. I'm hopeful about reaching the summit, but determined to make the most of whatever happens, even if I have to turn back.

Another adventurer recently tackled Kili, but with a bit of a difference. This hiker can't use his legs! Paraplegic Darol Kubacz used a custom-designed three wheel cart to propel himself up the mountain. His first attempt was unsuccessful due to a high altitude pulmonary edema, but he went back for more.

In August this year (yeah, I was a little slow in hearing about this) he made it to the top over 10 days. A feat of mental toughness, physical endurance and pure determination!

Kubacz was hoping to raise awareness of his Freedom For Life non-profit foundation. Run by disabled veterans (Kubacz lost use of his legs during military training) they introduce people with disabilities to outdoor activities and adventures.

You can read the (strangely familiar-looking) blog at fflfoundation.org

Thanks for the inspiration Darol!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Awesome photo of Aoraki/Mt Cook

Photo via REUTERS/The Christchurch Press/John Kirk-Anderson

I recently posted about a Japanese climber who died on Mt Cook while his friend managed to hold on until the rescue helicopter was able to get to him.

I was looking through the Boston Globe's "The Year 2008 in Photographs" collection and came across the above image of the rescue. I assume the orange sky indicates that the rescue took place at sunrise. Hopefully I won't get in trouble for sharing the photo here. I did use the credit!

If you want to see the rest of the amazing photos in the collection, follow this link.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Backcountry New Year's

Rather than spend another New Year's Eve sitting around with a few friends waiting for the clock to tick over, we've opted to get out of town and go for a New Year tramp.

Not being the sorts to do things half-way, we're going to be on a 5-day tramp from December 28-January 2. Having not really done any multi-day tramps since last summer, I'm pretty sure this is going to be painful!

Discomfort aside, I've been mulling over the New Year's Eve part of the tramp. It would be nice to somehow mark the occasion, and I'm sure the other trampers at the hut that night will be feeling festive. But what can you do to celebrate New Year's Eve when it requires carrying whatever you need for three days before?

I'm thinking a bit of alcohol may make its way into the ol' backpack - but not the traditional bubbly. It's both too heavy to carry for three days in a glass bottle (and won't be bubbly if we remove it from the glass bottle) and not particularly nice to drink at room temperature. A bit of fancy chocolate or something is also a possibility. But I'm not sure what else.

So if you have any suggestions, I'd love to see them in the comments down below! Have you ever celebrated New Year's in the wilderness? What did you do to mark the occasion? Did you dress up? Light fireworks? Make a gourmet meal? Go for a midnight swim? Snowball fight?

Meanwhile, the dehydrating of dinners is already underway!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Makara Revisited

Last weekend, with another hot, sunny day on our hands, we headed back to the Makara Walkway. We walked this coastal route last year with a couple of friends, and it was interesting to see the changes over the space of a year.
First of all, part of the inland section of the walkway heading towards the clifftops has been completely overtaken by thistles. I'm not sure why they're suddenly so dominant, but they make it less than pleasant to walk through narrow stretches of track. Thankfully I wasn't wearing shorts.
After making it through the thistles, we were rewarded with a bird's eye view of a small pod of orca (killer whales) hanging out not far from shore. While we were pretty high above them, you can more or less make out the orca in this picture from the black body and dorsal fin, and the white spot in front of the fin. This was my first encounter with wild orcas (Marineland doesn't count)!
The inland section of the track is also a working farm, and the farmers are indeed doing some work. I came across this section of what used to be fence. It looked a bit like deconstructionist sculpture to me, so I captured it for posterity.
We descended from the inland section down to the coastline, and followed the rocky beach back to the beginning of the track. This is hard work as your feet sink into the stones and pebbles with every step. One the way back, I saw two dead puffer fish on the beach. I didn't even know there were puffer fish in New Zealand! This one looked pretty cool, so I snapped a picture of him (or her, not that it matters at this point) just 'cause.
So there you have my big day at the beach, in the form of a photo-essay. Or does a photo-essay need to have a point? Well, I may not have a point, but I do have a pointy fish!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Climber Dies on Mt Cook

Photo: New Zealand Herald

Tragedy struck New Zealand's highest peak again recently.

Two Japanese climbers got stranded on Mt Cook at 3700 metres on the mountain in appalling conditions for seven days until a rescue could be attempted. After five days a bag of supplies was dropped off to them, but at some point their tent was either buried in snow or blew away, and the pair spent their last night in the open.

When a rescue helicopter reached them, one of the climbers, Kiyoshi Ikenouchi, was dead. His companion Hideaki Nara was suffering from frostbite but was still able to walk.

While not one of the world's highest mountains, Mt Cook is apparently a very challenging one to climb. Accidents and severe conditions are not unusual.

Recently there have been a string of deaths on Mt Aspiring, not all that far away from Mt Cook. All three died from falls in different areas of the mountain.

It's times like this I'm somewhat grateful for my own lack of ambition when it comes to mountaineering. While you could potentially have a fatal accident while out tramping (and many do) it's much less likely than when you're a peak-bagger. I'm happy to crane my neck looking up at those mighty summits, enjoying the view from the bottom!

OK - having written the above I am proved somewhat wrong by not one but two trampers dying in NZ last week! One was crushed by a boulder, which must have involved either remarkably bad luck or the victim doing something very, very dumb. The other died crossing a river, which isn't that unusual except that his companions seem to suspect he actually died of a heart attack while crossing the river - and that's pretty unusual. He was in his seventies and very experienced.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Fabulous Feet

Some of Dirty Girl Gaiters' customers

Sometimes with hiking gear, we get so focused on being practical and technologically advanced that we forget about wearing stuff that is just plain fun!

Thankfully there's a gaiter company out there that hasn't forgotten to have fun, and they're spreading a bit of colour around the great outdoors.

Dirty Girl Gaiters use colourful fabrics and patterns to keep rocks and dirt out of your shoes while allowing you to express your most fabulous side.

These are not heavy-duty gaiters to wear on a mountaineering expedition. But if you're a trail runner or lighweight hiker, the stretch fabric may do well enough to keep your feet happy. Or maybe you just want to wear them as a fashion accessory!

Hats of to Dirty Girl for making hiking fun. And thanks to Tom at Two-Heel Drive for bringing them to my attention on his Christmas wish list. (I wonder which fabric he'd pick? I'm all for the "cherry on top".)