The tangible value of tall tales

Last weekend was our shakedown trip for Antarctica. We flew into the Grand Plateau and I got my first close-up look at Aoraki/Mt Cook. Mt Cook might not be the most technical climb in New Zealand or the most difficult to access but, at 3724m, it is definitely the highest. From Plateau Hut you can see Zurbriggen Ridge, shooting up to the north of the intimidating Caroline Face. As a mountaineer, there is no way to gaze up at Cook without wanting to climb it; as a prudent human being however, undertaking such an ascent requires a bit of convincing.

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Contemplating Cook from Plateau Hut, credit: William Pike

My last big alpine ascent was of Mt Aspiring in 2016. My journey to the summit began in 2012 when I read a trip report about the climb in the Auckland University Tramping Club magazine. From then on I kept an eye on the mountain, browsing photos and blogs, talking to climbers and guides about the route, the conditions and the best time of year to give the peak a go. By the time Mix and Jon, a pair of enthusiastic South Africans, suggested Aspiring I had already climbed the mountain in my imagination ten times over and finally felt ready for the challenge. That is the cumulative power of sharing adventures (and the tangible value of swapping yarns over a cold beer at the bar.)

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Stoked on life the day after summiting Mt Aspiring, credit: Sam Richardson

Now, this is where the Inspiring Explorers Expedition comes in. Our shakedown trip involved getting the team together, having a chat and then flying into the Grand Plateau for an introduction to glacier travel (more on crampons and crevasses in the next post). I had already had a reasonable amount of experience with the technical skills involved in moving across glaciers so my main focus for the weekend was getting to know my fellow expedition members which was, as I’ll explain, a source of some concern.

There will be seven of us on our Antarctic Expedition: the Heritage Trust’s Director, Nigel; two guides, Kevin and Shaun; and four young adventurers: William Pike, Simon Lucas, Isobel Ewing and I. After some research on Facebook and Google, I realised that my soon-to-be colleagues were all exceedingly accomplished. William had survived a volcanic eruption on Mt Ruapehu in 2007 and had gone on to inspire thousands of kids to explore the outdoors through his educational outreach programmes; Simon had crafted the spectacular film Paddle for the North which followed a two month canoe adventure across Canada into Alaska; Isobel worked as a political reporter for Newshub and had been involved with a Sir Peter Blake Trust venture to the Auckland Islands… and me?

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Nigel, Kevin, Isobel, Simon, me and William, credit: our awesome chopper pilot

No Snapchat, no Instagram, no Twitter… no smart phone… a brand new camera with too many buttons and not enough batteries. How was I going to contribute to bringing our expedition to life and inspiring people to get out and explore?

If you’re reading this on my newly minted blog you’ve probably worked out at least part of the answer. I’ll try and gather some words together, throw in a picture or two and share some video. I’ll get up and speak and attempt to explain what it’s like to set foot on that frozen frontier.  Hopefully a few of these will act, in some small way, as catalysts for a dozen other adventures which will each spark a dozen more.

So if you have Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, a smartphone and a camera… use them to document that awesome trail through a patch of forest, your trip to south-east asia, those rocks you scrambled on at the local beach and that top notch pie you brought from some dilapidated bakery halfway through your cycle mission.  Because adventures, whether they’re epic expeditions to Antarctica or fleeting forays into Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges, are worth sharing.

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Small-time adventuring to Alexandra’s famous clock. #constantlyamazing

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