This is the start of the hike. I think I was still drunk at this point.
Knock, knock, knock.. WTF? Didn’t I just go to bed? I open the door and there is Casey, our Stray guide, letting us know that we are leaving for the a hike in 15 mins. Time to get up and get ready for a full day of hiking. This wasn’t supposed to be. The night prior we were told that the chances of us getting on the mountain were slim to none. I guess the weather wasn’t as bad as predicted and we were able to get up the mountain for a bit. After the haze wore off I was pretty stoked. I really wanted to do this hike and was disappointed when I heard that we weren’t going to do it. I tossed on some thermals, shorts and a sweater, grabbed my toque and sunnies, filled up my bag with water and I was good to go. We then headed over to the Adrift Guided Outdoor Adventures to pick up some hiking boots and wet pants to keep us dry and warm. If you didn’t have gear they can fully suit you up with hiking shoes, coats, pants, toques, ice axes and cramp-ons and gloves. We then grabbed some breakfast and loaded back on to the bus.
Everyone was hung over. It was fantastic. Once we got to the trail head we unloaded and had a chat with our guide Stewart Barclay. He told us the conditions weren’t great, but we would be able to get at least a ¼ of the way down the track and for those who were keen and adventurous could push on with him while the others would walk back to the bus.
Heaps fo natural beauty all around us!
So we began to walk. The weather was foggy and damp; it gave the mountain an eerie feeling. We trudged a long and you could tell right away who was going to be up for the long walk. After about 2 hours of walking we came to the devils staircase. This is where the group split into two groups; one heading up the mountain, one heading back to bed. I didn’t come all this way to go to bed, so up the moutain I went. As soon as we started up, the temperature dropped and the wind picked up. Nice! This was going to be an epic hike!
We had to jump a couple streams. I managed to not go in.. cant say that about everybody.
As we progressed up the mountain the weather kept getting shittier. It started to hail, then snow/rain and then full on snowing. I felt like I was back in Canada. Another couple hours and we were at the top of the southern crater. Here it was blowing like crazy. Stewart said it was about 55-60km gust.. sick! The snow was pelting our faces and Visibility was shit – I loved every second of this. After a brief chat with Stewart we all found our selves lost (not Stewart) and we quickly learned that with the snow and blowing winds it is very easy to loose your bearings. One of the guys with us, Nick was all geared out. He brought his own ice axe and clamp-ons, had a special bag, gortex jacket, but didn’t have one essential thing; gloves. We definitely took the piss out of him for that. Luckily Stewart had a couple extra toques so Nick had to use them as gloves. Yes, he looked like a dumb ass but he was warm. In the end that is all the matters. Stewart loved being up the mountain in the snow and told us this was his favourite hiking weather as no one is on the track. We walked to the half-way point and then had to head back as there wasn’t enough light to carry on.
Coming down was definitely more difficult than going up. You really had to watch were you put your feet and most of us were already pretty tired from the walk up. At the bottom of the devil staircase we had a bite to eat and then headed on our way. We went from fog, to rain, to sleet, to snow, to a full on snowstorm back to sleet and then rain. I definitely prefer the snow. You really stay much drier with snow since it really kind of just bounces off of you.
After a long walk back we were picked up by a Adrift who had some beers in a cooler for us. Sweet! We rocked back to the lodge and headed straight into the hot tub. I was beat. We wall hiked all day on pretty much 2 hours sleep. After an hour in the hot tub we were all starving so we had some dinners and then as per usual the booze started to flow. I really didn’t think I had much left in my tank, but after a couple shots I was back in party mode.
About half of the group went off to bed while the other half partied away in the common room of the Travelers Lodge. At about 2:30am it started to snow. We had two kiwi’s and an Australian that had never seen snow before. I took their snow cherries – nothing sweeter for a canuck! As they ran around in the snow, in pure joy and amazement I started pelting them with snowballs. At about 4:30am we shut it down as we were going white water rafting tomorrow. What a great day. I cant wait to come back to do the whole crossing. I really thought the hike would be intense, but it wasn’t that bad. There were no ‘what the hell am I doing here’ moments – so a success in my books!