So the buggers put me on the cover, freezing my bits off. I can’t be too upset, testing a new outer shell garment for Swazi Apparel can lead to trouble when you push the limits, but you’re going to get an experience out of it too. Here’s the shot, a quick story behind a beaut experience.
I set off with Bia Boucinhas (a Brasilian friend training as a mountain/Antarctic guide in NZ) to climb Mount Taranaki and get some winter photos. Davey Hughes of Swazi had stuffed a newly designed goretex lightweight ‘Narwhal’ anorak into my hand and told me to test it the day before. Of course I’d said. Little did I know what a testing it, and we, were going to get. The day had been fine as we set off to climb to Syme Hut on Fanthams Peak for the night, before climbing Mt Taranaki the following day. As is often the case here, the weather changes very fast despite the best weather forecasting, and sure enough we were pushing through cloud and wind by the half way mark.
Approaching the summit of Fatham’s Peak we were hit by hurricane strength winds and a freezing southerly which made it very hard to stand up. Visibility dropped to 3 metres making it very hard to find the white ice covered hut in a total white out where visibility was 2-3 metres. Things were getting serious at this point as our core body temperatures were plummeting fast in the… ferocious wind as we searched – just standing was a battle. Map, GPS and compass were hurriedly deployed in a tiny hollow to try to figure out the fastest and most energy effective strategy to find our goal in this race against time. We had to be smart.
At what point do you give up on the prize (the warm sheltered mountain hut) you’ve strived for, and put your tails between your legs, give up on your goal and high tail it down for several hours to warmer less severe climes? This can be a fine judgement call, and it can also be a matter of life and death. The clock is ticking down, and you also need enough bodily reserve to safely get out if you need to retreat.
I’m happy to say that our combined experience in mountain and polar conditions got us through and Davey got his gear tested right to the limit of our endurance. The new jacket worked well, hence the ice encrusted cover photo. The new huge breast pockets protected some critical gear with easy access while wearing packs.
We awoke to the treat of a fairy tale scene the next day – high winds had covered the hut in rime ice rather like a giant gingerbread house; stunningly beautiful. Click the image below to see more of this spectacular winter location.