Not Quite Everest

Walking up a hill seems such a pointless task. Realistically, all modern comforts are available at the bottom of the hill these days. Our ancestors have done the hard labour, walking to fetch water and wood and precious stones from various parts of the mountain. Shouldn’t we just be content to luxuriate in our warm homes and look upon the mountains as the background to a time gone by? Why do we deliberately put ourselves in discomfort to walk up them for no purpose of advancement of our situation. 

George Mallory famously replied

Because it’s there

when asked why he wanted to climb Everest. While a 20km hike (again) is no Everest, it’s not without its challenges. And that, must be why we do this. We have fulfilled all our comfort needs but also need challenge in our lives. Our own personal Everest’s, to set out, work through and conquer. This is the only explanation I can think of that would explain the difference in thinking between us and our forefathers. Where they had climbed or walked to achieve a practical goal, we climb to meet a mental goal. The mental hurdle being more about persistence in the face of minimal outside influence.

My Everest today was the walk up to Roberts Point, a viewpoint overlooking the Franz Josef glacier. Walk is a bit of an understatement, as I had to use hands on rock in places. It was quite steep and rocky, so much so that walkways had been erected to negotiate the trickiest of terrain. And where there were large tributaries feeding the main river, suspension bridges span the valley.

This track runs parallel to the “easy” track along the valley floor, but higher up. It gives some great views down the valley in places, especially from the suspension bridges. They are a bit wobbly but, to an engineer, keep the entertainment high.

Overall it was another 20km walking day like the Tongariro crossing. That was a fairly steep ascent and descent, this achieved no where near the same altitude. It was a much more gentle climb overall only rising by 400m but the terrain gave me an average speed of 20mins per km. On Tongariro this was 12mins per km for comparison.

It should have only been about 15km round trip but I had retraced part of my route at the start. I had set out for a track and started up it, to run into a lady who worked for the information station in town. She told me that the track had been washed away further along and was impassable so I had to turn around. I then took the road path I was trying to avoid to start on a different place. Enroute I met a cool German girl called Julia who decided to accompany me on my route. It was really cool chatting on the way and she made a good walking buddy.

The view at the end made it all worth the effort. There was a raised wooden platform that got you up above the trees and gave a great view of the glacier. It was so much better to be relatively alone to enjoy the natural beauty than surrounded by the hundreds of tourists on the popular path below. We had arrived just before the cloud rolled in so thanked our luck to have gotten any view at all.