I Asked For Epic, And Epic I Got

Well, folks, it’s that time again. Here I am sitting in my philosophy class, rather pointlessly. Really, the only reason I decided to come today was to get back an essay, and then Dumbledore told us we’re not getting them back ’til Wednesday. Sick joke. Now I’m stuck here.

Anyway, now that I’m here, I have 2 hours to kill because why would I listen in class? I’ll tell you about my super awesome epic weekend instead.

Keeping up with the bad student trend, I decided to skip 2 classes on Friday in order to get a head start up to Mt. Cook with Steph. We rented a car and drove off.

We got to Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park around 5, just at sunset. Beautiful. Then we set up our abode– aka our car– and ate. Went to bed at 7. And woke up 12 hours later. How wonderful. Twelve full hours of sleep, unheard of in any environment other than the great outdoors.

We were ready to climb to Mueller Hut by 8:30. Like everything else in New Zealand, it’s a steep way up. The first hour and a half or so was spent climbing up about 1200 vertical meters of stairs. Think about the stair master at the gym. You get tired after like, a half hour, right? Yeah. I got tired after about 5 minutes. Oh, New Zealand.

What got me through the climb was the notion that if I thought I was having a hard time, how much worse it must have been for the guys who actually built the staircase. They must have really hated their lives. Maybe they were prisoners.

Anyway, we were looking for a sign for Sealy Tarns, the halfway point. When we got to the top of the staircase, there was a sign that said Sealy Tarns and Mueller Hut, and there was an arrow pointing up. We continued to climb. And then we got to the snow.

“Are we really not there yet?” we wondered. We were supposed to be there already. If we hadn’t gotten to Sealy Tarns by now, where on earth was Mueller Hut going to be? The snow was getting deeper and parts were packed down into slippery ice. And it was still steep.

We needed to reevaluate our plan. Maybe we should just stop at Sealy Tarns, we decided. If we weren’t there already, there was no way to know how much farther it would be until we reached Mueller Hut. And it was getting dangerous. We were ill-equipped for this. Without crampons or poles, any misstep could send us sliding down the mountain.

Finally, we reached a peak. It was spectacular. I’m going to say, with some affirmation, this it was my most favorite hike I’ve ever done. To the west was the Tasman Glacier, the biggest glacier in New Zealand, I believe, formed on the second highest mountain in the country. Northward was Mt. Cook, the tallest mountain in the country. Below Mt. Cook were two electric blue lakes, blue because of the glacial runoff that formed them. To the east was the Tasman Valley. Mountains for 360 degrees around us were snow and ice capped, and the grass below was golden. I can’t believe I forgot to bring my carrot with me.

I did actually get a video from the top so that I could show you the view through my eyes, but my camera was set on a weird setting, and when I loaded the photos, the video was gone. Sorry about that. I’ll see if I can take Steph’s video and load it.

“We don’t know how much further the hut will be, and I don’t feel comfortable going farther. We should get down before the storm comes,” I said. The ranger at the base had warned us of a heavy storm approaching. We took in the scene for a few minutes and then turned back.

A few minutes into our [slow] descent, we ran into a father/son duo who had been climbing behind us. They told us the hut was only half an hour past where we’d been. Dammit, so close. But in the end, we decided it wasn’t worth going back up. It’d take at least another hour, round trip, and we didn’t know what the weather up there would be like. The wind was picking up, and we could hear the Tasman Glacier shifting in the distance. There had been avalanche warning signs at the base of the mountain, and we wanted to take no chances. Besides, we’d already had a perfect 360 degree view. How much better could it get? Aren’t you proud of my good judgment and maturity?

The descent was scary, I’ll admit. Fun, at times– I did get to slide down on my butt for about 20 meters– but scary. Finally we made it back to the grass. Wind was getting faster. We passed the sign for Sealy Tarns and Mueller Hut.

“What is a tarn, anyway?” I wondered.

“I think it’s a mountain lake,” said Steph.

“I think that–” I said, pointing to two small lakes “is Sealy Tarns.” There was even a picnic table in a scenic lookout.

“Oh. That makes sense.”

Anyway, we made it back down the mountain as the sky was beginning to spit at us. Clouds had engulfed the peaks of Mts. Cook and Tasman, and the wind was getting even stronger.

We decided to take a short drive to see Lake Tasman, about 10 minutes down the road. There, we found another electric blue lake and– get this– icebergs. I dipped my hands into the water and drank some of it. Absolutely clear, and damn cold. I guess that’s what you’d expect from water that held dozens of icebergs.

We drove back to our site and set up for bed again. Then it started pouring. The wind had turned to gales, and the car rattled and shook with wind slapping against it. I tried to do a Sudoku puzzle, but I was too tired. I turned my lamp off at 6 and went to sleep.

But I woke up 2 hours later, just as Steph was turning of her lamp. The weather outside was loud. A distinction must be made, I think, between the pitter patter of rain and the smacking of water bullets and wind against the roof of the car. The pitter patter of rain is nice. The smacking of water bullets is scary.

A few hours later, I woke up again. “Are you awake?” I asked Steph.

“Yeah.”

“Do you think we should move the car away from the trees?” I asked, as I looked out the window.

“I don’t know… it feels like we’re going to tip over though. The car keeps shaking.”

“Yeah, I know. Hmm, actually I don’t think we need to move the car. They’re just bushes and not big enough to do damage. And they’re blowing the wrong way, anyway.”

“This is so scary.”

“I know.”

The morning came, and it was still pouring out. Luckily the wind had subsided a bit.

We gathered our things and threw them in the trunk, not wanting to take the time to pack up. And then we headed home.

I can now check driving on the “wrong” side of the road off my bucket list, though first I should add it to the list.

I’ve gone on a lot of adventures lately. Most have been physically exhausting, and I’ve even come back injured from a few of them. Luckily, the only injury I sustained on the Mt. Cook trip was a scratch on my knuckle. Which is good because I can’t afford another injury, not this week. That’s because next week, I’m going on an entirely new kind of adventure (or torture device, if you will): the half marathon.

I”m still in class right now, and Dumbledore just said “squillions of years,” unless I misheard him, which is actually a distinct possibility, as I am only granting him my divided attention. Either way, I like that word and he is a cool dude.

Here, check out the photos from the trip.

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