Thursday, December 31, 2009

Success for South Pole Women

Way back in July 2008, I blogged about a planned expedition marking the 60th anniversary of the British Commonwealth. They were looking for fit and adventurous women from 8 different countries to head for the South Pole on skis, and arrive in time for New Year's Eve 2010.

Well, I'm pleased to report that the team did arrive at the South Pole, on December 29, 2009.

The 8 members were from the UK, Jamaica, Singapore, New Zealand, Cyprus, Brunei Darussalam, and India. (Two were from the UK, as the member from Ghana had to pull out at the last minute due to malaria!)

Actually only 7 members made it to the Pole. The Jamaican member of the team unfortunately had to pull out right at the beginning on medical advice, due to severe frostbite on her fingers. It must have been terribly disappointing to come all that way and not even get to begin the expedition!

It took the ladies 37 days to ski from the "Messner Start" to the geographic South Pole, hauling 80kg sleds behind them. They covered an average distance of 24km per day.

You can find out more about the trip on the official website - Kaspersky Commonwealth Antarctic Expedition.

Now that it's all over, it's back to reality. As Kylie, the team member from New Zealand, said: I'm really looking forward to a shower and a cheese sandwich.

Go on Kylie - you've earned it!

Friday, December 25, 2009

2009 Wrap-up

On top of Kilimanjaro with G and our guides

Yes, it's that time of year when we stop to reflect on what we've done for the past 12 months and say "is that IT?"

Here are some of my highlights of 2009:

Best moment: summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro (although it didn't feel too good in the moment, more upon reflection afterwards!)

Best new gear purchase: Berghaus down jacket (thank you G) - sooooo cozy.

Best trail food: Pancakes made by our cook on Kili - if they'd had maple syrup I would have been in heaven.

Best day walk: I was pleasantly surprised by the Ridge Track in Kaitoke Regional Park. Although we were only up for a short walk that day, I'm keen to go back and walk the whole thing. There's nothing terribly earth shattering about it, just a pleasant stroll through lush bush.

Best lesson learned: Technically this was in '08, but it was New Year's Eve so I'm sneaking it in. We thought we'd spend New Year's tramping around Mt. Ruapehu, and get away from the crowds. Instead we ended up in a hut with 10 bunks and 18 people! The lesson is that if you want to 'get away from it all' for New Year's Eve, don't do it on a popular route!

I hope everyone is having a good holiday, and I wish you all happy trails for 2010!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Movie Review: North Face (Nordwand)

Back in the early 1930s, the North Face of the Eiger was considered "the last great problem of the Alps". The Nazi government was desperate for a German climbing team to be the first to conquer this daunting climb, especially with the world's eyes on them for the Olympics.

North Face is based on the true story of a pair of German climbers, Toni Kurtz and Andreas Hinterstoisser, who were among several teams of climbers vying for a place in history.

After perhaps a bit too much lead up, the film follows Kurtz and Hinterstoisser, and an Austrian pair hot on their heels, as they head for the summit. From the luxury hotel facing the famous mountain, German press and curious tourists watch through telescopes and binoculars. Then the accidents and injuries begin, and the weather changes for the worse.

While the screenwriter has added a love interest to the story that likely never existed, the rest is quite believable. The scenes of the climbers struggling in a blinding blizzard make you feel the cold through your bones. You are kept on the edge of your seat as the drama unfolds, hoping against hope for a happy ending.

If you aren't familiar with the story, I won't ruin it for you. Let's just say there's a good reason that Hollywood has never taken up this particular story on the big screen. It took a German director to tell this very German story with the honesty it deserves.

North Face (or Nordwand in the original German) is doing the art house circuit - and can already be found on DVD in some countries. If you like mountaineering dramas like Alive or Touching the Void, this is worth a watch.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mal's The Man!

Mal and his supporters

If you've been following the blog for a while, you've heard me talk up Mal Law's 7 in 7 Challenge - running 7 of New Zealand's "Great Walks" in 7 days to raise funds for the Leukaemia & Blood Foundation.

Well - he's gone and done it! 360kms of trail running on two islands in seven days. It's a feat to be admired for sure. And he also blew his $50,000 fundraising goal out of the water - raising over $70,000 and hoping that with continued publicity he may be able to get all the way to $100,000.

In other New Zealand crazy runner for charity news...

Lisa Tamati encouraging young Kiwis to be active

Ultramarathon runner Lisa Tamati has run the entire length of New Zealand, that's 2,200km, in 33 days. That's like running 52 marathons!

Tamati was raising money for two children's charities - CanTeen (for kids with Cancer) and Cure Kids (for a variety of children's diseases).

Wow, I'm tired just writing about these people!

If you want to applaud what they've achieved by donating to their causes, here are the websites to visit:

7 in 7:
NZ Run:

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Book Review: One Step Beyond

Warren MacDonald's autobiographical book is actually about 10 years old, but I picked it up at my local library recently and thought I'd share my thoughts on it.

Warren was an Australian conservationist and wilderness guide. On a holiday in Queensland he headed over to Hinchbrook Island and after meeting a Dutch tourist decided to accompany him on a climb up the remote Mt Bowen.

This was meant to be a challenging but short trip. Instead it led to a life-changing accident. After losing the trail, Warren and his companion made camp for the night on a flat rock beside a creek. On a quick excursion to relieve himself on the other side of the creek, Warren dislodged a boulder and found himself pinned under it in the creek itself.

The book details the night they spent trying at first to free Warren's legs from the boulder, and then trying to keep him safe and warm until his companion could go for help in the morning. It then goes on to the (seemingly interminable) wait for help to arrive, and Warren's long road to accepting the reality of what has happened and what it will mean for the rest of his life.

The story is told both from Warren's point of view, and from his Dutch companion's. Getting inside both the "victim's" and "rescuer's" heads is quite interesting. I found myself constantly asking "What would I do?" "How would I deal with this?" "Would I survive something like this?"

This wasn't a glamourous accident on a famous mountaintop. This was just one of those split-second moments that can shatter a life. Luckily Warren didn't let it shatter his - at least not permanently.

While Warren's writing style is very typical Aussie bloke, no frills stuff, he does convey a lot of the emotion of the situation. For anyone who ever wondered what it's like to be on that razor edge between hope and hopelessness, this is worth a read.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Rambling through Rivendell

Yesterday we finally got a bit of summer weather here in Wellington, and we decided to go check out a part of Kaitoke Regional Park we'd never explored.

After a look around the camping and picnic area for possible future reference (and I was surprised how many people were using the campground considering it's not summer vacation time yet) we headed to the area best known for being the Rivendell set for Lord of the Rings.

There is no longer anything there to suggest elves, art nouveau architecture or anything else. Just a small, grassy flat with forest in the background. Nonetheless, we saw at least 2 movie tour vans in the carpark.

We decided to walk part of the Ridge Track, a track that leads from the Rivendell site to the reservoir "lakes" a few kilometres south.

The track is mostly wooded. It was the kind of forest I really enjoy - lush and green and full of fresh air! It was easy walking, although a bit mucky in places. The place was absolutely packed with ferns, from little kidney ferns to full blown tree ferns and everything in between. This one was just finishing the last unfurling of new growth.

Most of the track was in the bush, but we did get one view from the top of the ridge, where a memorial bench was set up to take in the surroundings.

Later we passed a tree that had fallen over, but never made it to the ground because the surrounding trees were holding it up. I wonder how long it will take before it finally finished the short journey to the ground.

We had an easy day of it, only walking for a few hours. But it was a pleasant way to spend one of the first warm, non-windy Saturdays of the season. Hopefully there are more to come!